“The COVID-19 pandemic threatens to devastate America’s colleges and universities, which face deep state budget cuts and the potential loss of significant tuition and other revenue as millions of students are considering their college plans for the coming year. Many current students may not return to school and many potential students may not enroll. Those who do may face higher tuition, more debt, and diminished learning opportunities. Because colleges are essential to build and maintain a globally competitive economy, expand knowledge, promote opportunity, and close equity gaps, it is imperative that Congress invest sufficiently to enable them to survive and prevail through this crisis.
“The HEROES Act, which passed the House of Representatives today, is an essential, major step toward helping colleges and students survive the recession and drive the recovery. Of particular importance, the bill sends $37 billion in relief to colleges — including $27 billion to states to shore up higher education spending — while also requiring states to do their part to ward off tuition hikes and help prevent a new explosion in student debt. The remaining $10 billion would go directly to public and nonprofit colleges and universities to cover coronavirus-related costs.
“The COVID-19 pandemic recession is the first in a student-debt economy, with total federal loan payments exceeding $100 billion per year. The HEROES Act expands the CARES Act to suspend payments and interest on all federal student loans (including commercially held loans, campus-based Perkins loans, and health loans). It extends these benefits until at least September 2021 (longer if economic conditions warrant). It also provides similar relief to private student loan borrowers.
“In addition, the HEROES Act provides at least $10,000 in student loan forgiveness to economically distressed borrowers and expands eligibility for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. It also forgives the loans of thousands of borrowers affected by federally documented cases of misrepresentations made by Corinthian Colleges and ITT, while creating a fast-track process for borrowers whose claims are supported by state attorneys general.
“The bill also provides assistance so schools facing imminent closure can help their students with completion or transfer and puts into statute existing protections that ensure quality online instruction for students. In addition, the bill codifies that the emergency scholarships provided in the CARES Act are tax-exempt and prohibits the Department of Education from placing its own eligibility restrictions on which students can receive these funds.
“The Senate should consider and pass the HEROES Act as quickly as possible. The bill provides critical support at a scale to match the vastness of the crisis and will help students, colleges, and those with student debt survive the crisis, as well as help facilitate economic recovery.”
The Institute for College Access & Success is a trusted source of research, design, and advocacy for student-centered public policies that promote affordability, accountability, and equity in higher education. For more information see www.ticas.org or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.