Latest news on coronavirus and higher education

Yale to Provide 300 Beds, Testing to First Responders

March 28, 4:45 p.m. The mayor of New Haven, Conn., Justin Elicker, yesterday criticized Yale University for declining to make a residence hall available to city police officers and firefighters who may have been exposed to the coronavirus, either directly or through contact with family members. Yale said its student housing facilities were not ready for new occupants and still contained students’ possessions.

Peter Salovey, Yale’s president, said this afternoon that the university would make 300 beds and expedited testing for COVID-19 available to the city’s first responders. Salovey’s statement follows.

“Yesterday, New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker expressed frustration with Yale University’s lack of a swift positive response to his request for the university to provide housing for first responders to COVID-19.

We are eager to help New Haven with this need. We have been working to make this possible — and we agree that we should move as quickly as we can, in service of people doing extraordinary work on behalf of the New Haven community.

Toward that end, we will make 300 beds available by the end of this coming week to first responders and hospital personnel.

Furthermore, we have been working with first responders to make expedited COVID-19 testing in Yale laboratories available to responders who have been exposed to patients.

Additionally, on Thursday we announced a $5 million Yale Community for New Haven Fund to help address the consequences of the epidemic in New Haven.

Now more than ever, Yale and City Hall need to be on the same page. I know how committed all of us across the city and the university are to implementing an effective response to COVID-19, and I will do all I can to support this shared work.”

— Paul Fain

N.Y. Eases Requirements for Health-Care Workers

March 28, 1:24 p.m. New York State has temporarily suspended a wide range of licensing and other requirements for health-care workers in an attempt to mobilize more help in dealing with the pandemic.

Under the executive order from Andrew Cuomo, the state’s Democratic governor, students in academic programs for health-care fields are now able to volunteer in medical facilities and receive educational credit. The order also drops certain record-keeping requirements for health-care workers.

In addition, New York’s health commissioner for one year can modify examination or recertification requirements for emergency medical services providers.

The state also said a regulation to “allow graduates of foreign medical schools having at least one year of graduate medical education to provide patient care in hospitals” now “is modified so as to allow such graduates without licenses to provide patient care in hospitals if they have completed at least one year of graduate medical education.”

— Paul Fain

New Haven Mayor Says Yale Refused Request for Help

March 28, 11:07 a.m. Justin Elicker, the mayor of New Haven, Conn., said Yale University declined a request from the city for the use of a residence hall by asymptomatic city police officers and firefighters, the New Haven Register reported.

The city wanted the Yale residence hall for police officers and firefighters who had been exposed to the coronavirus or have family members who were exposed. Elicker said Friday in a virtual news conference that Peter Salovey, Yale’s president, said no to the request. Elicker then called Steve Kaplan, president of the University of New Haven, who, he said, granted the request within five minutes.

“UNH has rolled out the red carpet for us. They have worked to quickly get students’ belongings out of the dorms, and they are working with us to address other logistical and liability hurdles,” Elicker said. “We are quite close to finalizing an agreement with them so that our police officers and firefighters can begin moving into the space in the coming days.”

A Yale spokeswoman, Karen Peart, in a lengthy written statement described several ways the university is trying to help its local community, including the distribution of university funds, suspension of rent payments on Yale-owned properties, donated food and continuing to pay salaries of 6,000 New Haven residents who work for the university, among other local efforts.

As for the residence halls, Peart said they are not ready for new occupants:

Our student rooms still contain their belongings, but we have teams planning the feasibility of packing and storing all the student belongings so that the rooms could be utilized. We are pursuing schemes that involve professional movers and packers, and using temporary storage. The process will take weeks, as all of the residence hall rooms on campus are filled with student belongings. As soon as we have been able to clear any space, we have informed the mayor that we will let him know. We all wish the situation on our campus were different, but because our students had already gone home for spring recess when we implemented our social distancing restrictions, the rooms aren’t ready for others to live in them.

— Paul Fain

24-Hour Curfew in Alabama College Town

March 27, 4:15 p.m. Tuscaloosa’s mayor has issued an executive order extending a public safety curfew to 24 hours a day.

The curfew will start on Sunday at 10 p.m. and last through April 11, at which point the city will re-evaluate the curfew. Walt Maddox, the mayor, said briefings with doctors and researchers showed an “imminent threat” to the city’s health-care system, according to

The curfew in the college town that’s home to the University of Alabama prohibits residents from leaving their homes except to go to work at essential businesses, buy groceries, visit pharmacies, exercise, pick up food or go to the doctor.

The university already had extended its spring break and asked students not to return to campus as the coronavirus spread.

March 27, 3:00 p.m. The Association of Research Libraries on Friday urged publishers to “maximize access to digital content during the emergency conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Earlier this week, the association signed a statement by the International Coalition of Library Consortia asking publishers to ease any simultaneous usage and interlibrary loan restrictions on subscription-based content. In a separate statement, the ARL said that opening up academic resources ensures students can continue their studies, and “scholars can continue their research and work to end the pandemic. As research library leaders, our member representatives understand that innovation, particularly in emergencies at a global scale, often happens at disciplinary intersections.”

As to research on COVID-19, the association pushed publishers to adopt an “expansive view” of research materials — think articles, book chapters, multimedia and data — “as they temporarily remove paywalls and create open resource portals related to the virus.” Topic-wise, the ARL advised opening up research on respiration, crisis and disaster management and response, clinical psychology, and other areas. More generally, 50 university presses already opened content on Johns Hopkins University Press’s Project MUSE for the rest of the academic year.

ARL remains concerned about educational equity in terms of access to research tools and broadband, not just content, it also said. Member libraries are partnering within their institutions to lend networked devices and Wi-Fi hotspots to students, “and to ensure that students with disabilities have access to the resources they need in the format they need them.” To those ends, the ARL further called on publishers “to use this crisis to ensure they meet W3C Web Accessibility Initiative standards in digital content and platforms as they expand access to educational materials now, and to work as allies with broadband providers to ensure access for all.”

— Colleen Flaherty

Arizona Universities Face Lawsuit Over Fees

March 27, 2:40 p.m. Students have filed a class-action lawsuit against the Arizona Board of Regents, according to a press release from DiCello Levitt Gutzler, the law office handling the suit.

The lawsuit alleges that the University of Arizona, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University have refused to refund the cost of room, board and other campus fees for the spring semester after the coronavirus outbreak forced campuses to close.

The Board of Regents recently announced that classes would be moved online due to the global health pandemic and encouraged students to move out of their campus residences.

However, the board hasn’t offered refunds for the unused portion of room and board campus fees, the lawsuit contends. Undergraduate room and board fees for this academic year ranged from $10,780 to $13,510 at the three universities.

Arizona State and Northern Arizona have not offered any fee refunds. The University of Arizona offered a nominal rent credit option, according to the release.

“While the universities were prudent in closing their campuses and encouraging students to vacate their on-campus housing, it is unconscionable for them to attempt to keep the many thousands of dollars in room and board feeds they collected from each student, even though they have terminated the services that these fees covered,” Adam Levitt, a partner at the law firm and co-counsel for the plaintiffs, said in the release. “College is already a monumental expense for students and their families, and to essentially offer them no relief, particularly during a time when millions of Americans are hurting financially, is woefully inadequate, tone-deaf, and needs to be made right.”

— Madeline St. Amour

House Approves Relief Package

March 26, 2:15 p.m. The House on Friday approved a massive $2 trillion coronavirus relief package, and President Trump signed it into law a few hours later. The measures will pay as much as $1,200 apiece to adults, increase unemployment benefits and provide loans to businesses.

For higher education, it also offers temporary help for those struggling to make their student loan payments. Most federal loan borrowers are excused from making payments for six months, interest is waived on the loans and loan collectors are prevented from garnishing wages, tax returns and Social Security benefits to collect overdue payments.

The bill, passed by the Senate Wednesday night, also provides $14 billion in funding for higher education institutions, half of which must be used for emergency grants to help students affected by the crisis.

“For institutions of higher learning, it will provide financial relief to colleges and universities and also support grants to displaced students,” Congressman Bobby Scott, the Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, said this morning before the vote.

“But it is important to recognize that this legislation is only a down payment on the relief that our communities will need in the weeks and months ahead,” he said. “It is critical for us all to understand that the CARES Act is not a stimulus package. It is a disaster relief effort that must continue for as long as it takes to ensure students, workers, and families can survive this crisis.”

In a statement after the vote, Scott added that another stimulus package Congress is expected to consider in a few weeks should “provide relief to cash-strapped student borrowers.”

Advocates for borrowers, though, were disappointed the newly passed measure does not go further. They had supported House and Senate Democratic proposals that called for the government to make borrowers’ payments for them, reducing the balances of those with federal loans by at least $10,000. The House Democratic proposal also would have paid down private student loans by as much as $10,000.

“Congress has taken the first few steps that young people need to maintain stability and security during these unprecedented times,” Jesse Barba, senior director of external affairs for the advocacy group Young Invincibles, said in a statement after the vote.

But, Barba said, “today’s coronavirus bill is a life raft — but not a rescue boat — for the millions of young people who are still grappling with how they will make ends meet as they navigate challenges like unemployment, student loan debt and paying their daily expenses.”

Consumer groups like the National Consumer Law Center also said they will be pushing for Congress in the next package it considers to give relief to borrowers excluded in Friday’s package. Under the legislation passed Friday, those with older Perkins and Federal Family Education Loans will not have their payments or interest deferred and are still subject to garnishments. The National Consumer Law Center​ said on Thursday that 1.2 million borrowers were excluded, but said on Friday after doing further analysis that the number is about eight million.

However, a spokesman for Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate education committee, said in a statement Friday that borrowers with those loans could consolidate them into direct loans and be eligible for relief.

Colleges and universities have also been disappointed that they received far less than the $50 billion they sought to help them pay for the cost of dealing with the crisis.

“Congress must do more in the weeks ahead to bolster the resources and protections provided to students, researchers, universities, laboratories, hospitals, and medical professionals,” Association of American Universities president Mary Sue Coleman said in a statement after the vote.

— Kery Murakami

NCAA’s Division III Faces Debt

March 27, 12:03 p.m. The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division III will face a deficit of $7.6 million this fiscal year, as all the NCAA’s divisions expect to lose about 70 percent of their annual revenue due to the cancellation of winter and spring athletics championships.

The NCAA announced yesterday that Division III’s revenue allocation from the association for fiscal year 2019-20 will be $22.3 million less than it was last year, as a result of losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic. A Division III committee on strategic planning and finance decided on Tuesday to cancel several student and staff development programs and conferences to cut down on costs for the remainder of the year, an NCAA press release said.

“The financial loss for Division III will be significant, but money should never take precedence over life. We value people above all else,” Fayneese Miller, chair of the Division III committee and president of Hamline University in St. Paul, said in the release.

— Greta Anderson

NYU Dean Under Fire for Dancing Video

March 27, 11:15 a.m. The dean of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts is under fire from students.

Tisch students have been advocating for a partial refund of tuition, arguing the forced switch to remote learning due to the coronavirus pandemic won’t provide the same level of education for drama and the arts that in-person instruction would have.

Students have been emailing Allyson Green, dean of the school, to fight for a partial refund. So far, Green has firmly said no.

But a video she attached to her latest email is making the rounds on social media and creating ire among students who see it as tone-deaf, according to an independent blog run by NYU students.

In the video, Green dances to the song “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M. She invited students to dance with her in the body of the email, according to reports.

— Madeline St. Amour

Most Benefiting From Loan Payment Pause Are High-Income

March 26, 6:30 p.m. The 60-day pause on student loan payments for many borrowers in the stimulus package, which is expected to be passed by the U.S. House on Friday, mostly will lead to more money in the pockets of the highest-income households, the Urban Institute said.

Only two-thirds of student loan borrowers in 2016 — according to the most recent available data — were making payments on their loans and would have extra cash during the pause, according to the analysis.

Ninety percent of the highest-income households were paying down their loans, while only 30 percent of the lowest-income households were making payments and would have extra money from being excused from loan payments.

Of the 33 percent not making payments, most cited a loan forbearance, postgraduation grace period or loan forgiveness program. But a substantial fraction of those who were supposed to be making payments said they were not because they could not afford to, said the analysis by Matthew Chingos, the Urban Institute’s vice president for education data and policy.

Chingos said the data have implications for future stimulus packages. “If Congress’s goal is to increase households’ available cash and stimulate the economy, direct payments to families will more effectively accomplish that than loan forgiveness,” he wrote.

“But if the goal is to relieve hardship among families struggling with student debt, one option is to enact a one-time automatic rehabilitation of all defaulted loans, which would give a fresh start to defaulted borrowers at the end of the health emergency,” said Chingos. “Congress could eliminate the fees and capitalized interest added to defaulted loans, effectively giving defaulted borrowers a second chance to pay what they would owe if they hadn’t defaulted.”

— Kery Murakami

Attorneys General: More Relief for Student Borrowers

March 26, 6:00 p.m. A coalition of attorneys general is calling on the U.S. Department of Education to provide emergency relief for federal student loan borrowers.

Led by Letitia James, New York’s attorney general, the 27-person coalition sent a letter to the department with three requests.

First, they ask the department to halt all new and continuing involuntary collections, including wage garnishment and the offset of government benefits.

Second, they call for borrowers who are in or who enter forbearance, who are or become delinquent on payments, or who request to enroll in an income-driven repayment plan to be automatically enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan with a zero-dollar monthly payment. This should be done without requiring borrowers to submit applications, income verifications or recertification for the duration of the crisis, the attorneys general state.

Last, the coalition asks the department to extend eligibility for additional relief pursuant to previously announced modifications for those affected by national emergencies to all federal loan borrowers throughout the crisis.

“Thousands of New Yorkers and millions more across the country were already struggling with student loan debt prior to the coronavirus, but today, the financial hardship many face is more severe as a result of business closures, lost wages, and job losses,” James said in a statement. “Borrowers need immediate relief and cannot wait for a stimulus package to pass through Congress which is why our coalition is calling on the Department of Education to take immediate action and protect student loan borrowers. Any stimulus relief should be weighed separately and should not be used as an excuse to deprive borrowers what they need. Secretary [Betsy] DeVos has the power to help millions or ensure they are [not] left with billions in insurmountable debt.”

Yesterday, DeVos announced the department will stop collection actions and garnishing the wages of borrowers who are behind on their student loan payments. That order is effective for at least 60 days during the coronavirus outbreak.

— Madeline St. Amour

NCAA Announces Lowered Payments to Colleges and Universities

March 26, 3:22 p.m. The National Collegiate Athletic Association released a revised financial distribution plan showing $375 million less in allocations to Division I institutions than originally budgeted for 2020.

The NCAA’s Board of Governors voted to distribute $225 million to Division I, $13.9 million to Division II and $10.7 million to Division III member institutions, according to a press release. The NCAA’s revenue distribution was previously budgeted at $600 million for Division I. Divisions II and III are receiving $30 million and $22 million less, respectively, than they did in 2019.

Athletics departments at campuses across the country rely heavily on NCAA distributions to determine their own budgets.

Nearly $800 million — most of the NCAA’s revenue — comes from the Division I men’s basketball March Madness tournament, which was canceled two weeks ago because of the coronavirus pandemic. The $225 million to be given to Division I institutions in June will be made up of $50 million from NCAA reserves, and the remaining funds will come from credit lines to be paid off by a $270 million event cancellation insurance policy. The NCAA will also undergo a “variety of cost-cutting budget measures,” the press release said.

The NCAA has prepared for such revenue losses, said Michael Drake, chair of its Board of Governors and president of Ohio State University. The pandemic is a “financial catastrophic event,” he said.

“As an association, we must acknowledge the uncertainties of our financial situation and continue to make thoughtful and prudent decisions on how we can assist conferences and campuses in supporting student-athletes now and into the future,” Drake said in the release.

— Greta Anderson

Ohio University Pauses Personnel Cuts

March 26, 3 p.m. Ohio University is pausing personnel-related budget cuts because of the coronavirus.

Duane Nellis, the university’s president, about a month ago said an analysis recommended cutting the budget by $26 million over three years, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

Enrollment has been down at the university, but Nellis said in a letter to faculty, staff and leadership that the situation is being reassessed in light of the public health pandemic.

“Our current focus must be on the safety and well-being of our campus communities as we continue to ensure the education of our students and service to our region,” Nellis wrote, according to the Dispatch.

The institution is also extending by two weeks the deadline for previously announced buyouts for about 600 eligible employees.

Ohio University’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors applauded the decision.

“This move to protect jobs in uncertain times is a perfect demonstration of what true Bobcat solidarity — with our employees, our students, and our region — looks like,” the chapter said in a statement.

— Madeline St. Amour

University of West Florida Details Housing Refund Costs

March 26, 2:45 p.m. The University of West Florida expects housing refunds to cost it approximately $1.2 million this year.

That’s a very small percentage of the university’s $318 million operating budget. A relatively low number of students live on campus — the university reports 29 percent of its enrollment received online program delivery in the fall. And administrators are still working with a vendor to hammer out details on dining plan refunds.

West Florida provided the estimated cost of all refunds after yesterday announcing details about prorated rooming refunds in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. It is providing refunds based on flat rates that vary by the type of housing unit in which students lived.

The issue of refunding room and board is important, because revenue from student housing is significant at some institutions. Examples like West Florida help to show how refund costs could vary based on factors like how much colleges and universities collect in room and board under normal circumstances and how many of their students live on campus. Yesterday the University of Maine system said refunds would cost it nearly $13 million, or 2.3 percent of its budgeted revenue for the year.

The University of West Florida also announced yesterday that it will offer all summer courses online this year. Today it said all undergraduate and graduate students will have the option of taking courses on a pass/fail basis this spring.

— Rick Seltzer

Hiring Freezes Begin

March 26, 11:10 a.m. Dozens of colleges and universities have announced hiring freezes, according to self-reported information.

Faculty and staff self-reported the freezes to the blog The Professor Is In, and they have not been verified.

The list includes a range of institutions: Yale, Brown and Duke Universities; the Colorado School of Mines; and state universities in Kansas, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

— Madeline St. Amour

Move-Outs Postponed

March 26, 11:10 a.m. The University of Maryland is postponing move-outs for students until further notice.

The university cites guidance from Larry Hogan, governor of Maryland, and public health experts for the decision in a news release.

Originally, students who wished to return to campus to get their belongings and officially move out were told to come to campus between March 27 and April 5. But it’s not clear if doing so would go against public health recommendations to maximize social distancing, the release states.

The institution plans to send out a new appointment schedule once conditions in Maryland allow for students to return to campus to check out. Students who need to retrieve critical items, like passports or necessary medication, are asked to contact the department of resident life.

Residents who are still living on campus are asked to continue with their move-out plans following public health and travel guidelines if it is safe for them to do so. Students who were approved for emergency on-campus housing starting April 5 can remain in residence halls.

Online classes are still scheduled to resume March 30.

— Madeline St. Amour

Unemployment Surges With 3.3 Million New Claims

March 26, 9:30 a.m. Last week 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment, the Labor Department reported, a surge that shattered the previous record of 695,000 claims in October 1982.

Repercussions of the depression-level spike will be felt broadly across higher education, experts said. Colleges and universities themselves have begun to struggle as broad swaths of the economy have been shut down amid social-distancing efforts to blunt the pandemic. Many are freezing new hires, cutting pay or laying off staff members, particularly contract workers. More such actions, including furloughs, are likely in coming weeks.

State budgets are certain to feel the hit of the sputtering economy and unemployment in declining tax revenues. For example, New Jersey this week froze $921 million in previously allocated state spending amid severe projected tax revenue drops, including roughly $100 million for public colleges and universities.

Bryan Alexander, a futurist and researcher at Georgetown University, on Twitter said the unemployment numbers spell major challenges for higher education.

— Paul Fain

Stimulus Package Contains $1 Billion for Colleges Serving Minority, Low-Income, First-Generation Students

March 25, 5:10 p.m. The bipartisan stimulus package that congressional lawmakers are expected to approve today has earmarked just over $1 billion of dedicated funding for colleges and universities that serve a high percentage of minority, low-income and first-generation college students.

The funding will help historically black colleges and universities, tribal colleges and universities, and other minority-serving institutions cover the operational costs of responding to the coronavirus pandemic. The costs include transitioning from in-person, on-campus instruction to distance and online options, assisting some students with the costs of moving off-campus and returning home, keeping residential halls open for those who cannot go home, and ensuring that campus buildings are safe and free of the virus. All those costs “put a tremendous unforeseen financial strain on institutions that have historically been underfunded,” according to the United Negro College Fund.

The UNCF led an effort by the affected institutions to call on Congress to respond to the needs of HBCUs, which serve a disproportionately high percentage of low-income and first-generation college students, who are largely dependent on federal financial aid and other types of financial assistance and student loan programs. The HBCUs and other higher education institutions that will receive the funding tend to have small endowments and are highly tuition-driven.

“I want to thank the congressional leadership for responding to our call and the needs of HBCUs, and indeed the rest of the higher education community,” UNCF president and CEO Michael L. Lomax said in a prepared statement. “I call on the House and Senate to swiftly pass this legislation. Also, let me be clear: the COVID-19 pandemic is hitting HBCUs hard. All emergencies that hit the higher education system seem to hit HBCUs harder because we serve mostly Pell Grant-eligible students.”

— Marjorie Valbrun

UMaine System Estimates Room and Board Refunds to Cost Nearly $13 Million

March 25, 4:40 p.m. The University of Maine system is estimating that refunding room and board to students who are no longer living on campus because of the coronavirus outbreak will cost $12.85 million.

That’s about 2.3 percent of the university’s total revenue budget for the fiscal year ending June 30, which is $553 million. Pressure to issue room and board refunds is one important source of financial stress for colleges and universities scrambling to protect students from the pandemic by sending them home and transitioning classes to remote or online instruction. But it has remained unclear exactly how much refunds will cost most institutions, as many have been crunching the numbers.

“Our students were planning on having a place to live and having meals provided through the end of the semester by our universities,” a spokesman for the Maine system said in an email. “Students still have essential food and shelter needs that the university can no longer meet and they are entitled to refunds to help cover their living expenses.”

The system decided to adjust room and board charges by 46 percent for the semester, based on 102 days a student would have been in a residence hall for the entire semester. When the university’s spring break began March 13, a total of 47 days remained in the term.

The adjustment percentage applies at all system campuses. Refunds are expected to be complete by March 31.

Details about the refunds emerged today as the system announced it had resumed classes for nearly 27,000 students after extending spring break by two days to enable the move to distance education. Before spring break began, 5,809 students lived in residence halls. Today, 291 students remain due to what the system called extenuating personal circumstances.

“Today’s resumption of classes will be unlike anything before in the history of our universities,” Dannel Malloy, chancellor of the University of Maine system, said in a news release. “The transition to distance instruction and 95% reduction in our on-campus population were necessary to protect community health and help blunt the spread of the virus.”

The system is extending the deadline for students to choose pass/fail grading options. It plans to keep paying federal work-study students unable to work on campus or remotely for the remainder of the spring semester. It will pay non-federal work-study students who are employees through a pay period ending April 4.

It has similarly committed to full pay for regular employees through April 4.

— Rick Seltzer

S&P Issues Negative Outlook for Private Student Housing Projects

March 25, 4:20 p.m. Citing impacts and uncertainties tied to the COVID-19 pandemic, S&P Global Ratings today moved its outlook to negative for private student housing projects connected to U.S. colleges and universities.

The outlook is in part a reflection of expected business conditions the projects will face. But it also reflects some stresses being felt at colleges and universities themselves.

They include a “sudden and potentially prolonged decline in student housing occupancy” and subsequent loss of rental revenue as colleges turn to online learning. Potential effects are uncertain and the situation is evolving, S&P noted.

“Given this and the lack of clarity around the possible duration of the COVID-19 outbreak, in our opinion, fall 2020 enrollment at U.S. colleges and universities will likely be weaker than expected, and occupancy in privatized student housing projects could be negatively affected,” the ratings agency said in a news release.

A small number of student housing projects S&P rates could receive financial support from colleges and universities through arrangements like first-fill agreements or lease-vacancy guarantees.

S&P noted that some universities with private student housing projects have announced termination or cancellation arrangements allowing students to end leases without paying some rent or cancellation fees. Private housing projects will likely need to issue prorated rent refunds in such cases, the ratings agency said.

“In certain cases, the sponsor institutions have agreed to pay the privatized student housing projects the rent they would have received under the terminated or cancelled lease agreements upon submission of appropriate documentation,” S&P said in its news release. “In our view, this extraordinary university support is a positive credit factor that mitigates the projects’ operating risk in the short term. However, even in these cases, we believe there is medium-term risk related to fall 2020 enrollment and related housing occupancies, and the future ability or willingness of these sponsor institutions to help support the projects.”

The situation could vary from campus to campus.

S&P rates 63 private student housing projects across the country.

— Rick Seltzer

Professors: Bail Out People, Not Companies

March 25, 4:15 p.m. Dozens of professors specializing in economics, finance and law have signed a letter criticizing the Senate’s proposed stimulus legislation.

“Spending taxpayer money to bail out large corporations is a huge mistake. The money should instead be spent on the people who are most affected,” the letter states.

The $2 trillion package would include $500 billion in loans for distressed companies.

Several professors who signed the letter answered questions today at a virtual press conference. They called for Congress to send money to the neediest Americans and not bail out companies like United Airlines.

“Bailing out corporations is actually bailing out investors,” said Jonathan Berk, professor of finance at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. “We are essentially moving money from poor people to rich people.”

The professors stressed that bankruptcy for larger companies doesn’t mean total liquidation. United Airlines, for example, continued operations while filing for bankruptcy in the past, according to Berk.

It’s best to think of corporations as two pieces, he said: the operating corporation, and how it’s financed. When a corporation is bailed out, that benefits the people financing it. It doesn’t really affect whether it can operate, Berk said.

The financial crisis isn’t being caused by whether companies are doing well, either, Berk said. Rather, the market is reflecting the impact of the health pandemic. The way to fix that is to stop the spread of the coronavirus and find a vaccine for it.

“Every dollar that’s taken away from supporting investors and United Airlines and put into families and into our medical system to make sure that we beat this crisis is going to serve us much better in the long run,” said Paul Pfleiderer, professor of finance at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

When asked about whether the United States could see a “double dip” pandemic if the administration calls for an end to social distancing too soon, the professors said they are worried.

“We’re seeing a fragility of the economy” due to corporations loading up on cheap debt, said Anat Admati, professor of finance and economics at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. “The consequences of ignoring health experts are dire for everybody — for both people and the economy.”

— Madeline St. Amour

Tax-Free Student Loan Payments by Employers

March 25, 4:00 p.m. The Senate’s proposed $2 trillion stimulus bill includes a tax break for student loan payments made by employers.

A growing number of mostly large companies have been offering to pay down part of the student loan balances for employees and new hires. For example, PricewaterhouseCoopers last year announced that it had paid $25 million toward the student loan debt of employees. The auditing and professional services company offers $1,200 in loan repayment per year for up to six years for its associates and senior associates.

Experts in the employer college tuition and loan benefits space — estimated to include more than $20 billion in annual spending by employers — have said a tax incentive could dramatically expand such programs. The 619-page stimulus bill would move in this direction.

Section 2206 of the proposal would exclude from taxation any payment made this year “by an employer, whether paid to the employee or to a lender, of principal or interest on any qualified education loan incurred by the employee for education of the employee.”

Criticizing the provision was Jason Delisle, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

“It gives employers a big incentive to set up loan repayment plans under which they will effectively pay employees who have student loans more than employees who don’t,” Delisle said on Twitter. “That doesn’t make sense. The reasons people have student debt are varied — the debt is not a proxy for hardship.”

Sara VanWagoner is vice president of corporate growth for Edcor, one of the larger players in the employer benefits’ field. She said a non-taxable benefit for student loan assistance benefits payments would be a “huge win” for both employers and employees.

“Employers will be more open to offering the benefit, allowing for improved recruitment, retention and diversity initiatives,” VanWagoner said via email. “Employees can pay down their student debt even faster, without the burden of paying additional taxes on the benefit dollars.”

— Paul Fain

No Involuntary Collections of Late Student Loan Payments

March 25, 2:36 p.m. Betsy DeVos, the U.S. education secretary, announced the department will stop collection actions and garnishing the wages of borrowers who are behind on their student loan payments. The order is in effect for at least 60 days during the coronavirus outbreak.

To implement the order, DeVos said the Education Department has stopped asking the Treasury Department to withhold overdue payments from defaulted borrowers’ federal income tax refunds, Social Security payments and other federal payments.

“These are difficult times for many Americans, and we don’t want to do anything that will make it harder for them to make ends meet or create additional stress,” DeVos said in a statement. “Americans counting on their tax refund or Social Security check to make ends meet during this national emergency should receive those funds, and our actions today will make sure they do.”

DeVos also said the Education Department has asked private collection agencies it contracts with to stop collection activities against the borrowers, including calling them and sending letters and billing statements.

— Kery Murakami

Senate Bill Money for Institutions ‘Woefully Inadequate’

March 25, 2:25 p.m. The president of the umbrella association representing colleges and universities said the amount of aid for higher education institutions included in the $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill headed to a vote in the Senate is “woefully inadequate.”

While the bill is still being finalized and education lobbyists are reviewing the mammoth document, a summary of the proposal said it includes $30.75 billion in grants to “provide emergency support to local school systems and higher education institutions to continue to provide educational services to their students.” That amount appears to be about $29 billion less than what higher education institutions could potentially get in the bill proposed by House Democrats, but $21 billion more than what Senate Republicans had initially proposed, one higher education lobbyist said.

Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education, said in a statement that the bill includes some easing of regulations, which institutions sought, and excuses student loan borrowers from making payments for six months, though, “in this area too there is more that could be done.” But Mitchell said, “we cannot stress enough that overall, the assistance included in the measure for students and institutions is far below what is required to respond to the financial disaster confronting them.”

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer acknowledged on the Senate floor that the bill does not go as far as advocates for debt cancellation had wanted. “This bill is far from perfect,” he said. “Many flaws remain, some serious. By no stretch of the imagination is this the bill Democrats would have written had we been in the majority. … We would have included more relief for student borrowers.”

— Kery Murakami

Early Graduation for NYU Medical Students

March 25, 1:10 p.m. New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine is allowing some medical students to graduate early to help in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

The school tweeted the news today, saying it is still pending approval from its accrediting body and the state’s education department.

Students in the graduating Class of 2020 who meet completion requirements will be able to start working as early as April, according to Brief19, a medical news outlet on the coronavirus started by physicians, which obtained a copy of the dean’s letter to students.

The dean told students they would be fully compensated if they elect to graduate early, according to Brief19, and the offer is open for students studying any field of medicine. The intent is to relieve front-line health workers in New York who are working overtime to treat those with COVID-19.

— Madeline St. Amour

Six-Month Loan Deferment in Senate Bill

March 25, noon. Student loan borrowers would be allowed to defer making payments for six months, without interest, through Sept. 30, according to a summary of the $2 trillion stimulus package Senate leaders agreed to at 1 a.m. Wednesday morning. The full bill is still being written and hasn’t yet been released.

But according to summaries of the bill making the rounds among education advocacy groups and obtained by Inside Higher Ed, the measure will also include changes sought by advocates such as not requiring Pell Grant students to repay money to the federal government if their terms are disrupted by the coronavirus emergency.

However, the bill is expected to disappoint advocates who had embraced Democratic proposals in the House and Senate, in which the federal government would have made the payments on behalf of borrowers, reducing their balances by at least $10,000. The summary did not mention any loan cancellation.

A separate summary contains $30.75 billion in grants to “provide emergency support to local school systems and higher education institutions to continue to provide educational services to their students and support.” That amount appears be about $29 billion less than what higher education institutions could potentially get in the bill proposed by House Democrats, but $21 billion more than what Senate Republicans had initially proposed, one higher education lobbyist said. Associations representing institutions that were disappointed with the previous proposals were still waiting for the full bill before they commented on the level of funding.

The bill requires the secretary to defer student loan payments, principal and interest for six months, through Sept. 30, 2020.

The Senate is expected to pass the measure later today.

— Kery Murakami

Layoffs, Pay Cuts and Hiring Freezes

March 25, 10 a.m. LIU Post, which is part of Long Island University, has announced temporary layoffs of dozens of employees, Newsday reported. The university did not specify how many employees were laid off, what their job roles are or if it is committed to bringing them back when the campus opens again.

“After reviewing the job duties of employees who are required to work from home, the university concluded that the work performed by some of its employees is not amenable to working remotely,” LIU Post said in a statement to the newspaper. “Accordingly, LIU has reluctantly decided to temporarily lay off a small percentage of its workforce for the next 30 days. The university has committed to making no further adjustments during this period.”

In February, LIU Post froze new student enrollments in several academic majors, following similar shifts in recent years. The university’s overall enrollment declined by about 10 percent over four years, to roughly 5,500 students last year. It said the program-offering changes were an attempt to prioritize more high-demand fields.

A growing number of colleges and universities have announced pay cuts and hiring freezes amid the initial financial hit from the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, Quinnipiac University this week cut pay for faculty and staff members. And the University of Bridgeport recently said a budget deficit and the pandemic’s impact will lead to staff cuts.

Meanwhile, two flagship public universities said they were committed to paying employees through the crisis.

Eric Barron, Pennsylvania State University’s president, said Tuesday that some of the university’s auxiliary and other units were losing millions of dollars. But Barron said Penn State would pay the full salary of its workers through at least April 30.

“We want to make sure that employees do not experience an abrupt financial dislocation, and we will wait until mid-April to make any determination with respect to any potential furloughs or layoffs that may be necessary after April 30, in light of this unprecedented situation,” he said in the statement.

Indiana University, Bloomington, earlier this week said it was freezing staff hires and that faculty searches will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. But Michael McRobbie, IU’s president, said in a statement Monday that staff members will not be required to use any accrued time off for absences related to the crisis. And employees who are designated as essential and required to work on campus will receive premium pay of time and a half for that work.

McRobbie also thanked the university’s employees in his message:

I extend my most sincere thanks, that of IU’s senior leadership and that of the IU Trustees to all our faculty who are working with such breakneck speed to transform their courses to all virtual instruction. Our most sincere thanks to all our staff who provide the myriad support services that are making this transformation possible. Our most sincere thanks to all the staff who are keeping as much as possible of the normal business of the university operating. And our special thanks to all those at the front lines of this fight — those responsible for cleaning and sanitizing of the university, the police and other public safety officials, and our health care workers who are working with those who have or have been exposed to COVID-19. To all of you we express our most grateful thanks.

— Paul Fain

Quinnipiac Cutting Pay

March 24, 5 p.m. Quinnipiac University in Connecticut notified faculty and staff members on Monday that they will face pay cuts.

The university said the decision is due to the coronavirus pandemic, the New Haven Independent reported.

“The far-reaching disruptions caused by Covid-19 have resulted in significant additional expenses for our university and lost revenues from programs that were canceled. In addition, the pandemic creates uncertainty in our future enrollment projections,” Judy Olian, president of Quinnipiac, wrote in an email to faculty and staff, according to the Independent. “Accordingly, we are taking measured steps now to address our financial reality.”

All employees will receive temporary salary reductions from April 1 through June 30. Those earning $50,000 or less annually will receive a 3-percent reduction, with others receive a 5-percent reduction.

Members of the management committee, including Olian, will take larger pay cuts.

Merit increases also will be eliminated for the 2020-21 academic year.

— Madeline St. Amour

Dem Aide: Ambitious Debt Cancellation ‘Not Happening’

March 24, 2:35 p.m. A Democratic aide tells Inside Higher Ed the $10,000 debt cancellation Democrats in the House and Senate wanted as part of the coronavirus rescue legislation is not a viable option. A smaller form of cancellation is possible, the aide said.

“Republicans balked at the large-scale cancellation of student loans,” the aide said. “We pushed until the end, but it’s not happening.”

Senate Republicans had proposed to excuse borrowers from making their monthly payments, without interest accruing, for at least 60 days. Senate Democrats, however, want the federal government to make monthly payments for federal loan borrowers so their debt will go down by at least $10,000. Democrats in the House on Monday night proposed the same thing but would also offer relief to those with private loans, up to $10,000.

A senior Republican Senate aide told Inside Higher Ed this morning, “Senate Republicans believe there are more efficient ways to provide relief to students, borrowers and all Americans — ways that are reflected in the legislation that Democrats continue to obstruct.”

But the Democratic aide countered, “When Republicans say ‘more efficient ways,’ they mean ways that don’t provide substantial relief to students. There are also ‘more efficient ways’ to put money in people’s pockets, but that’s never stopped them from arguing for massive income tax rate cuts for the super-rich.” 

— Kery Murakami

Central Washington Declares Financial Exigency 

March 24, 2:30 p.m. Central Washington University is declaring a state of financial exigency.

The public university’s Board of Trustees cited issues stemming from the novel coronavirus in their proclamation, which was first reported on Twitter by Dan Bauman, a reporter at The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Financial exigency refers to an imminent financial crisis that threatens the institution’s survival. This declaration will let Central Washington take unusual steps to cut costs, such as potentially laying off tenured faculty members. 

The board anticipates that the measures the university took to prevent the spread of the virus, such as canceling in-person classes and closing the campus to the public, will lead to a drop in enrollment and retention. The absence of people on campus will lead to a drop in revenue for auxiliary services. Event cancellations will also hurt the university.

The loss of economic activity and tax revenue for the state from the pandemic also is likely to lead to less funding for public institutions, the board’s letter said.

— Madeline St. Amour

Harvard’s President Tests Positive

March 24, 1 p.m. The president of Harvard University has tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

In a letter to the university community, Lawrence Bacow said he and his wife, Adele, learned today they both tested positive.

The couple began experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 on Sunday. They’ve been working from home and practicing social distancing since March 14, according to the letter, and are unsure how they caught the virus.

“This virus can lay anyone low. We all need to be vigilant and keep following guidelines to limit our contact with others,” Bacow wrote. “Your swift actions over the past few weeks — to respond to the needs of our community, to fulfill our teaching mission and to pursue research that will save lives — have moved me deeply and made me extraordinarily grateful and proud.”

— Madeline St. Amour

COVID-19 Death at New York’s International House

March 24, 11:43 a.m. A resident of International House — a living-learning community in New York City connected with Columbia University — died Saturday of complications of COVID-19, and International House reported today that another member of its community had tested positive for COVID-19 and “has been recovering without complications outside the premises for over two weeks.” International House also said a staff member tested positive several weeks ago and is also recovering at home without complications.

International House said in a statement it is accelerating efforts to shut down the larger of its two buildings, “which contains numerous communal spaces such as study rooms, lounges and dining facilities,” as well as shared bathrooms. Another building, which has self-contained apartments, remains open.

— Elizabeth Redden

Push for More Donations in Stimulus

March 24, 11:20 a.m. Colleges and universities are hoping to see a Republican proposal to encourage more charitable donations during the coronavirus crisis included in the mammoth stimulus package being negotiated in Congress.

The American Council on Education and 18 other higher education associations in a letter Monday to Senator James Lankford, an Oklahoma Republican, called for allowing nonitemizing taxpayers to deduct charitable gifts up to one-third of the standard deduction, or $4,000 for individuals and $8,000 for married couples.

“Your proposed temporary Universal Charitable Deduction — widely supported by the charitable community — would provide a significant giving incentive for all taxpayers during a time of incredible need,” the letter said. “It would also provide immediate support to help colleges and universities continue fulfilling their teaching, research and public service missions.”

— Kery Murakami

Students Return to Liberty’s Campus

March 24, 11 a.m. Liberty University students are returning to the Virginia campus from their spring breaks, bucking the trend of colleges sending students home for the rest of the semester.

While classes are being taught online, Liberty is opening up campus for students who wish to return to their residence halls, according to a news release. Faculty members also are expected to hold office hours, but they can file requests for accommodations if they feel they are at higher risk for contracting and recovering from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

“While some colleges basically threw their hands up and just shut down and left the problem for somebody else to deal with, Liberty’s executive staff rolled their sleeves up,” Jerry Falwell Jr., Liberty’s president, said in a news release. “I’ve been so impressed meeting with them every day; they have stepped up to the plate and made necessary changes to help the students. If there was a medal of honor for their type of service, I’d give every one of them one for their incredible work and how creative they are. I don’t think there’s another university in the country that has a staff as good as ours.”

Other university operations also are open. Staff are running the dining hall and fitness center for students but limiting occupancy to 10 people at a time to follow the statewide ban on gatherings of more than 10 people.

The Virginia Department of Health sent an inspector for a surprise visit to the campus after the governor announced the 10-person limit, according to the news release. The university was found to be in compliance with all restrictions.

Annex I, a former hotel owned by Liberty, is being used to quarantine those with symptoms of the coronavirus.

The campus is closed to visitors, though, and campus events are being canceled on a two-week basis.

— Madeline St. Amour

Debt Cancellation Faces Opposition from Senate Republicans

March 24, 10:50 a.m. As negotiations reportedly continued over a massive stimulus package, a senior Republican Senate aide threw doubt on the idea of including the cancellation of student debt in the package, as Democrats in the Senate and House propose.

“Senate Republicans believe there are more efficient ways to provide relief to students, borrowers and all Americans — ways that are reflected in the legislation that Democrats continue to obstruct,” the aide said, referring to the Senate Republican proposal to excuse borrowers from making their monthly payments, without interest accruing, for at least 60 days.

Senate Democrats want the federal government to make the monthly payments for federal loan borrowers so their debt will go down by at least $10,000. Democrats in the House on Monday night proposed the same thing, but would also offer relief of up to $10,000 for those with private loans.

— Kery Murakami

AERA Cancels Upcoming Meeting

March 24, 9:45 a.m. Less than three weeks after laying out plans to change its upcoming annual meeting to a virtual version, the American Educational Research Association is saying that it is now canceling that virtual conference.

A unanimous March 22 resolution from the association’s governing body, the AERA Council, made the cancellation of the virtual conference official. The original in-person gathering had been expected to draw 16,000 or more people to San Francisco from April 17 to 21.

The initial effort to change to a virtual conference came as leaders hoped to create an online platform without cost to anyone, wrote AERA executive director Felice J. Levine and AERA president Vanessa Siddle Walker in a message to members and those who had registered for the meeting. They’d planned to give presenters and participants the chance to share work and connect with audiences from around the world.

“Yet, the rapidly changing circumstances, even as recently as this weekend, made us question whether our vision of a safe-haven virtual environment could be realized,” Levine and Walker wrote. “We have been monitoring the coronavirus disease, now sweeping the United States, over the last week to assess whether our vision of a free, open-access Virtual Annual Meeting for all would continue to provide the safe and secure space for participants and attendees we had imagined, or whether it was adding to a ‘to do’ list growing exponentially for far too many.”

AERA describes itself as the largest national interdisciplinary research association devoted to the scientific study of education and learning.

— Rick Seltzer

N.J. Freezes Nearly $1 Billion in State Spending

March 24, 9:20 a.m. Citing a “precipitous” expected decline in tax collection and pension liabilities, New Jersey has frozen $921 million in state government spending, Elizabeth Maher Muoio, New Jersey’s treasurer, said in a written statement.

Funding streams the state has placed in the reserve spending freeze included $71 million in college operating aid, $21 million in tuition assistance and $10 million in county college operating costs.

“The impact of COVID-19 on the state, its economy, and budget and finances is unpredictable and rapidly changing, but the state believes that events surrounding COVID-19 will negatively impact the state’s economy and financial condition,” Muoio said. “The actual impact of COVID-19 on the state, its economy and its budget and finances will heavily depend on future events, including future events outside of the control of the state, and actions by the federal government as well as nations across the world.”

— Paul Fain

Tribal Colleges Call for More Funding

March 23, 5:50 p.m. The American Indian Higher Education Consortium is asking its members to advocate for special funding to help tribal colleges mitigate the coronavirus pandemic.

Many tribal colleges and universities have little to no existing capacity for online teaching, according to a news release from the Tribal College Journal. Many also lack a consistent IT infrastructure.

The consortium estimates the colleges need $140 million to install community-based internet access points, update outdated IT infrastructure, implement learning management systems for online teaching and provide professional development for faculty.

“With the spread of COVID-19, TCUs and TCU students are faced with tremendous, disruptive change. We need to secure our campuses, move to online learning, and create safe spaces and opportunities to learn at a distance,” the release states. “Yet TCUs have the worst internet access, at the highest average cost, when compared to all other colleges and universities in the United States. TCUs educate more enrolled American Indians and Alaska Natives than any other postsecondary education institutions in the U.S. — and our students need and deserve equitable resources.”

Current proposals include emergency aid, but only a limited amount for tribal colleges, according to the release.

— Madeline St. Amour

Details in House Democrats’ Stimulus Plan

March 23, 5 p.m. As Senate Democrats continued to negotiate a more than $1 trillion economic stimulus package, Democrats in the House were circulating a draft of their own proposal, expected to be released later Monday. The proposal mirrors the plan laid out by Senate Democrats but goes further in some respects.

Like the Senate Democratic plan, House Democrats proposed for the federal government to cover monthly student loan payments for borrowers, as long as a national emergency declaration over the coronavirus epidemic continues. And the payments would reduce the balances of what borrowers owe.

In contrast, Senate Republicans have proposed excusing borrowers from making monthly payments for six months, interest-free. But when the payments are required again, borrowers’ balances would be what they are now.

House Democrats would go further than their peers in the Senate by making payments for private student loans as well, for 22 months. Borrowers who are behind on their payments but aren’t yet in default would be placed retroactively in forbearance so they would be considered current in making payments. And the government would pay their monthly payments.

The proposal also has more funding as well for higher education institutions than the $6 billion proposed by Senate Republicans. Thirty percent of $30 billion in funding allocated to states would be set aside for colleges and universities under the plan. Institutions also could get more because some of an additional 40 percent of state grants could be distributed between K-12 and higher education.

In addition, another $9.5 billion, including $1.5 billion for historically black colleges and universities, would be distributed through as-yet-undetermined grant process to reimburse institutions for coronavirus-related costs.

Terry Hartle, the American Council on Education’s senior vice president for government and public affairs, worried that the grant process would take too long to help institutions that need immediate financial help.

— Kery Murakami

Coronavirus Call Centers

March 23, 3:45 p.m. Got questions about coronavirus? Some colleges are starting call centers to provide answers for students, parents and staff members.

Purdue University is launching its call center today to provide information on what COVID-19 means for the university in Indiana, from housing to financial aid to academics. University employees will staff the center Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.

Mississippi State University is also providing a phone number for people to call, as is Mississippi Delta Community College.

The call center at the community college is open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Staff members will have information on current campus operations, like admissions, financial aid and online classes.

— Madeline St. Amour

Colleges, Organizations Offer Emergency Aid to Students

March 23, 3:20 p.m. Colleges and universities are offering emergency funds to students in light of the spread of a novel coronavirus.

The Northern Virginia Community College Educational Foundation launched a new emergency aid fund for students affected by the pandemic with a $250,000 contribution from the NOVA Foundation. More than half of NOVA’s students work in full- or part-time jobs, many of which are now at risk as the country enters a recession.

“Ensuring every NOVA student succeeds is our highest priority always,” Anne Kress, NOVA’s president, said in a news release. “But especially now, as our students face unprecedented challenges, we have an obligation to ensure they have our support. Our students will help our community rebuild and prosper but they can only do this if we provide the assistance they need. I encourage everyone to consider donating to the Emergency Student Aid Fund.”

Temple University in Philadelphia also is offering emergency aid funds for students who apply, as well as partnering with community groups to offer services like food pantries, according to The Temple News.

Several organizations have partnered to start the Student Relief Fund, which has so far raised $95,000 to help students whose lives were affected by COVID-19.

— Madeline St. Amour

Pelosi to Propose More for Higher Education, Relief for Borrowers

March 23, 2:20 p.m. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said House Democrats will propose slightly more aid for higher education institutions than Republicans proposed in the Senate. While short on details, Pelosi said in a statement that the House Democratic proposal “pumps nearly $40 billion into schools and universities, with $30 billion directly provided to states to help them stabilize their funding for schools and nearly $10 billion to help alleviate the harm caused by coronavirus on higher education institutions, while providing them with added flexibility to continue operating during the crisis.”

She added that “the legislation also helps current borrowers with their student debt burden and GI Bill benefits. We also bolster SNAP and other initiatives to address food insecurity.”

Associations representing colleges and universities were alarmed that the proposal from Senate Republicans included $6 billion for institutions.

— Kery Murakami

House Dems: $30,000 in Student Loan Relief for Each Borrower

March 23, 2 p.m. As the Senate again failed to garner enough votes Monday afternoon to consider a stimulus package of more than $1 trillion proposed by Republicans, progressive House Democrats pressed for an even larger cancellation of student debt than Senate Democrats have proposed.

One of the unresolved issues dividing Democratic and Republican senators has been whether to cancel debt. Republicans only want to suspend loan payments for six months. Democrats want the federal government to make the payments for borrowers with federal student loans and to reduce their balance by at least $10,000 each.

Meanwhile, as House Democrats prepare their own proposal, Representatives Ayanna Pressley, a Massachusetts Democrat, and Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, on Monday introduced a bill in which the federal government would make monthly payments on behalf of borrowers. But this proposal would guarantee canceling up to $30,000 of student loan debt per borrower.

It’s unclear how much support the proposal has even among House Democrats. Politico reported on Sunday that Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told congressional leaders and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin she wants a package dealing with the economic fallout of the coronavirus outbreak to include at least $10,000 in debt cancellation.

Last week Pressley and Omar were among 27 House Democrats to urge Pelosi in a letter to include debt cancellation in any stimulus bill. But they did not mention a dollar figure.

Kery Murakami

Amy Klobuchar’s Husband Tests Positive

March 23, 1 p.m. John Bessler, a professor and husband of Amy Klobuchar, the U.S. senator and former Democratic presidential candidate, has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19.

Bessler is a professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law. He became ill while in Washington, D.C., subsequently quarantined himself and stopped going to work, according to a statement from Klobuchar, who is in Minnesota.

He is now at a hospital in Virginia and is on oxygen but is not on a ventilator.

“I love my husband so very much and not being able to be there at the hospital by his side is one of the hardest things about this disease,” Klobuchar said in her statement.

— Madeline St. Amour

SNHU Creates Training for Drive-Through Testing

March 23, 12:35 p.m. Southern New Hampshire University on Monday unveiled a suite of free resources in light of the novel coronavirus, including modules on how to run a drive-through COVID-19 test site.

The private nonprofit college is offering online trainings and education resources for educators, front-line workers and health-care workers, according to a news release.

One of the microcredentials offered is targeted at health-care workers, like retail pharmacy technicians, volunteer health-care workers and EMTs. The free training will teach those workers how to operate drive-through testing sites for the virus.

“The spread of COVID-19 has shown us the critical importance of collaboration and helping those in need,” Paul LeBlanc, president and CEO of the university, said in the release. “This work together is both a sign of solidarity, and a sign of our collective commitment to the good and wellbeing of all people.”

Southern New Hampshire is partnering with Guild Education, a for-profit company that helps companies offer education assistance programs to employees, and Penn Foster, a for-profit high school, for those trainings. The three organizations have also compiled resources for front-line workers who can’t work from home during this time and need guidance on how to remain safe.

The microcredentials will give employees badges or certificates they can show to employers. Topics include personal finance management, maintaining mental health and leading in uncertain times.

The university, which specializes in online education, is also providing free information on how to get an online course up and running, as well as a set of online modules for K-12 instructors.

— Madeline St. Amour

ETS Unveils At-Home Versions of GRE and TOEFL

March 23, 9:30 a.m. The Educational Testing Service today unveiled a GRE and a TOEFL that can be taken at home. The tests were designed to be taken on a computer with live human proctoring.

“These at-home solutions are identical in content, format, on-screen experience, scoring and pricing,” said a statement from ETS.

The tests, which are open for registration today, will initially only be given in certain countries:

  • United States
  • Canada
  • Colombia
  • France
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Spain
  • Hong Kong (China)
  • Macau (China)

“ETS is working toward making these at-home solutions available in additional locations in the coming weeks,” the statement said.

— Scott Jaschik

Overwhelmed Colleges Worry About Title IX Rule’s Release

March 20, 5:45 p.m. Colleges and universities have their hands full dealing with the coronavirus outbreak, as they transition to online classes, close campuses and worrying about the health and housing of their students. But many are worried they may soon have to implement a controversial rule by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos that will change how institutions handle allegations of sexual assault and harassment, including a requirement the accused be able to cross-examine their accusers in a live hearing.

DeVos has been rumored to be issuing the rule soon. Though the Office of Management and Budget, which reviews proposed new rules, has meetings with stakeholders scheduled through April 6, the office could cancel them and green-light a rule at any time.

The rule would involve changing policies, including faculty agreements, said Brett A. Sokolow,  president of the Association of Title IX Administrators.

“Issuing Title IX regulations in the midst of coronavirus response would be a huge distraction for schools and colleges, which need to be focused right now on transitioning essential services to online delivery,” he said. While institutions are usually given 30 to 90 days to comply with a new rule, he said they should be given at least a year.

More than 10 higher educations asked this week in a memo for federal lawmakers to give DeVos “the authority to waive compliance with significant and/or costly new regulatory requirements that may be introduced in this period, as institutions’ ability to come into compliance will necessitate a substantial outlay of resources that are better allocated to other purposes at this time.”

Craig Lindwarm, vice president for government affairs at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, said his group is worried about having to comply with a pending rule expanding the reporting requirements for institutions for foreign gifts and contracts.

“Now is not the time to impose substantial new regulatory burdens on institutions, and significant challenges in implementation, when campuses are closing and responding to the emergency conditions they’re facing,” he said.

“We have significant concerns that institutions won’t have the bandwidth or the resources to implement these regulations,” said Matt Owens, the Association of American Universities’ executive vice president and vice president for federal relations.

“This is not the time,” said Elizabeth Tang, education and workplace justice counsel at the National Women’s Law Center. “Students and families are struggling to provide for their basic needs, and schools scrambling to provide online resources. It would be absolutely inappropriate to issue a new rule in the midst of all this.”

The law center has said it would file a suit to block the rule if the final version is similar to the initial version DeVos proposed. Many of the Trump administration’s rules have been blocked in court, she said. But Sokolow, writing in Inside Higher Ed, warned institutions will have to respond to a new rule even if it is being challenged in court.

“It’s unlikely that a federal judge will enjoin the regulations fully, and if there is a partial injunction, colleges and universities will still need to comply with those elements of the regulations that are not enjoined,” he wrote in a Jan. 15 opinion piece on the potential impact of the new rule on institutions.

— Kery Murakami

Private Colleges ‘Essential’ During Shelter in Place?

March 20, 5 p.m. California’s private college association said its interpretation of a state executive order for people to shelter in place, issued yesterday by Governor Gavin Newsom, defines certain functions of all colleges in the state, both public and private, as essential.

A spokeswoman for the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities, which represents 85 private, nonprofit institutions in California, cited the reference in Newsom’s order to a U.S. Homeland Security site that describes “16 federally-identified, critical infrastructure sectors.” The government facilities sector in that list includes colleges.

“The education facilities subsector covers pre-kindergarten through 12th grade schools, institutions of higher education, and business and trade schools,” the Department of Homeland Security said. “The subsector includes facilities that are owned by both government and private sector entities.”

It’s unclear if this guidance will apply to shelter-in-place orders other states and municipalities may issue.

— Paul Fain

Groups Call for More Student Loan Relief

March 20, 4:45 p.m. Advocates who’ve been calling for student loan relief from the U.S. Congress and President Trump said the announcement today by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos — that borrowers will be able to suspend repayments for at least 60 days — doesn’t go far enough.

“It’s a good start, but more is needed,” Justin Draeger, president and CEO of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.

As senators negotiated a bipartisan agreement on what could be a $1 trillion stimulus package, the financial aid administrators’ group, along with the American Council on Education and the Institute for College Access and Success, in a letter Friday to congressional leaders called on Congress to go further than the newly announced measures.

They want Congress to include in any stimulus package provisions keeping borrowers from being placed into default, a ban on involuntary collections like garnishments, requirements to automatically place borrowers into forbearance, assurance of no forgiveness penalties and to ensure a smooth transition back to requiring borrowers to make payments again.

Meanwhile, Alexis Goldstein, senior policy analyst for the progressive Americans for Financial Reform, questioned DeVos’s requirement that borrowers who are seeking a break from making payments contact their loan servicer. “This comes at a time when many student loan servicers are closing call centers or reducing hours, and will in fact be a serious barrier to borrowers under pressure getting the relief they desperately need,” she said. “In addition, it leaves out some federal student loan borrowers whose loans are not federally held.”

— Kery Murakami

Colleges Offer Space for Emergency Response

March 20, 4 p.m. Colleges are prepping their facilities to help respond to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The University of Maine system is working with state and local emergency response teams to determine how its facilities and personnel could be deployed to help, according to a news release.

The system is creating an inventory of available resources, including facilities that could be turned into alternative health-care delivery spaces, existing supplies and the system’s logistical capacity.

UMaine’s Cooperative Extension already has provided eight full-gown protective equipment suits and face masks to the Penobscot Nation Police Department, which was unable to source the suits through suppliers.

While the system is doing its part to reduce the spread of coronavirus, Dannel P. Malloy, the system’s chancellor, said that’s not enough.

“With lives hanging in the balance, Maine’s universities must do even more,” Malloy said in the release. “We are considering all appropriate steps to deploy our resources to assist Maine’s public health and emergency management leaders.”

Colleges around the nation are taking the same approach. Tufts University in Massachusetts and Middlebury College in Vermont have both announced that they are offering up use of their facilities during this time, according to the Associated Press.

Earlier this week, New York University also asked its students to vacate dorms so they could be prepped to house patients infected with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

— Madeline St. Amour

Leaders at Cal State Postpone Retirements

March 20, 2:10 p.m. Several leaders in the California State University system, including the chancellor, are postponing their retirements through the fall as higher education grapples with disruption from the novel coronavirus.

“As the world faces an unprecedented crisis, now more than ever, it is crucially important for stable and experienced hands to provide thoughtful guidance on all areas affecting the operations of the university,” Adam Day, chairman of the system’s Board of Trustees, said in a news release. “I am pleased and relieved that Chancellor White and Presidents Morishita and Harrison will continue to provide their leadership for the immediate future.”

Planned searches for the new chancellor and presidents will recommence later this year, Day said.

Timothy P. White, CSU’s chancellor, was planning to retire in July. He has served as chancellor since 2012.

Leroy M. Morishita, president of CSU East Bay, intended to retire at the end of the academic year. He has led the college since July 2011.

Dianne F. Harrison, president of CSU Northridge, planned to retire at the end of June. She has served as president of a CSU campus since 2006, first starting at CSU Monterey Bay before moving to Northridge.

— Madeline St. Amour

Duke to Pay Contract Workers Through Semester

March 20, 1:15 p.m. Duke University announced that “all Duke faculty and staff will continue to stay in a paid work status regardless of their work location or work schedule.”

Duke University food service and hotel operations are often staffed by contract workers, meaning they are directly employed by outside companies.

“We are making a commitment to provide financial assistance to ensure that all food service workers who are currently assigned to work full-time in Duke University facilities as well as employees of the Washington Duke Inn and J. B. Duke Hotel will maintain their current pay through May 31, 2020, to the extent that their employers are unable to do so, and they are not covered by pending state and federal government programs,” the university said in an announcement.

The university did not provide information on what share of contract employees are full-time. Employees and contract workers may have their job assignments changed in order to meet the college’s need.

— Lilah Burke

DeVos Suspends Student Loan Payments for 60 Days

March 20, 12:35 p.m. All  borrowers with federally-held student loans will have the option to suspend their payments for at least 60 days, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced Friday. The department directed all federal student loan servicers to grant an administrative forbearance to any borrower with a federally held loan who requests one.

DeVos, in a news release issued moments after President Trump announced the suspension during a White House briefing on the coronavirus outbreak, also said she is authorizing an automatic suspension of payments for any borrower who is more than 31 days delinquent on student loans, as of March 13, or for those who become more than 31 days delinquent, essentially giving borrowers a safety net during the national emergency. The forbearance will be in effect for a period of at least 60 days, retroactive to March 13. Borrowers should contact their loan servicer online or by phone, the department said.

In addition, DeVos said interest on federally-held student loans will be set to 0 percent. Trump had announced last Friday that he would waive interest on the loans.

“These are anxious times, particularly for students and families whose educations, careers and lives have been disrupted,” said DeVos. “Right now, everyone should be focused on staying safe and healthy, not worrying about their student loan balance growing. I commend President Trump for his quick action on this issue, and I hope it provides meaningful help and peace of mind to those in need.”

— Kery Murakami

Harvard Plans to Pay Graduate Workers

March 20, 11:30 a.m. Harvard University will be paying graduate student workers through the spring 2020 semester, the university has released. 

“Where possible, the University expectation is that the work that graduate students are compensated for should continue,” Harvard announced on its coronavirus webpage. “If work assignments are not possible to complete using online or distance learning technologies, supervisors are encouraged to find other opportunities for graduate student workers to complete their work commitments, including shifting jobs and job descriptions to alternate assignments in order to fulfill their employment obligations.”

Graduate student workers who are unable to work because of the pandemic will still be compensated through the semester. Graduate students, regardless of work status, will still receive their stipends.

Harvard’s graduate student union, affiliated with the United Auto Workers, applauded the announcement on Twitter. “Our union has been pushing for these protections, and we are relieved they are finally being implemented,” the union posted. “We look forward to a forthcoming announcement for undergraduate student workers as well!”

— Lilah Burke

College Facilities Considered ‘Essential’ During Shelter-in-Place Order

March 20, 10:40 a.m. Gavin Newsom, California’s Democratic governor, on Thursday evening announced a shelter-in-place order for the entire state, which will be in effect until at least April 19. Similar orders by counties and other localities previously had applied to 21 million of the state’s 40 million residents.

Colleges and universities, however, are considered part of 16 of the nation’s critical infrastructure services, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. These sectors are “considered so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination thereof,” the Homeland Security Department said.

Specifically, higher education institutions are considered to be part of the government facilities subsector. These facilities include many owned by federal and state governments, as well as “individuals who perform essential functions or possess tactical, operational or strategic knowledge.”

It remains unclear which functions on college campuses are deemed essential during a shelter-in-place order like California’s. But guidance from universities in the state include some details.

For example, the University of California, Los Angeles, said in a statement that its campus would be operating similar to its winter closure, meaning that only a few core services will continue during the shelter in place.

“Educational institutions, like UCLA, are subject to these orders but are considered essential businesses,” the university said. “This means we will suspend all on-campus operations with the exception of those that are essential and cannot be conducted remotely.” Those services include:

  • Health-care services and corresponding support. UCLA hospitals and clinics will remain open and fully operational; more information is available on UCLA Health’s website.
  • Classroom and laboratory instruction for remote learning will continue through the end of spring quarter. Deans and chairs will determine what on-campus essential support may be needed.
  • Student housing and dining services
  • Building systems and custodial services, although at reduced levels
  • Animal care or animal research
  • Research laboratory safety
  • Research approved by the vice chancellor for research
  • Emergency response, such as police, fire, emergency medical services and environmental health and safety
  • Emergency management
  • Custodial services will continue to operate at reduced levels, but surfaces in common areas continue to be sanitized regularly.
  • Building systems
  • IT services associated with on-site support of campus IT infrastructure and remote learning
  • Human resources, finance and counseling services will continue, but primarily remotely.
  • The Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center will remain open for in-person services.
  • Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), although all services will be offered via telehealth. No on-site services will be available at this time.

— Paul Fain

Senate Dems Call on DeVos to Provide Immediate Relief to Borrowers

March 20, 10:15 a.m. Top Senate Democrats Friday morning urged U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to use her existing authority to provide relief to federal student loan borrowers, while Congress considers providing help in a new stimulus package during the coronavirus crisis.

In a letter, the Democrats urged DeVos to: not involuntarily collect loan payments through the garnishment of paychecks, tax refunds and Social Security benefits; ensure student loan servicers’ call centers remain open, so borrowers can access the help they need; direct all student loan servicers to notify borrowers of their options for repaying their loans, including income-driven repayment; and ensure that students taking leaves of absence due to the coronavirus do not trigger loan repayment.

President Trump’s announcement last week that the federal government will waive charging interest on loan balances will not necessarily lower monthly payments, said the letter signed by Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the top Democrat on the Senate education committee; Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York; and Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; Ron Wyden of Oregon; Dick Durbin of Illinois and Sherrod Brown of Ohio.

So the senators also called for halting all interest capitalization, in addition to waiving interest, that will “unnecessarily penalize borrowers and put them further in debt,” the letter said. The senators also said DeVos should make it easier for borrowers to enroll in income-driven repayment plans, and implement a bill approved last year that automatically uses tax data to automatically recertify the income of borrowers in income-driven plans.

“The Department has numerous tools at its disposal to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 and the resulting damage to our economy. The President’s announcement that student loan interest will be waived is simply not enough,” wrote the senators.

Angela Morabito, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, responded, “We appreciate their suggestions, and we are already working on many policies to aid student loan borrowers. We will have several announcements in the coming days.”

— Kery Murakami

Maryland System Goes Online, Cancels Commencements

March 19, 7:45 p.m. Institutions in the University System of Maryland will conduct undergraduate instruction online for the remainder of the spring semester, Chancellor Jay Perman said in a statement Thursday. The system’s 12 universities also will not hold in-person commencement ceremonies.

The announcement comes after Maryland governor Larry Hogan asked the system to finish out the semester with remote learning, The Baltimore Sun reported. Maryland’s universities had originally planned to conduct online instruction for two weeks following their spring break.

Graduate and professional students will have “a different set of considerations” that the system is working on with guidance from accreditors and certification boards, Perman said.

— Greta Anderson

Senate Republicans Propose Deferment of Student Loan Payments

March 19, 6:33 p.m. Senate Republicans and Democrats on Thursday unveiled plans to help students saddled by debt during the economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis, but a rift quickly developed over how.

Terry Hartle, senior vice president for government and public affairs at the American Council on Education, cited “deep disappointment” after his first read of the Republican proposal. The plan does not include grants or loans to help colleges that are ​struggling with the economic effects of the crisis. Some college presidents are worried their institutions might close, he said.

The Republican proposal would allow borrowers to defer payments for up to three months, without interest growing. It also would allow U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to grant another three months of deferment if necessary, depending on whether a declaration of emergency remains in effect.

Some advocates for providing student loan debt relief to many people who are losing jobs or seeing their incomes shrink were heartened that senators from both parties were interested in providing some relief.

However, the Republican approach differed fundamentally from Senate Democratic leaders, who, as reported Wednesday by Inside Higher Ed, proposed the federal government pay down borrowers’ loans.

Under that proposal, the Department of Education would make monthly loan repayments for borrowers for the remainder of the national emergency declaration. At a minimum, borrowers would have at least $10,000 of their loans paid off by the federal government, under the plan from Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer; Senator Patty Murray, the senior Democrat on the Senate education committee; and Senators Sherrod Brown and Elizabeth Warren.

The Republican plan would also protect Pell Grant recipients from having to return grant funding to the federal government if their institutions close midterm. It also includes a provision allowing institutions to issue work-study payments to students who are unable to work due to closures. The money could be paid as a lump sum or in payments similar to paychecks.

Kery Murakami

Higher Ed Lobby Calls for Federal Support for Students, Institutions

March 19, 3:00 p.m. Citing the pandemic’s profound impact, more than 10 associations that represent a wide swath of U.S. higher education released a list of actions by the federal government they said were necessary to help students and colleges.

“While closing campuses or moving entirely to remote instruction have been necessary steps in slowing the spread of the virus among students and staff, these shifts have caused massive disruption to students, institutional operations and institutional finances,” said the document, which was prepared by the American Council on Education with backing from associations for private colleges, public and land-grant institutions, research universities, Christian and Catholic colleges, and state higher education executive officers, among others.

The “substantial” financial impacts on colleges and universities will ripple through local communities, the group said, given the wide economic role higher education plays in much of the country.

The ACE document specifically called on the federal government to take action in four key areas to help students and institutions.

  • Emergency aid targeted to students and colleges. The groups said aid should be disbursed through the Pell Grant system directly to colleges and students, particularly those who are lower income and struggle with basic needs. Grants to institutions should be based partially on enrollment, with at least 25 percent going toward emergency aid for students. Those grants should be capped at $1,500 per student. For-profit colleges and those with “substantial” portions of their enrollments in online programs should only receive the student aid, the groups said, not the institutional grants.
  • Access to low-cost capital. To help colleges weather the storm and return to normal operations, the feds should encourage access for colleges to new zero-interest loans. One way would be to provide a refinancing option for current college and university debt.
  • Technology implementation fund. The groups called on the federal government to create a $7.8 billion funding stream to “ensure that institutions are supported in the transition to distance learning, while also ensuring that students do not lose access to their educations as a result of the shift.”
  • More regulatory flexibility. Congress should temporarily suspend rules relating to the eligibility, determination and disbursement of federal financial aid, the groups said, to assist colleges in getting aid to students rapidly. One example would be to help students not see their eligibility for Pell Grants reduced for a term in which their institution has closed due to COVID-19. Another would be to lift restrictions on the transfer of funds between campus aid programs like Federal Work-Study and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant. The groups also called on Congress to give the education secretary authority to waive or suspend existing statutory and regulatory deadlines.

— Paul Fain

Congress Passes Measure to Protect GI Bill Benefits

March 19, 2:23 p.m. The House unanimously approved a measure giving the Department of Veterans Affairs flexibility to not have to cut the housing allowance under the GI Bill.

The Senate had passed the measure on Monday, so the bill will now head to President Trump.

Veterans’ groups had been worried that VA regulations would require the agency to cut housing benefits to half of the Defense Department’s basic housing allowance for students enrolled in academic programs that switch midterm from in-person to online.

They also worried that in-person programs approved for GI Bill benefits would no longer be eligible if they become online only. That could mean benefits like tuition and housing allowances would stop for students in those programs, because they would no longer be VA approved.

“We are relieved military-connected students are now free from the burden of worry with their housing allowance and can concentrate on protecting their families and community, while they attempt to finish their studies from a distance,” said Tanya Ang, vice president of Veterans Education Success, one of the groups that had been pushing for the measure.

— Kery Murakami

Catholic University President Tests Positive for COVID-19

March 19, 12:10 p.m. John Garvey, president of Catholic University, released a statement Thursday saying he has tested positive for COVID-19. Garvey, who has been quarantined since March 13, said he no longer has symptoms. He will continue his self-isolation, per CDC guidelines.

“This news may be concerning to many on campus,” Garvey said of Catholic, which is located in Washington, D.C. “We have been taking every precaution to stop the spread of COVID-19 in its tracks, including moving all classes online, shutting down our residence halls for the semester, cancelling all athletics games and practices, and giving broad permissions for employees to work from home.”

— Paul Fain

Senate Dems: $10,000 in Student Loan Relief for All Borrowers

March 19, 11:30 a.m. Senate Democrats released their plan to offer student loan relief to borrowers amid disruptions caused by the pandemic. The proposal would authorize the U.S. Department of Education to make payments equivalent to the amount due for all federal student loan borrowers throughout the duration of the national emergency and public health emergency periods. Garnishment of wages, tax refunds and Social Security benefits also would halt under the plan, which would codify President Trump’s plan to waive interest on all federal student loans.

“This suspension of payments will be a new policy distinct from ‘deferment’ and ‘forbearance,’ which are opt-in procedures that do not count toward student loan forgiveness under income-driven repayment (IDR) or Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF),” the proposal said. “During the period of suspending payments, borrowers will receive credit toward forgiveness and loan rehabilitation for payments made by the department on their behalf. All payments made by the department will be tax-free for borrowers.”

The department also would be required to ensure that each federal student loan borrower receive a minimum of $10,000 in student loan relief no later than 90 days after the conclusion of the national emergency.

Under the plan, the Education Secretary would send monthly notices to all borrowers to allow them to opt out of the suspension and payment contribution and to notify them that the program is temporary and will end at some point when the national emergency has ceased.

— Paul Fain

Senator Alexander: Allow Students to Defer Loan Payments

March 19, 10:35 a.m. Senator Lamar Alexander on Wednesday called for the U.S. Congress to pass additional measures to help college students and borrowers with student loan debt, including a call to allow borrowers to defer loan payments. “We are going to have to pay what it costs to contain this disease,” Alexander said in the statement, which referred to a third COVID-19 relief bill Congress is considering.

“That legislation will need to fix problems to make the paid leave mandate work, improve and further expand COVID-19 testing, increase the availability of medical masks and other protective equipment, and increase the number of health care workers,” said Alexander, a Tennessee Republican who chairs the Senate’s health and education committee. “We also need to allow students to defer payment on their student loans and to keep their Pell Grants and give the Education secretary flexibility to waive federal academic testing and accountability rules. Congress should pass this legislation immediately.”

— Paul Fain

Case Western, Mansfield Drop SAT

March 18, 5:08 p.m. Case Western Reserve University and Mansfield University of Pennsylvania both dropped requirements for applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores, citing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Case Western announced that its policy would affect those seeking to apply in the fall of 2021 or after. The university said that the cancellation of SAT and ACT dates sped up the change.

Richard Bischoff, the university’s vice president for enrollment management, said, “We would rather students focus as best they can on their academic subjects rather than worrying about the SAT or ACT. Testing has always been just one factor in our evaluation of applications, and we are confident that we will continue to make quality admission decisions for those students who are either unable to test or who choose not to submit test scores.”

Mansfield said that its policy would be effective immediately, for fall 2020 applicants.

— Scott Jaschik

U of Washington Professor Dies From COVID-19

March 18, 4:30 p.m. A University of Washington professor has died due to an infection of COVID-19, which is caused by the novel coronavirus.

Stephen Schwartz was a professor of pathology. The university confirmed the news in a tweet. (Note: This item has been updated to correct the identity of Dr. Schwartz.)

“He has left a lasting imprint on our department, our university and the broader scientific community and will be greatly missed,” the tweet said.

Schwartz did his residency in the university’s Department of Pathology from 1967 to 1972, according to a report from the Seattle Times. He started as an assistant professor in 1973.

He was also an adjunct professor in the bioengineering and medicine departments. 

The interim chair of the department, Charles Alpers, said in an email obtained by the Times that Schwartz is “rightfully considered a giant amongst investigators of the biology of smooth muscle cells and the structure of blood vessels,”

Schwartz was also an investigator of the American Heart Association, a founding chair of the Gordon Research Conference and co-founder of the North American Vascular Biology Organization.

— Madeline St. Amour

Higher Ed Outlook Now Negative

March 18, 2 p.m. The financial outlook for higher education is now negative, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

The industry was previously seen as stable.

“For fiscal 2021, universities face unprecedented enrollment uncertainty, risks to multiple revenue streams and potential material erosion in their balance sheets,” the report from Moody’s said.

About 30 percent of colleges already have weak operating performances, so they’ll have an even harder time adapting to the disruption caused by the coronavirus and the new recession.

Many colleges have responded to the coronavirus by moving online and sending students home, which will immediately impact revenue streams, according to Moody’s.

There’s great variety among institutions in how they’ll be able to weather this storm. However, more than 30 percent of public universities are running with operating deficits, and more than 15 percent have less than 90 days of cash on hand, which puts them in particular risk.

It’s quite possible higher education could face disruption in enrollment, state funding, endowment income and research grants. However, if the economy returns to normal after the outbreak is contained and enrollment stays steady in the fall, these predictions could be reversed.

If disruption from the coronavirus continues into the fall, it’s possible some colleges would declare fiscal exigency, according to Moody’s. This rarely used mechanism lets colleges facing severe financial difficulties quickly address fixed costs, like tenure.

— Madeline St. Amour

Senate Dems Would Buy Down Student Loan Balances

March 18, 1:40 p.m. Senate Democrats are proposing that the next coronavirus stimulus plan not only defer repayments of federal student loans but pay down the amounts owed, officials confirmed today.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor Monday, “Our proposal will let you defer your mortgage loans for six months. No penalty, fees or impact on your credit. We’ll do the same for student loans.”

But according to a PowerPoint presentation about the proposal given to Democratic senators, the plan would “Cancel Monthly Student Payments and Have Federal Government Pay.”

Schumer’s office on Tuesday said, “Our proposal would work in concert with the president’s directive to waive student loan interest. So our payments would in effect be directly toward the principal balance.”

Whether it will be included as part of a final passage is unknown. Senate Republicans are working with President Trump on a proposal Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell described Monday as one Republicans would be able to agree on. He’d then engage with Democrats to get a deal that can pass the Senate.

The proposal comes as lawmakers are working on an even bigger coronavirus package than the $100 billion one passed by the House and expected to be approved by the Senate. Republicans thus far haven’t talked about doing more for borrowers than Trump’s announcement Friday that he will temporarily waive the interest on federal student loans.

Politico’s Michael Stratford tweeted Tuesday morning that Trump is proposing the next round of aid include $40 million to pay for waiving the interest. Trump is also calling for $100 million in grants to schools and colleges for coronavirus response, including disinfecting buildings and providing counseling and distance education.

— Kery Murakami

New Guidance for Accreditors

March 18, 11:30 a.m. Accrediting agencies can now perform virtual site visits and extend the term of accreditation in light of the novel coronavirus, according to new guidance from the U.S. Department of Education.

Agencies are not required to implement virtual visits, but they have the temporary authority to do so. They should follow up with in-person site visits, which do not have to be full peer-review site visits, within a reasonable amount of time to meet statutory and regulatory requirements.

Virtual site visits should use interactive formats like telephone and videoconference meetings, rather than emails, the guidance says.

Accrediting agencies can adopt or modify virtual site visit policies without a public comment period if they wish to go this route.

For institutions that were in the process of renewing their accreditation and had a scheduled site visit during this time, agencies can extend the term of accreditation for a reasonable period of time. Accreditors can also provide a good-cause extension to institutions that are on probation but are unable to hold a site visit due to interruptions caused by the coronavirus.

The department’s guidance also reminds agencies that they can retroactively accredit institutions in the event of a canceled site for final approval, so that students can graduate from an accredited institution.

Agencies should record and publish their decisions to use these temporary flexibilities, as well as keep records of what colleges used these extensions and waivers.

— Madeline St. Amour

Training for Virtual Accreditation Site Visits

March 18, 10 a.m. Western Governors University is providing training webinars on how to host and manage virtual accreditation evaluation site visits in light of guidance for the novel coronavirus.

The nonprofit, online college is hosting the webinars with the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, a regional accrediting organization, starting this week, according to a news release.

The commission plans to do virtual site visits to follow social distancing recommendations from local, state and federal governments.

Evaluation site visits are used to assess whether accredited institutions continue to meet the required standards for accreditation. Virtual evaluation site visits are uncommon.

The training webinars will focus on the basics of internet meetings, considerations of internet meetings, considerations for site visits and troubleshooting internet meetings.

— Madeline St. Amour

Universities Ramp Up COVID-19 Testing Capacity

March 18, 9:37 a.m. The University of Washington Virology Lab and Stanford University are among the nation’s leading organizations in COVID-19 testing capacity, according to a tracker created by the American Enterprise Institute. The UW lab is able to test 2,000 patients a day, AEI said, while Stanford can process 1,000. Also among U.S. leaders in developing and processing tests are Yale University, the University of California’s medical centers, Washington University in St. Louis, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the NorthShore University HealthSystem in Illinois, which has a teaching affiliation with the University of Chicago.

Scientists at UW, for example, began developing their test shortly after reading in December about the spread of the coronavirus in China, the Seattle Times reported.

After a COVID-19 test from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention failed in the nation’s initial response to outbreak, the Association of American Medical Colleges reported that academic medical centers quickly sought to fill the void. The association said university labs in the first couple weeks were frustrated by a federal approval process that stalled deployment of tests. But the development and use of tests now appears to be scaling up.

The Stanford Clinical Virology Laboratory said earlier this week that it was using in-house diagnostic tests on hundreds of patient samples each day from around the Bay Area and beyond, with plans to process more than 1,000 tests per day. The university is able to return test results within 24 hours. And it has created a drive-through testing facility in Palo Alto.

Stanford labs have donated equipment and reassigned staff to help conduct the testing. And the university is producing some test components that are in short supply, including primers and probes used to amplify viral genetic material in patient samples. The virology lab also will provide support for a new clinical trial to test the efficacy of the antiviral drug remdesivir in treating people with the virus.

“Very few other places in the country are capable of providing this scale of COVID-19 testing at this point,” Dr. Benjamin Pinsky, the lab’s medical director and associate professor of pathology and of infectious diseases at Stanford’s School of Medicine, said in a statement. “Fortunately, we had the foresight in January to imagine that the ability to provide testing for COVID-19 would be important, and we worked hard to make that happen.”

— Paul Fain

ALA Board Backs Closing for Libraries

March 17, 4:23 p.m. The American Library Association’s Executive Board is recommending academic, public and school libraries consider closing to the public in light of the new coronavirus outbreak.

“To protect library workers and their communities from exposure to COVID-19 in these unprecedented times, we strongly recommend that academic, public, and school library leaders and their trustees and governing bodies evaluate closing libraries to the public and only reopening when guidance from public health officials indicates the risk from COVID-19 has significantly subsided,” it said in a statement.

Closing libraries is typically a local decision. But the board urged administrators, local boards and governments to close libraries. It also threw its support behind paid leave and health-care coverage for staff while libraries are closed.

The question of whether to close libraries is difficult for many, because librarians “pride themselves on being there during critical times for our communities,” the statement said. But it also noted that libraries “are by design unable to practice social distancing to the degree recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health authorities.”

Keeping libraries open could do more harm than good, according to the ALA Executive Board. But the board also noted ways different libraries are providing services even after closing, such as by providing online classes to students, offering online access to resources and working with various officials to determine what services are needed.

— Rick Seltzer

Coalition Calls on FCC to Act

March 17, 4:15 p.m. The Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition is calling on the Federal Communications Commission to expedite affordable broadband services for unconnected Americans in light of the novel coronavirus.

In response to the public health crisis, colleges and schools are closing and moving coursework online, which can pose a problem for the about seven million students who don’t have access to broadband internet at home, according to the letter from the coalition.

The coalition recommends that the FCC take several steps, including:

  • authorize emergency funding from the Universal Service Fund for hot-spot lending programs
  • encourage internet service providers to expand low-cost broadband service offers
  • provide a subsidy to providers to offer free or low-cost broadband to students who have to stay home
  • allow schools and libraries to extend their networks to homes
  • allow rural schools and educational nonprofits to claim Educational Broadband Service licenses
  • authorize funding for wireless internet service providers to deploy broadband in unserved areas where schools are closed

​​“The FCC can take several steps now to promote hotspot lending programs and allow schools, libraries and telehealth providers to increase their broadband capacity and share that capacity with the surrounding community,” said John Windhausen Jr., executive director of the coalition, in a statement. “We cannot leave people on the wrong side of an education gap and a healthcare gap, especially with the Centers for Disease Control recommending school closures for at least 8 weeks. The SHLB Coalition urges the FCC to harness the power of community anchor institutions to protect our nation’s access to healthcare and education during this difficult time.”

— Madeline St. Amour

New York Freezes Student Debt Collection

March 17, 2:10 p.m. New York is suspending student loan debt payments due to the coronavirus.

The state’s Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, and attorney general, Letitia James, announced in a news release that state-referred debt payments for New Yorkers will be frozen for the next 30 days.

The state won’t be collecting medical or student loan debt, as well as other forms of debt, during that time. About 165,000 cases fit the criteria for the freeze, including patients who owe medical debt to state hospitals, those who owe student debt to State University of New York campuses and individuals or business owners who owe debt related to things like property damage.

The policy also suspends the accrual of interest and fee collection on outstanding state medical and student debt.

After the 30-day period ends, the attorney general’s office will reassess the situation, according to the release.

“As the financial impact of this emerging crisis grows, we are doing everything we can to support the thousands of New Yorkers who are suffering as a result of the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Cuomo said a statement. “This new action to temporarily suspend the collection of debt owed to the state will help mitigate the financial impact of the outbreak on individuals, families, communities and businesses in New York as we continue to do everything we can to slow the spread of the virus.”

— Madeline St. Amour

Virginia Cancels Commencement for Two-Year Colleges

March 17, 2 p.m. Commencement ceremonies for Virginia’s community colleges are canceled.

Glenn DuBois, chancellor of the system of 23 community college, which enrolls nearly 230,000 students, announced the decision on Tuesday, citing recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that asks people to avoid public gatherings of 50 people or more for the next eight weeks.

The colleges will honor students’ achievements at a later time in a safe manner, DuBois said in a letter to the system’s community.

— Madeline St. Amour

University of the People Courses Open to All

March 17, 2 p.m. University of the People, an online nonprofit, is offering its accredited courses to any university to use as students move to online-only education as the novel coronavirus spreads.

All 115 of the university’s courses will be open to all colleges, according to a news release. University of the People’s faculty members will teach the courses, which students can take for credit at their own universities. The courses will cover topics in general education, business administration, computer science, health science and education.

“Universities are facing an enormous challenge in having to shut down campuses and start up online, all without sacrificing educational quality. However, online education is not simply improvising with the internet; it is an actual practice that requires technology and expertise,” Shai Reshef, president of the university, said in the release. “Because we have been online for more than 10 years, we are in a unique position to offer our courses to all interested institutions.”

— Madeline St. Amour

Senate Democrats to Again Propose Six-Month Deferment on Student Loan Payments

March 17, 12:33 p.m. As the Senate considers the $104 billion coronavirus stimulus package approved by the House, lawmakers are working on another stimulus package. And Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Senate Democrats will propose letting student loan borrowers defer payments for six months.

Speaking on the Senate floor Tuesday morning, Schumer said the overall proposal will be for at least $750 billion.

“Our proposal will let you defer your mortgage loans for six months,” he said. “No penalty, fees or impact on your credit. We’ll do the same for student loans.”

Kyle Southern, director of higher education policy and advocacy for the millennial-focused advocacy group Young Invincibles, also called for a six-month deferment. In a statement he said, “Today’s young people are the most indebted in history, are more likely to be living paycheck to paycheck, and are more likely to be working in hourly or low-wage jobs that are being impacted by widespread closures. Every dollar counts for young people struggling to keep themselves healthy, safe and financially secure … By suspending required payments, the President can put hundreds of dollars per month in the pockets of young people, helping relieve an immense financial burden as they navigate this crisis.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also said in a floor speech that Republicans will be working with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on additional aid. “We need to provide more direct assistance for American workers and families,” McConnell said.

CNN reported Mnuchin​ will present Republican senators during a lunch Tuesday​ with more details of an $850 billion package President Trump is proposing.

Schumer on March 11 had already called for six months of payment forbearance on federally insured or guaranteed mortgages and federal student loans.​

— Kery Murakami

Falwell, Liberty Bow to State Emergency Ban

March 17, 11:10 a.m. Liberty University is moving most residential classes to a digital format, just days after Jerry Falwell Jr., the university’s president, tweeted that classes would continue on campus.

The reversal comes after officials in Virginia, where Liberty is located, implemented an emergency ban on public gatherings of 100 people or more, according to a news release.

“We originally believed it was safest to return our students following their spring break instead of having them return following greater exposure opportunities from leaving them in different parts of the country for longer periods,” Falwell said in the statement. “But, the Governor’s recent decision to limit certain gatherings has left us no practical choice because we have so many classes of more than 100 students.”

The change will take effect when spring break ends on March 23.

Students can still return to campus after spring break and take classes online in their residence halls. Some classes, like aviation and nursing, will remain in-person.

— Madeline St. Amour

Senate Passes Bill to Protect GI Bill Benefits

March 17, 9:40 a.m. On Monday the U.S. Senate passed a bill that would give the Department of Veterans Affairs discretion to not reduce GI Bill benefits for student veterans who attend colleges or universities that shut down or go online only during the coronavirus pandemic. The Senate rushed through the emergency legislation late last night, Military Times reported. But its fate in the House remains unclear.

The measure is aimed at maintaining housing benefits payments under the GI Bill in cases where college programs switch midterm from in-person to online. It also would seek to prevent the disruption of tuition and housing benefits when an academic program has been preapproved as eligible for GI Bill benefits as an in-person program, but not an online one.

— Paul Fain

Guidelines From Feds on Students With Disabilities, Web Access and Preventing Discrimination

March 17, 9:15 a.m. The U.S. Department of Education issued guidelines for ensuring internet accessibility for students with disabilities and in preventing discrimination as colleges and K-12 school cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

A webinar from the department’s Office for Civil Rights is aimed at reminding decision makers of their responsibilities on web accessibility for distance learning.

“Online learning tools must be accessible to students with disabilities, and they must be compatible with the various forms of assistive technology that students might use to help them learn,” the department said in a news release. “The webinar advises school leaders to routinely test their online activities to ensure accessibility.”

In a fact sheet, OCR describes the rights of students with disabilities during school and college shutdowns and includes tips for preventing incidents of discrimination.

— Paul Fain

National Federation of the Blind: Don’t Make Online Accessibility an Afterthought

March 16, 6:15 p.m. The National Federation of the Blind is urging schools and colleges not to forget their legal obligation to make learning content accessible to all students as they rush to move courses online in response to the spread of COVID-19.

In a blog post today, Stephanie Flynt, government affairs specialist at the National Federation of the Blind​, wrote that blind students “risk having their ongoing educational needs swept under the rug” as many institutions prepare to cease in-person instruction.

“Over the past two decades, we know the 21st century interactive classroom has dramatically evolved, but we also know the accessibility of instructional materials has continued to be viewed as an afterthought,” Flynt wrote. “The solutions exist, but must be prioritized.”

The National Federation of the Blind has compiled a series of accessibility resources for educators and is monitoring accessibility barriers through an education technology survey. Readers are invited to participate in an #AccessibleNOW Twitter chat on Friday, March 20, at 12 p.m. EST.

— Lindsay McKenzie

Leader of Calif.’s Two-Year Colleges: Response to Virus to Last Through June

March 16, 5:00 p.m. Eloy Oakley, chancellor of California’s community college system, said Monday that the system’s response to the coronavirus outbreak likely will last through June, reported Mikhail Zinshteyn, a California-based education reporter.

Oakley was speaking at a hearing. He said the state’s two-year colleges should “plan for a second peak of the virus sometime around August or September.”

The governing board for the system gave Oakley emergency powers for 180 days. He now has the ability to override existing local and state rules governing community colleges.

The system, which enrolls roughly 2.1 million students at 115 colleges, last week announced a move to online instruction. Oakley also said the colleges should cancel, postpone or move online all commencement ceremonies that are scheduled for May and June.

— Paul Fain

Northwestern to Reschedule Gathering of College Presidents From Around the World

March 16, 4:44 p.m. A summit of university presidents from around the globe that had been scheduled for early June has been postponed as COVID-19 spreads.

Dozens of presidents were expected to attend the U7+ Summit at Northwestern University. The gathering was intended to help university leaders “play a leading role in addressing critical global challenges” like climate, inequity, polarization, technological transformation and community engagement.

Postponing the gathering will allow leaders to focus on issues at home, according to a Northwestern news release. The event will be rescheduled, it said.

“We are deeply committed to working across institutional and geographic boundaries to address our greatest global challenges,” Northwestern’s president, Morton Schapiro, said in a statement. “However, the health and safety of our academic and global communities is of paramount importance at this time, necessitating a postponement of the U7+ Summit.”

In addition to Northwestern hosting the event, Columbia University, Georgetown University and the University of California, Berkeley, are listed as co-sponsors. Representatives from more than 50 universities were invited.

— Rick Seltzer

Colleges Begin Canceling Commencement Ceremonies

March 16, 4:18 p.m. The University of Michigan on Friday became one of the first U.S. institutions to cancel spring commencement ceremonies.

Many other colleges and universities have said they will decide on commencement later. But that may be changing Wednesday, as several colleges have made the call to cancel the events.

Howard University, Kansas State University, Wentworth Institute of Technology and Kellogg Community College were among institutions to announce that commencement was canceled or postponed.

Kellogg, located in Michigan, cited federal guidelines recommending against larger gathering of people.

“We are in unprecedented times and we are taking unprecedented measures as an institution to prevent exposure to the coronavirus that is rapidly spreading in Michigan and around the world,” Adrien Bennings, president of KCC, said in a statement. “We are disappointed that we won’t have the opportunity to celebrate our Bruins’ success by handing them a diploma as they walk across the stage to the applause of their family and friends, but we will find some other way to recognize their accomplishments.”

— Paul Fain

In Reversal, LA Community College District Suspends All Classes

March 16, 2:15 p.m. The Los Angeles Community College District announced the suspension of all classes, both online and in-person, beginning today and going through March 29.

The governing board for the district, which enrolls roughly 230,000 students, made the decision after initially planning to move to online class delivery after canceling classes for the first two days of this week. The district had said the two-day pause would be used to train faculty members to access and teach in the online platform.

But after an emergency meeting over the weekend, the board instead opted to suspend all classes and in-person services at the colleges until the end of the month.

“There is nothing more important to me and to my board colleagues than the safety of our students, staff and faculty. This was a difficult decision to make, but it was the right one that provides protection and stability during these challenging times,” Andra Hoffman, the board’s president, said in statement.

— Paul Fain

Some International Applications Soaring to University of the People

March 16, 2:04 p.m. The online nonprofit University of the People reports a huge spike in global applications in response to the coronavirus.

“We are seeing an enormous jump in numbers of applications and interest from areas highly affected by the coronavirus, from students whose schools may have shut down or who may be in quarantine themselves,” Shai Reshef, president of the University of the People, said in an emailed statement.

“We are happy to accommodate these students affected by mounting health concerns,” he said.

The university, which is a tuition-free, accredited American university, received 300 applications from students in China during the winter term from October to December 2019. So far this term, which started Jan. 1, the number of applications from China has tripled.

Web traffic from Italy, Japan and South Korea — all countries badly impacted by the pandemic — has also doubled in recent months.

— Lindsay McKenzie

College Board, ACT Reschedule Exams

March 16, 12:19 p.m. The College Board and ACT have rescheduled upcoming exams.

The SAT of May 2 has been canceled. Makeup exams for the March 14 SAT, scheduled for March 28, have also been canceled “in response to the rapidly evolving situation around the coronavirus (COVID-19).”

Students who had been registered to take the SAT on one of those days will receive refunds.

At this point, the next SAT that has not been called off is June 6.

ACT has rescheduled the April 4 exam, moving it to June 13 “in response to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).” In the next few days, everyone who registered for the exam will receive information about the new date.

The College Board gave the SAT on Saturday, although many test sites were closed.

— Scott Jaschik​

Census Bureau Shares Information on Counting On-Campus Students Who’ve Been Sent Home

March 16, 12:12 p.m. The U.S. Census Bureau is addressing some operations that count college students.

College students who live on campus are counted through their colleges or universities as part of a census operation that counts students in university-owned housing and other group quarters like nursing homes, halfway houses and prisons. That could get a little more complicated with so many campuses sending students home.

A little more than half of student housing administrators had been planning to respond to the census in a method that provides the Census Bureau with directory information about students. Another 35 percent had been planning to allow students to self-respond with individual questionnaires.

The Census Bureau is contacting those institutions allowing self-responses to ask if they’d like to change those plans.

Generally, students in colleges that are temporarily closed because of the outbreak will still be counted under the same processes as before.

“Per the Census Bureau’s residence criteria, in most cases students living away from home at school should be counted at school, even if they are temporarily elsewhere due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said a Sunday afternoon news release from the Census Bureau.

In other words, even if students are home on the official census day, which is April 1, they should be counted based on where they live and sleep most of the time. The Census Bureau says it is asking institutions to contact students with reminders about responding.

— Rick Seltzer

Guidance on International Students and Online Courses

March 15, 10:21 a.m. The Department of Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has published more detailed guidance on how it will offer flexibility in relation to rules that typically restrict international students from counting more than one online course toward the requirement that they maintain a full-time course of study.

The guidance, published Friday, addresses three scenarios: one in which a school closes temporarily without offering online learning instruction, one in which a college temporarily switches to online instruction and the international student remains in the U.S., and one in which a college temporarily switches to online instruction and the international student leaves the country.

In the first case — in which a college closes — the Homeland Security Department said institutions should keep international student records active in the federal Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) so long as students intend to resume their course of studies when classes start up again, just as they would for regularly scheduled academic breaks.

For the other two cases, in which institutions switch to online instruction, SEVP said it will temporarily waive restrictions on international students engaging in online coursework. Students’ SEVIS records should stay in active status if they continue courses online whether they are inside or outside the U.S.

SEVP stressed that the measures are temporary and that guidance is subject to change. Colleges must notify SEVP of procedural changes they make to respond to the coronavirus within 10 days of making those changes.

— Elizabeth Redden

Grinnell Expands Pass/Fail Option

March 15, 9:45 a.m. Grinnell College, a liberal arts college in Iowa, is allowing students to take all their spring courses under a pass/fail grading system in light of the college’s temporary shift from in-person to distance education. Students have until April 10 to switch some or all of their spring courses to a pass/fail grading system. Students can still opt to complete their courses under a traditional A-F grading system, but Grinnell said expanded use of pass/fail grading “aims to reduce student stress during this already-stressful time, while still providing a pathway to fulfill program and degree requirements.”

— Elizabeth Redden

Academic Libraries Share Response to COVID-19

March 15, 9:10 a.m. Many institutions are busy preparing to take their in-person courses online, but few academic libraries have significantly altered how they operate in response to the coronavirus, early survey data reveal.

The Academic Library Response to COVID-19 survey was launched on March 11 by Christine Wolff-Eisenberg, manager of surveys and research at Ithaka S+R, and Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe, professor and coordinator for information literacy services and instruction at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Over 200 libraries responded to the survey in the first 24 hours, reporting “relatively little change” in how they serve users. Libraries reported prevention and mitigation measures such as increased cleaning and public event cancellations, but only 64 percent of libraries said they engaged in regular communication with staff to provide updates and guidelines on safety measures.

The survey is still open and seeking responses. Regularly updated results can be accessed here.

— Lindsay McKenzie

SNHU Shares Resources About Online Learning

March 14, 12:40 p.m. Southern New Hampshire University, which is one of the nation’s largest universities, enrolling more than 96,000 students in online programs, released tips for other colleges as they move instruction online. The resources include guides on how to build a teacher persona, support student success, handle feedback and forums, and accommodate diversity, equity and inclusion in the online classroom.

“In times like these, the importance of working together becomes more apparent than ever. Uniting as one community to share critical resources and information is both a sign of solidarity, and a sign of our collective commitment to the good and wellbeing of all people — not just the ones in our own campus classrooms,” Paul LeBlanc, SHNU’s president, said in a statement. “So as many colleges and universities move instruction online, SNHU would like to support their efforts in any way we can. We’ve compiled a list of resources and instructional tips that may be helpful, and invite our fellow schools to reach out to us if they feel the need as they navigate the process in the coming weeks.”

— Paul Fain

NCAA May Adjust Eligibility Rules for Athletes

March 13, 5:50 p.m. The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s three divisions will discuss adjusting eligibility rules for spring athletes, which would potentially allow seniors to compete for another season.

The Division I Council Coordination Committee agreed eligibility relief would be appropriate for all Division I athletes who participated in spring sports and said the details of any rules adjustments will come later. The Division III Administrative Committee officially granted spring sports athletes an additional season or semester of eligibility, according to statements released by the NCAA.

The Division II Administrative Committee will also allow spring athletes to be eligible for an additional season.

— Greta Anderson

Consumer Groups: Trump’s Student Interest Waivers Not Enough

March 13, 5:35 p.m. Consumer groups applauded President Trump’s announcement that he will indefinitely waive the interest on federal loans during the coronavirus crisis.

But having asked Trump and Congress to put in place a moratorium to give borrowers a break from making any loan payments during the economic fallout from the pandemic, the groups also said the president’s move didn’t go far enough.

“Freezing interest will keep balances from growing during this time and that’s important,” Persis Yu, National Consumer Law Center staff attorney, said in a statement.

“However, many borrowers are going to experience income shocks and urgent expenses that will impede their ability to make their regularly scheduled payments,” said Yu. “Moreover, people need the confidence to know that, if they are sick or medically vulnerable or need to care for children, that they can stay home and not face the draconian consequences of defaulting on their student loans.”

Yu also called for the Education Department to stop garnishing wages or taking payments from Social Security benefits and tax refunds during the crisis.

“No one should fall behind on their student debts because of this national crisis,” said James Kvaal, president of the Institute for College Access and Success. “Waiving interest is welcome, but the key question is whether student loan borrowers can reduce or halt their monthly payments during the crisis​. Fully pausing student loan payments in addition to halting interest accumulation, and stopping punitive student loan collections, would provide much-needed, immediate relief to those individuals who may be unable to work and are facing economic hardship during this time of uncertainty.”

Mike Saunders, director of military and consumer policy at Veterans Education Success, said waiving interest rates will only marginally help student borrowers.

“We call on President Trump to ensure borrowers, as well as all Americans, have extra cash in their pockets until this global pandemic is over,” he said. “The federal government should not require Americans to prioritize payments to the government over ensuring the health and safety of their own families.”

A spokeswoman for the department said more details are coming on Trump’s order.

And earlier, a Democratic House aide said a moratorium on student loan payments is not expected to be included in the coronavirus package Congress is negotiating with the White House.

— Kery Murakami

Trump to Waive Interest on Student Loans

March 13, 4:10 p.m. At a news conference to declare a national emergency over the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump said he is issuing an emergency order to help student loan borrowers. “To help students and families, I have waived interest of student loans until further notice,” Trump said.

— Kery Murakami

Wife of UT Austin President Tests Positive 

March 13, 2:30 p.m. Greg Fenves, president of the University of Texas at Austin, is being tested for COVID-19 after his wife, Carmel, tested positive for the virus.

A second member of Fenves’s family, who also works at the university, is presumed to have COVID-19 as well, according to a letter from Fenves to the university community.

Fenves, his wife and the other family member are in self-isolation. They are compiling a list of people they have recently had contact with. UT Health Austin nurses will reach out to those on the list who are affiliated with the university for screening.

Last week, Fenves and his wife traveled to New York City for alumni and student events. His wife began experiencing mild flu-like symptoms upon their return.

Classes at UT Austin were canceled and the campus was closed today, March 13, because of the positive test.

— Madeline St. Amour

Change of Plans for Monmouth

March 13, 2 p.m. At least one college already has changed its initial response to the novel coronavirus.

Monmouth College in Illinois initially planned to resume classes on March 18, extending its spring break by a few days.

In a letter sent Friday, the college said it reassessed and will instead allow flexibility for students and faculty members to make their own decisions.

The college will stay closed for an extra week after spring break ends and reopen on March 23 under what it’s calling a “flexible plan” for the rest of the semester.

Under this plan, students can choose whether to return to campus or study online. Residence halls and food services will open this weekend as planned, and students can return to campus this weekend.

Professors will work with students who choose to study online. Faculty members can also choose to move their courses fully online if they wish.

Staff will also receive flexible options for their work.

Monmouth will be holding workshops for faculty on moving courses online from now until March 23.

“There is no perfect answer to the crisis that has happened upon us,” a statement from the college reads. “We believe this response affirms our twin commitments to quality education and to campus community wellbeing — even as we acknowledge that a pandemic has a way of throwing a wrench into that mission.”

— Madeline St. Amour

Call for More Tests

March 13, 11:55 a.m. The Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health is calling on the Trump administration to take action to manufacture quality test kits for the novel coronavirus.

The association, which represents deans and directors of 128 accredited institutions for public health, said in a news release that it felt compelled to speak out about test-kit availability.

“When the United States failed to participate in the World Health Organization’s collaborative effort to bring testing to the world’s nations, it made an implicit commitment to provide its own tests,” the statement reads. “It has failed to do so, and clinical and public health organizations alike do not have anywhere near the testing capacity for an aggressive response to the expanding COVID-19 crisis.”

The association is asking the administration to use emergency public health measures and funding to facilitate public-private partnerships to validate and manufacture test kits for hospitals and clinics. Without enough reliable tests to diagnose and track the virus, the country won’t be able to combat the threat, according to the association.

— Madeline St. Amour

Flexibility for Students Abroad

March 13, 11:55 a.m. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program announced that nonimmigrant students can temporarily use distance learning, either from within the U.S. or elsewhere, to continue their courses in light of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Some members of NAFSA: Association of International Educators had reported to the organization earlier that the Student and Exchange Visitor Program told schools and colleges to instead terminate records for students who took online portions of classes abroad.

After NAFSA contacted the program with their concerns and advocated that it allow schools and colleges to keep records in active status for students who switch to online courses, the program issued a statement correcting its guidance.

— Madeline St. Amour

No Student Loan Relief Expected in Coronavirus Package From Congress

March, 13 11:40 a.m. The multibillion-dollar coronavirus package being negotiated by Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin isn’t expected to include a temporary suspension of student loan payments, said a Democratic House aide. Advocacy groups like Veterans Education Success and The Institute for College Access and Successhad been hoping for some temporary relief. House Democrats, however, are working on proposals to provide help.

Meanwhile, Senator Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the Senate’s health and education committee, proposed a temporary exemption for students from repaying Pell Grants or student loans if their terms are disrupted. Under current law, Pell Grant recipients would have to return a portion of their grants to the federal government if they withdraw from school, or in this case, if their institution closes.

The bill, co-sponsored by Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, both New York Democrats, would provide $1.2 billion in funding to provide emergency financial aid to college students for basic needs created by unexpected college closures and COVID-19 related disruptions, including food, housing, health care and childcare needs.

It would also provide $1.2 billion in funding to help K-12 school districts and higher education institutions plan for closures, including how to provide meals to students, support efforts to clean and sanitize educational facilities, and to provide training to educators and other staff members on how to properly ensure their buildings are safe for students’ return.

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators applauded the co-sponsors “for acting quickly to find a solution to support financial aid recipients, who may now find themselves in dire situations in the face of this pandemic.”

— Kery Murakami

Bogus Fliers at Bates College about ‘Forced Contamination’

March 13, 10:50 a.m. Anonymous fliers appeared Wednesday on the campus of Bates College. They falsely claimed Bates was attempting to cope with the viral outbreak through “forced massed contamination,” because the college had determined that students and all others will get COVID-19, the Lewiston Sun Journal reported.

The college, which is located in Maine, quickly denounced the fliers, calling on students, faculty and staff members to discard them.

“We are all doing our best to grapple with a very challenging public health situation, this kind of action reflects seriously poor judgment and blatant disregard for the concerns and well-being of others,” a Bates spokesman said in a message to the Bates community.

On Friday Bates announced it was suspending classes and moving to remote learning. The college said students must leave campus by today.

In a message to the campus, Clayton Spencer, Bates’s president, expressed empathy for the resulting disruptions felt by students, their families and faculty and staff members.

“We find ourselves in a situation that is, quite literally, beyond our control. I understand that the solutions we are offering are necessarily imperfect and place extra demands on all members of our community,” Spencer wrote. “I have heard from many students over the past week. Some have expressed their anxiety about staying on campus under current circumstances, and others have described to me how devastated they feel at the prospect of having to leave campus and their Bates world mid-semester. My heart goes out to all of our students, as these are genuinely stressful and difficult times. But this is an unprecedented situation, and we have no choice but to take this course of action.”

— Paul Fain

Wharton Creates Coronavirus Course

March 13, 10:30 a.m. As colleges across the country shut down or move online in response to the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania already is taking lessons from the outbreak and putting them into a course.

Epidemics, Natural Disasters and Geopolitics: Managing Global Business and Financial Uncertainty will be a six-week, half-credit course offered remotely starting March 25, after the college’s extended spring break, according to a news release.

The course will discuss financial market reactions to the coronavirus, emotional contagion and how the virus affects the trade war with China.

“There are significant business lessons to be learned from the global response to the coronavirus outbreak, and Wharton is at the forefront of sharing valuable insights and creating a community to exchange ideas,” said Geoff Garrett, dean of the Wharton School. “This is a teachable moment for the global academic community, and this course is just one example of how Wharton is coming together to provide support during a time of heightened anxiety and ambiguity.”

More than 450 students have already preregistered for the course.

— Madeline St. Amour

U-Haul Offers Free Storage

March 13, 10:30 a.m. More colleges are telling students to pack up and head home for the semester due to the novel coronavirus, often leaving students with costs for moving or storing their belongings.

U-Haul has stepped forward to offer 30 days of free self-storage to college students in the U.S. and Canada in response to the outbreak, according to a news release from the company. It also includes use of the company’s portable moving and storage containers.

“We don’t know how every student is affected. But we know they are affected,” John Taylor, U-Haul’s president, said in the statement. “More and more universities are giving instructions to leave campus and go home. Students and their parents are in need of moving and storage solutions. We have the expertise and network to help, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”

The free month applies only to new customers with college IDs, according to the release.

U-Haul has offered this deal before to specific communities impacted by natural disasters, but this is the first time that it will be offered nationwide.

— Madeline St. Amour

Sodexo Offers Expanded Sick Pay

March 13, 10:10 a.m. Sodexo, a company that operates food and dining services on many college campuses, announced Thursday that all employees, full- and part-time, will be granted sick pay for up to 21 days if they have a confirmed case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, or are asked not to come in because of related symptoms.

This use of sick pay only will be available after an employee has used up their accrued sick time. The limited and haphazard coronavirus testing regimen in the U.S. raises questions about how many employees with the virus will be able to access tests and confirm their cases. The country is far behind others in its ability to test for the virus, a fact acknowledged Thursday by Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“Sodexo is committed to the health and safety of our employees, our clients and the communities we serve, and that includes supporting our employees where we can if they get sick as they service our clients,” Sarosh Mistry, president of Sodexo USA, said in a statement. “Our long-standing commitment to our employees is something we will stand by, especially at a time like this.”

UT Austin Shuts Down Campus Operations

March 13, 9:20 a.m. Citing two positive cases of COVID-19 in the Austin area, the University of Texas at Austin on Friday morning canceled classes and closed operations. Only essential personnel should work today, the university said.

Yesterday UT Austin suspended campus visits and all university-sponsored travel and issued a worldwide recall of faculty, staff and students on university-sponsored trips.

— Paul Fain

NCAA Cancels March Madness

March 12, 4:30 p.m. The National Collegiate Athletic Association canceled the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, along with all other winter and spring championships scheduled for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year, the association said in a statement.

“This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities,” the NCAA said.

— Greta Anderson

Feds Issue Guidelines for FERPA

March 12, 4 p.m. The U.S. Department of Education has issued guidelines for institutions regarding the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, and the novel coronavirus COVID-19.

Generally, FERPA doesn’t allow colleges to provide information about a student to others without their consent. But there are some exceptions that could allow colleges to send information to others without consent as they deal with the spread of coronavirus, according to Amelia Vance, director of youth and education privacy at the Future of Privacy Forum. Vance said much of that guidance was already outlined in what the department released during the spread of the H1N1 virus.

The first exception allows colleges to disclose students’ personal information without their consent if that information is necessary to protect the health and safety of others. For example, if a student tests positive for coronavirus or has symptoms, the college can release a statement saying a student tested positive, without identifying the student.

Colleges could also send emails to students who shared specific classes with the sick student and identify them by name. While the guidance released today says those situations are typically rare, Vance said that likely will not be the case with coronavirus.

For those who are worried about violating regulations, Vance pointed to a 2009 FERPA regulation that said the department won’t second-guess a college’s determination in an emergency unless most people would consider it unreasonable.

The second exception allows colleges to identify students to public health departments. If the college declares it’s an emergency, it can provide that information without students’ consent. If a college said it’s not an emergency, the department could hypothetically issue a subpoena to get the information, Vance said.

College officials should keep in mind that they are required to record instances when they share students’ information without consent, Vance said. She recommends that they keep track in real time so they don’t have to retrace their steps after the situation calms down.

— Madeline St. Amour

Ratings Agency Details Coronavirus Risks

March 12, 2:30 p.m. Operating and enrollment pressure could build on some colleges and universities as COVID-19 spreads, according to a note out this afternoon from Fitch Ratings.

Institutions with limited liquidity, those that rely heavily on tuition revenue and those that rely more heavily on endowment draws to fund operations generally have less ability to absorb revenue volatility before their finances take a hit, the note said. Those with larger operating margins and cash flow flexibility enjoy a stronger position.

Sources of operating risk include campus closures or other restrictions on students, faculty and staff. They also include lower dorm-occupancy rates and branch campuses abroad closing. Closures of only a few weeks aren’t expected to have a large impact on colleges’ operating performance, but pressures will build the longer campuses are shuttered.

Fees loom as an important issue. Income from auxiliary services like housing, dining and parking have grown in importance for many colleges and universities. A decline in fee revenue from services could affect margins if it stretches into the fall 2020 semester, according to the ratings agency.

Normally, universities don’t have to refund auxiliary fees, but some colleges may be choosing to do so on a prorated basis for services no longer being provided.

Fitch expects reliance on online classes to grow in the next few months, adding to an expected increase in online education over the long term. Enrollment during campus shutdowns could decline at institutions without strong online learning platforms.

Universities with significant international student populations could be in line for reduced enrollment and subsequent pressure on net tuition revenue in the upcoming academic year. The risk is notable because research universities tend to have the largest numbers of international students, but they also have stronger financial profiles than other types of institutions.

Market declines are expected to hit endowments but not have an impact on bond ratings. Fitch also mentioned the possibility that reduced economic activity could hit state budgets and in turn public funding for colleges and universities. But the ratings agency called the size of such effects unclear at this point.

— Rick Seltzer

Duke Suspends All Athletic Activities

March 12, 2:20 p.m. Duke University appears to be the first power-conference institution to cancel all its athletics events. Vincent Price, Duke’s president, said the university was suspending all practices and games, effective immediately.

“We are taking this action to protect the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and others who are essential to these activities,” Price said in a statement. “I know it is a great disappointment to our student-athletes and coaches, whose hard work and dedication to their sports and Duke is inspirational to so many, but we must first look out for their health and well-being. This is clearly an unprecedented moment for our university, our region and the wider world. As we take steps to confront the spread of this virus, I’m grateful for the cooperation and support of the entire Duke community.”

The decision means Duke’s perennial powerhouse men’s basketball team, currently ranked No. 6 nationally in some polls, will not be participating in the NCAA tournament.

“We emphatically support the decision made by Dr. Price today regarding the suspension of athletic competition at Duke,” Mike Krzyzewski, the men’s basketball coach, said in the statement. “The welfare of our student-athletes, and all students at Duke, is paramount, and this decision reflects that institutional priority. Certainly, I want to applaud Dr. Price, who took a leadership role with his presidential peers and the Atlantic Coast Conference in arriving at this decision.”

The University of Kansas, Arizona State University and West Virginia University followed with similar announcements on Thursday afternoon.

— Paul Fain

Conferences Cancel Basketball Tournaments

March 12, 12:25 p.m. The Big Ten, the Southeastern Conference and the American Athletic Conference will not proceed with men’s basketball conference tournaments, fearing the spread of COVID-19.

Some men’s basketball games for these conferences have already taken place this week, and the women’s basketball conference championships for the Big Ten, SEC and AAC are complete.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association announced Wednesday it would hold Division I championship tournament games without public spectators, but it has made no indication of plans to postpone or cancel the tournament.

— Greta Anderson

NASPA Cancels Annual Conference

March 12, 12:10 p.m. The annual conference for the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, NASPA, has been canceled due to growing concern over the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

The conference was scheduled to run March 28 through April 1 in Austin, Tex. After the city declared a public health emergency and the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, the organization sent out an email canceling the event.

Those who were registered for the event must email NASPA to cancel and receive refunds. Otherwise, the payments will automatically go toward fees for next year’s conference.

The organization plans to hold free virtual, live-streaming keynotes and other session from March 30 to April 10 in place of the conference.

The only other time NASPA has canceled its largest annual gathering was during World War II. Several other higher education organizations have canceled conferences, including the American Council of Education, the Association of American Colleges and Universities, and the International Studies Association.

— Madeline St. Amour

Growing Number of Two-Year Colleges Move Online

March 12, noon. Community colleges face a broad range of challenges in moving classes online, most notably a relative lack of resources among both the colleges and their students. But large numbers have begun making the switch in the last 24 hours. The Los Angeles Community College District and its nine colleges, for example, announced yesterday that it would suspend as many in-person classes as possible and move them to an online platform.

A spokesman for California’s community college system, Paul Feist, said Thursday that the system’s 115 colleges, which enroll 2.1 million students, can start moving courses online now and submit requests for approval after the fact. He said more than a dozen colleges had already told the chancellor’s office they are making the change. Very few are choosing to shut down campuses completely.

“The colleges are working very hard to protect the health and safety of students and staff while continuing with the educational mission,” Feist said. “We are accustomed in California to dealing with disasters, and community colleges will be a critical resource as we work through this.”

Other two-year institutions making similar moves include Long Beach City College, Des Moines Area Community College, Parkland College in Illinois, Maryland’s Harford Community College, Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Rhode Island Community College and Northern Virginia Community College. The City University of New York, which includes seven community colleges, yesterday announced the transition.

“By transitioning to distance learning, CUNY will be upholding its responsibility as the largest urban public university in the country and meeting our goal of minimizing exposure to those on our campus communities to coronavirus transmission,” Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, CUNY’s chancellor, said in a statement.

— Madeline St. Amour and Paul Fain

Relief Fund for Students Affected by Closures

March 11, 11:22 p.m. The new Student Relief Fund is offering to match donations of up to $5,000 for grants aimed at the hundreds of thousands of college students who are affected by campus closures over COVID-19 concerns, who may face hunger and homelessness as a result. Believe in Students, Edquity and the Rise Fund are matching the donations. The grants will be distributed as emergency aid by Edquity and the FAST Fund, which has locations in 18 cities around the U.S.

— Paul Fain

New Guidance for Colleges in New Jersey, Medical Colleges

March 11, 6:28 p.m. The New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education issued new guidance for colleges and universities to make coronavirus-related decisions that affect campus life. The guidance addressed material hardships students might face, travel directives, continuity of instruction, quarantine facilities and procedures, cleaning protocols, and efforts to reduce anxiety

“These considerations include handling basic needs for those who need it (such as housing and food); notifying the surrounding community — including municipal and county leadership and the local business community — and decision-making involved with re-convening in-person instruction if an institution has decided to move its classes online,” the office of Zakiya Smith Ellis, New Jersey’s higher education secretary, said in a statement.

The Association of American Medical Colleges released new recommendations after a meeting at the White House. They covered:

  • Increasing the availability and capacity of testing.
  • Ensuring adequate supplies and stewardship of personal protective equipment.
  • Holding patients harmless for the cost of testing and treatment.
  • Increasing the availability and use of telehealth.
  • Supporting hospitals’ efforts to expand capacity to meet surging needs.

“America’s academic medical centers are committed to mounting a vigorous response to contain and mitigate COVID-19 and to providing quality care to any patient affected by this public health emergency, including the under- and uninsured,” Dr. David J. Skorton, the association’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “Because of their expert faculty physicians, highly trained health care teams and cutting-edge medical technology, major teaching hospitals consistently maintain a heightened level of preparedness to respond rapidly to any major event at any time.”

— Paul Fain

Man With University of Delaware Connections is State’s Presumptive First Positive Case

March 11, 5:45 p.m. The Delaware Division of Public Health has announced the state’s presumptive first positive cause of COVID-19, which involves “a New Castle County man over the age of 50 who is associated with the University of Delaware community.”

The man affected was exposed to another confirmed case in a different state, according to officials. He is not severely ill. He isolated himself at home when symptoms appeared.

Epidemiologists are attempting to identify other individuals who were potentially exposed. Students, faculty and staff members with concerns about exposure risks are being asked to contact a University of Delaware call center.

— Rick Seltzer

More Universities Plan Remote Classes

March 11, 5:30 p.m. Several more major universities and systems have announced plans of varying scale for remote classes, affecting hundreds of thousands of students: the University of North Carolina system, Penn State University, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Kentucky.

Penn State is strongly discouraging many students from returning to campus for several weeks. Penn is asking students to leave by Sunday.

The University of North Carolina system’s institutions will move from in-person instruction to “a system of alternative course delivery, where possible and practical, no later than March 20.” The alternative course delivery is to officially start March 23 and last indefinitely, but the system aims to return to in-person instruction as soon as possible.

Outside events and gatherings of 100 or more people are being canceled or postponed, and the university is suspending sponsored travel to in-state gatherings of 100 or more people, as well as travel outside the state, unless specially authorized.

Penn State University will move to remote instruction from March 16 through April 3. It plans to go back to in-person classes Monday, April 6, at the earliest.

During the three weeks following spring break, Penn State undergraduate and law students at all campus locations are being “strongly discouraged” from returning to on- and off-campus locations and dwellings. Residence halls and dining facilities will not be reopened for normal operations during the period, beyond facilities already in use.

Graduate students are also being asked to participate in classes remotely and not come to campus “specifically for face-to-face instruction.” Students who must be on campus will be worked with on an individual basis.

Elsewhere in Pennsylvania, the University of Pennsylvania is extending its spring break for all students aside from those in health-related schools or programs who have already had break or who are in clinical rotations. Penn plans to migrate classroom teaching to virtual instruction for both undergraduate and graduate classes, to begin March 23 and continue through the rest of the semester.

Penn is asking students who are out of town to not return to campus. Those on campus are being asked to leave by Sunday.

The University of Kentucky will remain open but continue instruction through “online or other alternatives” from March 23 through April 3 — the two weeks after its spring break for most students. It intends to go back to normal course delivery April 6.

Kentucky students will be able to return to campus residence halls. Research and health-care activities are set to continue as planned. But all international travel sponsored or endorsed by the university has been indefinitely suspended. Any travelers arriving from Europe and Japan will be required to “self-isolate” for 14 days before being allowed on campus.

Further, the University of Kentucky is strongly discouraging university-sponsored or -endorsed domestic travel.

— Rick Seltzer

No Fans for March Madness Tournaments

March 11, 4:51 p.m. The National Collegiate Athletic Association will move forward with its men’s and women’s championship basketball tournaments without public spectators, Mark Emmert, the NCAA’s president, said in a statement Wednesday.

This means only essential staff and some family members will be permitted to be in the audience of the upcoming weeks of March Madness tournament games, which begin March 17. The precautions will help to protect the fans from transmitting COVID-19, as “behavioral risk mitigation strategies are the best option for slowing the spread of the disease,” the NCAA’s coronavirus advisory panel said in a statement.

A number of individual institutions, athletic conferences and governments have already canceled or issued limitations or bans on spectators at NCAA events across the country.

“While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States,” Emmert said. “This decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and, most importantly, our student-athletes. We recognize the opportunity to compete in an NCAA national championship is an experience of a lifetime for the students and their families.”

— Greta Anderson

Striking Grad Students Criticize UC Santa Cruz’s Move Online

March 11, 4:45 p.m. Striking graduate students at the University of California, Santa Cruz, have put out a statement regarding the university’s move to suspend face-to-face classes and begin instruction online in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. The university, the students said, has weaponized the public health crisis to break the wildcat strike.

“We see the university’s turn to emergency measures as a rehearsal for a permanent shift to large scale online instruction, accelerating the creep of online teaching with little oversight, with no bargaining, and with little to no transparency,” the statement said. “As UCSC looks for ways to operate in the spring after losing around 80 graduate student employees, the turn to online learning would set an alarming precedent for how a university can function without its workers.”

The university dismissed or declined to appoint around 80 graduate student teaching assistants who were withholding grades. The graduate student strike began in December. It is a labor action in demand of a cost-of-living adjustment by the university.

“For undergraduates, this is not the education that they paid for,” the statement said. “Online teaching is a poor substitute for learning in a classroom, and has been shown to diminish the value of a university education.”

The grads will continue with a digital picket, which involves continuing to withhold grades, keeping any grade updates off Canvas, not teaching classes online and having undergraduates submit assignments directly to TAs.

The university responded, “As local, national and global public health recommendations increasingly shift to efforts to mitigate transmission by social distancing, UC Santa Cruz is proactively taking steps to protect our campus community. In our assessment of the current situation, we believe that this is the best action for our campus and the broader Santa Cruz community.”

— Lilah Burke

SUNY and CUNY Move to Distance Learning

March 11, 3:55 p.m. The State University of New York and City University of New York systems will move to distance learning for the rest of the semester, the state’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, has announced.

“This will help us reduce density and reduce the spread of this virus,” the governor said in a statement on Twitter.

A statement from the governor’s office later clarified that the two public university systems will “implement plans to maximize distance learning and reduce in-person classes, beginning March 19, for the remainder of the spring semester in light of the evolving novel coronavirus situation in New York. All campuses will develop plans catered to the campus and curriculum-specific needs while reducing density in the campus environment to help slow possibility for exposures to novel coronavirus. Distance learning and other options will be developed by campuses.”

Hundreds of thousands of students will be affected by the move, making it one of the most significant yet seen across the country. SUNY reported fall head-count enrollment of more than 415,000 across its campuses. CUNY reported nearly 275,000 in 2018.

The SUNY Student Assembly issued a response voicing appreciation for the move while also acknowledging the fact that students will require assistance.

“Continuing SUNY’s tradition of inclusive and accessible academic excellence is as important as ever,” the assembly’s statement said. “The SUNY Student Assembly looks forward to working with Chancellor [Kristina M.] Johnson and her team to ensure that students have all the resources and support that they need as we make this transition.”

— Rick Seltzer

AAC&U Conference Cancellation

March 11, 3:32 p.m. Another association has called off a conference, as the Association of American Colleges & Universities canceled its 2020 Conference on Diversity, Equity and Student Success, which had been slated to be held in New Orleans March 19-21.

AAC&U is planning to present some keynote sessions and workshops virtually. Materials from presentations for concurrent sessions will go up online. The association plans to reach out to those registered soon with information about participating virtually or options for refunds.

“The health and safety of conference participants and AAC&U staff members are our highest priorities and were the determining factors in this difficult decision,” AAC&U said in a statement.

— Rick Seltzer

Big Ten Says Hoops Tournaments Still On

March 11, 3:15 p.m. The Big Ten Conference said Wednesday afternoon that its men’s basketball tournament will continue as scheduled. The games are set to tip off this evening.

“The Big Ten Conference’s main priority is to ensure the safety of our students, coaches, administrators, event staff, fans and media as we continue to monitor all relevant information on the COVID-19 virus,” the Big Ten said in a statement.

The Ivy League on Tuesday canceled its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments over coronavirus concerns. Some conference basketball players criticized the move, creating an online petition calling for the tournaments to be reinstated.

“The hypocrisy of our Ivy League presidents is baffling and alarming,” said the petition. “We are disappointed and disheartened that they would discriminate against one sport and allow the others to continue to compete.”

On Wednesday the conference dropped all athletics practice and competition through the remainder of the spring.

Local authorities have banned large gatherings in San Francisco and the Seattle area, according to news reports.

— Paul Fain

University Closures Continue

March 11, 1:30 p.m. The University of Massachusetts system, the University System of Maryland, the University of Virginia, Georgetown University, George Washington University and Johns Hopkins University are among the latest institutions to move classes online and to urge students to leave campus.

UMass’s five campuses will “shift to a virtual mode of instruction” beginning on March 16 and through at least April 3, the system said in a statement. Most of the system’s 75,000 students will not be on campus during that time, said UMass.

The University System of Maryland on Tuesday urged all of its universities across the 12-institution system to prepare for students to remain off campus for at least two weeks after the system’s spring break, which begins Saturday and ends on March 22.

George Washington and Johns Hopkins both announced the suspension of in-person classes, which will move to online or remote versions.

UVA’s shift to online instruction will begin on March 19, James E. Ryan, the university’s president, said in a statement.

“Students who are away on spring break are strongly encouraged to return home or to remain home if they are already there,” Ryan said. “Students on grounds and in Charlottesville are strongly encouraged to return home by this weekend.”

Georgetown’s move to online will begin on March 19. The university strongly encouraged undergraduate students to move to their permanent addresses.

“We understand that for some number of students there will be a compelling reason to remain on campus,” the university said in a statement. “Campus will remain open and key services will be available.”

— Paul Fain

More Campus and Conference Suspensions

March 11, 12:30 p.m. Michigan State University was one of the latest and largest universities to announce the suspension of all in-person classes, effective at noon Wednesday. The university said in a statement that health authorities were investigating and monitoring someone linked to the campus for coronavirus-related concerns.

Notre Dame University also announced Wednesday that it is moving to online instruction and canceling in-person classes, beginning March 23 though at least April 13.

By Wednesday morning, roughly 90 colleges and universities had shut down their campuses or suspended in-person instruction and moved it online or to distance delivery, according to a crowdsourced Google sheet created by Bryan Alexander, a futurist, researcher and senior scholar at Georgetown University.

Several others are helping Alexander maintain the database, which is being populated by contributors throughout higher education. It has crashed several times due to heavy traffic.

ASU+GSV, a meeting focused on education technology, postsecondary education and workforce development that had been scheduled for April in San Diego, has been postponed until the fall.

Organizers of the conference, which hosted 5,500 attendees last year, said postponing was “the best option to protect our community and to have a truly productive convening.”

The American Association of Geographers also announced the cancellation of its April meeting in Denver. The group said Wednesday morning that it would shift to an online version, free of charge.

— Paul Fain

Low-Income Students and Campus Shutdowns

March 11, noon. Harvard University is giving students less than a week to pack up, leave campus and not return after spring break is over.

Primus, a student organization at Harvard that advocates for the university’s low-income and first-generation students, put out a statement highlighting several ways this expectation will be close to impossible for students who are not privileged.

Many can’t afford unexpected travel costs to get home. They’re expected to pay for storage units for on-campus belongings. Students won’t be able to rely on their on-campus jobs. And they’re being asked to make all these changes while still attending classes this week.

On top of that, students will have to take courses online, which requires internet access and computers.

“These closures disproportionately affect the most vulnerable groups of students on campus,” said Anthony Abraham Jack, assistant professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, later adding, “I know what it means to be affected by something that money can’t stop, but money helps you through. So when you don’t come from money, you feel the full brunt of it.”

Beyond financial constraints, some students may not have safe homes to return to, he said. Jack said he knows of one student who lives an hour from home but never visits, because the student is queer and doesn’t get a bed at home. Other students never had three square meals a day and a consistent roof over their heads until coming to college, Jack added.

“Even if college is hell, it can still be a sanctuary for some students,” he said.

Primus has organized a document of resources and answers for students on financial assistance and help from alumni. But Jack said it’s unfair to expect students to take on the job of the university.

“We must be better, as college officials, at outlining processes so students can just be students,” he said. “Right now, colleges are addressing this pandemic almost solely as a public health issue, when it’s actually one affecting inequalities on campuses.”

— Madeline St. Amour

Unrest at the University of Dayton

March 11, 11:30 a.m. A large crowd including students from the University of Dayton gathered on the Ohio campus yesterday after the university on Tuesday suspended in-person classes due to coronavirus concerns. The university called on all residential students to leave campus by 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Students began gathering in large numbers after the announcement. The Dayton Daily News reported that police officers from multiple departments, some wearing riot gear, cleared the crowd, which dispersed by 2:15 a.m. One person was injured in the disturbance, according to the university.

Students were not reacting to the coronavirus measures, the university said, but instead “wanted one last large gathering” before Dayton’s spring break, which begins Friday.

“A large disorderly crowd that grew to more than 1,000 people gathered on Lowes Street starting around 11 p.m., throwing objects and bottles in the street and at police, and jumping on cars,” the university said in a written statement. “Police gave verbal orders to disperse which were ignored. Police initially launched pepper balls, which contain powder with an irritant that disperses quickly, that were unsuccessful in reducing the crowd size.”

— Paul Fain

Inside Higher Ed