Higher ed community requests additional HEERF and COVID relief; Biden executive orders impact universities

National associations representing the UO and the full spectrum of higher education institutions are requesting at least $97 billion for a Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) in the next COVID-19 supplemental appropriations package. While the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act provided $22.9 billion  was very helpful, the level of funding provided falls far short of the $125 billion that higher education leaders estimated as necessary to meet 2020-21 losses and new costs  as a direct result of the pandemic due to a sudden loss of revenue and the emergency expenses incurred to prioritize safe operations.  

 A coalition of higher education associations, including the American Council on Education (ACE), the Association of American Universities (AAU) and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), sent a letter to U.S. House and U.S. Senate leadership at the end of January asking for at least $97 billion for HEERF.  APLU also created a fact sheet detailing the financial hit its 199 public research institutions have incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Survey results indicate the 199 public research universities that comprise APLU’s membership collectively face a $15.1 billion funding gap due to the pandemic.

In addition APLU, AAU, ACE, and the Association of American Medical Colleges sent a letter to congressional leaders renewing a call for $26 billion for federal science agencies in the next COVID relief package to support scientists and research operations critical to beating the pandemic, supporting communities, and revitalizing the economy. The request is consistent with the bicameral bipartisan RISE Act, which was approved by the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee last Congress. To date, no pandemic relief package has provided across-the-board research relief.

President Biden announced a proposal last week that includes $34 billion for public institutions of higher education. Senate Republicans offered a proposal on Monday February 1 that makes no provision for higher education. The legislative path forward for a fifth relief package is uncertain as the Democratic majorities look toward a simple majority procedural vote on “budget reconciliation” as a vehicle for passage.

In related activity, shortly following his inauguration last week, President Biden issued a series of executive orders (EO) repealing a number of Trump administration policies impacting higher education, including the following actions of interest to the higher education community.

The President:

  • withdrew the EO restricting diversity training for federal contractors and grantees;
  • extended student loan relief through September;
  • directed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to take appropriate measures to fortify DACA and to ensure DACA recipients are protected from deportation;
  •  rescinded the travel bans; and
  • revoked the EO excluding undocumented populations from the census.
  • Announced pandemic-related executive orders, including a call for greater guidance for higher education institutions.

 APLU released a statement hailing the executive orders while noting interest in working with the administration to strengthen the mission of public universities.