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McEachin: Feds need to help colleges, universities through COVID-19

donald mceachinCongressman A. Donald McEachin is urging congressional leaders to provide an additional $47 billion in emergency funding for students and institutions of higher education due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter co-signed by Reps. Gerald Connolly, Don Beyer and Jennifer Wexton, McEachin’s request follows a letter received last week from the Council of Presidents, a consortium of twenty-two Virginia universities. In their letter to the Virginia Congressional Delegation, the Council of Presidents requested additional funding and support to help their institutions of higher education navigate the significant financial challenges imposed by the 2019 novel coronavirus crisis.

“Universities in Virginia are already feeling the significant and ever-growing financial impacts of this crisis,”  McEachin wrote in the letter. “Absent significant additional financial support from Congress, many institutions will face the prospect of immediate layoffs, devastating budget cuts, program eliminations, and possible closures.“

The letter cites dire financial projections from a number of Virginia universities due to the pandemic, including:

  • More than $50 million in costs to Virginia Commonwealth University, including at least $13 million principally due to lost revenue in the form of refunds or credits to students.
  • An estimated $31.5 million impact for Spring 2020 at Virgina Tech due to the loss of planned or collected revenue for housing, dining and other services, and continued expenditures for health and safety preventative measures.
  • More than $50 million in lost revenue at George Mason University due to cuts in research, a decline in expected enrollment, cancelled events, and more.
  • An anticipated $20 million in losses by the University of Virginia from housing and dining rebates over the spring semester.
  • A projected financial impact of between $13 and $32 million for William & Mary resulting from refunded tuition, room and board, as well as increased virtual learning expenditures.
  • A nearly $38 million  fiscal impact to James Madison University as a result of refunds for housing and dining, declines in fundraising and endowment value, loss of sports revenue, and more.
  • More than $20 million in lost revenue expected by Old Dominion University and $5 million in additional operating costs.
  • More than $33 million in pandemic-related costs to Virginia State University, including an expectect decline in enrollment of 25 percent.
  • Between $20 to $27 million in losses projected by Virginia Union University associated with housing, dining, refunds for tuition, cuts in research, decline in expected enrollment, cancelled events, increases in technology expenditure for remote learning and decreases in fundraising resulting from complications of COVID-19.

While Congress allocated $14.25 billion in emergency relief for institutions of higher education in the landmark CARES Act, several leading higher education associations, including the American Council on Education and the Association of Public Land-Grant Universities, estimate that more than $50 billion in total funding is needed to keep institutions financially stable over the next six months.

The challenges these institutions are facing have impacts beyond their campuses: colleges and universities are often the largest employers in communities, and drivers of local economies, including through innovative research and development.

“We thank Reps. McEachin, Beyer, Connolly, and Wexton for their leadership in pushing for more federal support for higher education during this unprecedented time,” said Karol Kain Gray, Senior Vice President and CFO, Virginia Commonwealth University. “We cannot allow our students and health care workers to bear the brunt of the economic impact of this pandemic. Additional federal support is critical so that we can continue with our public mission of educating Virginia’s students, caring for Virginia’s patients and, as Richmond’s largest employer, serving the Richmond region as an economic engine.”

“We are grateful for the funding Congress has already allocated for institutions of higher education, including $14.25 billion in higher education emergency relief included in the CARES Act,” the letter continued. “While this recently passed stimulus provides a much-needed lifeline to our institutions of higher education, much more is needed to ensure financial solvency and to prevent future potential closures. Failing to provide this critical funding and ensuring that it is dispersed as quickly as possible to the institutions with the greatest need would have catastrophic consequences for state and local economies.”


augusta free press
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