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College Groups Tell Congress They Need Money

The need for federal aid for colleges and universities is even greater than the $120 billion anticipated, a number of higher education groups including associations representing the colleges said in a letter to congressional leaders Wednesday.

“It has become evident that our prior estimates dramatically understated the challenges schools are facing,” wrote American Council on Education president Ted Mitchell in the letter signed by dozens of higher education groups, including the American Association of Community Colleges, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, and the Association of American Universities.

However, a proposal for another coronavirus relief package being circulated by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, obtained by The New York Times, would include only $105 billion in aid for K-12 and higher education.

A particular concern is that the number of freshmen has dropped by 13 percent across all institutions, and by almost 19 percent at community colleges, the letter said. The decline, particularly among underrepresented students, “is particularly harmful because it means smaller classes for years going forward,” the letter said. Institutions are on pace to spend more in assistance for students than the $12 billion the associations had estimated in coming up with the $120 billion figure in April, the letter said. And they are also seeing a “substantially greater” loss in auxiliary revenues, including in room and board and conference and facility fees. The institutions had estimated a loss of about $11.6 billion in those revenues, but data from just 63 of 4,500 degree-granting institutions found they have lost $4.45 billion in those revenues.

In addition, the institutions in July had estimated they would have to spend an average of $3.8 million on testing, but they are reported they have spent an average of $9.3 million. Institutions are also facing cuts in state funding.

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