March 18, 2020 - Washington, D.C.- Today Representatives Katherine Clark (MA-05), Chris Pappas (NH-01), and Ruben Gallego (AZ-07) led a bipartisan group of 72 lawmakers calling on Secretary DeVos to take steps to ensure that the financial burden of university closures and migration to remote learning do not result in financial burdens for students.
In recent weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced institutions of higher education across the country to implement remote learning, end study abroad programs, and close on campus housing. These difficult but necessary public precautions will result in unpredictable financial hardship for students from the implications on student loans to additional travel and housing costs.
“In the wake of the coronavirus, our college and university students across the nation have been left without answers and with outstanding bills. Students must have immediate access to loan debt relief as well as guaranteed reimbursement for classes, study abroad programs, and housing. It is critical that we protect our students’ health as well as their economic security during this uncertain time,” said Congresswoman Clark.
“While I applaud administrators across the country for taking swift action to protect our students and campus communities, it is critical that students are not faced with the financial burden of this unprecedented situation,” said Congressman Pappas. “The cost of education is already extremely burdensome for students across New Hampshire, and the protective measures needed to limit the pandemic could make completing their education nearly impossible. I urge the Department of Education to work with Congress to ensure that our students are able to navigate the challenging months ahead.”
“Low-income students should not be forced to bear the financial brunt of school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Congressman Gallego. “Some students have taken out loans for a semester that is now cancelled, and others have been forced to make other housing arrangements as a result of this crisis. Secretary DeVos must immediately make clear how our most vulnerable college students can seek debt and other financial relief from the federal government.”
“As many students have already taken out loans to pay for their educational expenses, we encourage you to provide further clarification on the details of the student loan debt interest relief that was announced by President Trump and work with lenders, education institutions, and the students to ensure students are not left paying for educational benefits that they did not receive,” the lawmakers wrote. “We ask that you join us in safeguarding our students’ health while also protecting their access to an affordable education.”
Full text of the letter here and below:
Dear Secretary DeVos:
As the Department of Education continues to monitor the impact of the coronavirus on schools across the country, we respectfully request that you consider the ways in which we can mitigate the potential financial burden placed on students at higher education institutions due to the coronavirus.
The coronavirus has quickly spread across the United States, with thousands of confirmed cases in every state in the country. In order to prevent the spread of the virus, college campuses across the nation are bringing students back from study abroad programs, canceling educational programming, and moving to online classes. Most recently, some schools have required their students to move out of their on-campus housing for the duration of their spring classes and relocate to other homes.
While we recognize the utmost importance of keeping our students safe at higher education institutions, we are also aware of the financial burdens created by some of these safety measures. For example, some students have shared that they are unable to afford travel back to their permanent homes. In the hopes of addressing concerns such as these, we request that you work to identify how students may be reimbursed for any educational expenditures related to the coronavirus.
As many students have already taken out loans to pay for their educational expenses, we encourage you to provide further clarification on the details of the student loan debt interest relief that was announced by President Trump and work with lenders, education institutions, and the students to ensure students are not left paying for educational benefits that they did not receive. We also request the department work with higher education institutions in order to guarantee reimbursements for housing expenses if students are forced to relocate to their permanent homes. Furthermore, it is critical that students are reimbursed for study abroad programs and tuition costs if their programs and semesters are cut short. It is critical that we protect our students’ health, but we must also ensure the financial impacts of any protective measures do not fall on students.
We thank you for your diligence in ensuring that the Department of Education has kept school and university administrators informed and prepared to address the coronavirus. We ask that you join us in safeguarding our students’ health while also protecting their access to an affordable education.