On Friday, March 20, U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) quickly took a lead role in authoring a letter to Senate leaders urging support for college students and the universities and colleges they attend be included the third version of the coronavirus emergency relief bill. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) joined Senator Merkley in making the request.
The letter, co-signed by an additional 23 senators and addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and ranking members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, summarizes the unprecedented and rapid steps colleges and universities across the country are taking to respond to the pandemic, including modifying instruction methods and restricting access to facilities to protect the health and safety of students and employees.
Merkley and colleagues opined in the letter “as a result, colleges and universities face significant losses in revenue and face new, unexpected costs. These institutions rely on tuition, and anticipated declines in international and domestic enrollment would be devastating. It is highly doubtful that our higher education systems can continue operations, employment, and teaching without timely stop-gap funding from Congress.”
Merkley and his colleagues asked Congress to 1) prioritize protecting students from student aid disruptions and 2) provide emergency stop-gap funding for colleges and universities.
As of 8 am on March 25, the bill is pending passage by the full Senate, is expected to move to the House for approval and be signed by the President.