Mass. Lawmakers Urge Congress to Prioritize Emergency Funding for Students and Colleges in COVID-19 Stimulus

Colleges and Universities Make Up a Significant Share of Massachusetts Workforce

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren, along with Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Representatives James P. McGovern (D-MA-02), Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA-08), William Keating (D-MA-09), Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-MA-04), Katherine Clark (D-MA-05), Seth Moulton (D-MA-06), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA-07) and Lori Trahan (D-MA-03), wrote to Congressional leadership urging them to prioritize substantial emergency financial support for students and institutions of higher education in the upcoming coronavirus disease (COVID-19) stimulus package. Such funding would help mitigate the devastating impact that COVID-19 has had on higher education in the Commonwealth, and prevent the need for colleges and universities in Massachusetts and across the country to raise tuition costs for students or layoff workers.

There are over one hundred colleges and universities in Massachusetts -- including prestigious research universities, state public colleges, private liberal arts institutions, and community colleges -- that employ a significant share of the workforce in Massachusetts and serve students from communities all over the Commonwealth and around the world. These institutions have taken unprecedented steps to respond to the global pandemic, from identifying new ways to deliver classes online and implementing necessary campus-wide closures, to helping lead the urgent search for COVID-19 treatment and a vaccine. However, as a result of COVID-19, colleges and universities in Massachusetts -- which rely on tuition-face significant losses in revenue while facing new, unexpected costs.

"COVID-19 has jeopardized the health, learning, and livelihoods of millions of vulnerable students, and threatens to further destabilize the institutions of higher education upon which our nation depends, including colleges and universities in Massachusetts," the lawmakers wrote. "We implore you to include vigorous financial assistance for students and higher education institutions in the forthcoming COVID-19 relief package."

Specifically, the lawmakers asked that Congressional leaders prioritize the following measures: 

  • Emergency aid to students: an emergency increase in grant aid to students to help students with financial need pay for things like transportation, food, and relocation assistance. The lawmakers also requested that student aid be retained regardless of COVID-19 related changes in enrollment, work status, or circumstances which would otherwise jeopardize aid eligibility.
  • Emergency stop-gap funding for colleges and universities: robust stop-gap funding to support institutions as they deal with unprecedented disruption, lost revenue, and increased costs associated with such a rapid response to COVID-19, including costs associated with protecting and relocating students. The lawmakers argue this funding is critical to prevent tuition increases or worker layoffs.
  • Funding support for technology: grant funding to ensure that students and institutions are supported in the transition to high-quality online learning with regular and substantive engagement with qualified faculty, while also ensuring that students do not lose access to their educations as a result of the shift.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, Senator Warren has pressed the Trump Administration to respond effectively to deliver the robust set of resources needed to address this emergency, including a faster expansion in diagnostic testing, medical supplies and care capacity, and support for state and local governments to be able to help people quickly. A week ago, she put out a plan to respond to the economic hardships brought on by the coronavirus crisis -- proposing at least $750 billion in stimulus money to save our economy and help families. Building on the proposals she laid out, she worked to ensure student loan debt cancellation and a critical increase in Social Security and disability benefits are a core part of the stimulus package Democrats negotiate. Senator Warren was also the first to lay out a detailed list of conditions tied to any taxpayer-funded bailouts, such as requiring companies to keep workers on payroll, implement a $15 minimum wage, permanently ban stock buybacks, prohibit CEO bonuses, and more. Her efforts are focused on ensuring stimulus money reaches the people who need it most in this crisis -- workers and families -- and bringing much-needed structural change to our economy.

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