2020 has been the most challenging for the public university community in memory. The pandemic has roiled every facet of public research universities’ mission – from education to research to community engagement. APLU has worked to help the public research university community address and overcome these challenges. Through its robust government affairs and advocacy work, programmatic activities, and an unprecedented number of virtual convenings, APLU quickly pivoted to provide support, advice, and a community of learning and sharing for public university leaders who were all confronted with unprecedented challenges.
APLU worked with member universities to marshal support for a robust federal response to the pandemic’s immense impact on public research universities. The association led an extensive advocacy campaign to advance the priorities of public research universities. APLU also created numerous advocacy resources for member institutions to advocate for key priorities. Ultimately, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March, providing $14 billion in stabilization funds for institutions and students. As Congress worked toward another coronavirus relief deal in late 2020, APLU joined with public research universities and the higher education community to secure an additional $22.7 billion in emergency aid for colleges and universities with broader flexibilities for institutions. APLU continues to press federal policymakers to provide additional stabilization funds, including support for institutional and research relief, regulatory flexibilities, tax credits, temporary and limited liability protections, and more.
APLU also hosted virtual convenings to help institutions grapple with the pandemic’s impact. The association provided member universities access to policymakers such as U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer; then-U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander; and National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins. To support learning, APLU held a wide array of webinars focused on bringing courses online fast amid the pandemic; delivering high-quality instruction remotely, and more than 100 virtual forums for senior university leaders to collectively problem-solve to overcome shared challenges. APLU will continue to support a vibrant public research university community to dissect challenges, collectively problem solve, and advance best practices.
Against the background of the pandemic, APLU also led or helped lead an array of projects and initiatives centered on the three pillars of our agenda: expanding access and improving student success; advancing and promoting research; and solving societal problems through community engagement. APLU continues its longstanding collaboration with members to: increase equity and degree completion; achieve a more diverse and inclusive STEM faculty; and address intractable societal challenges through community engagement and public impact research.
The challenges public research universities have confronted and overcome this year are extraordinary. But the year ahead promises still more change, challenges, and opportunities. The need for supplemental federal financial support to universities remains enormous. The arrival of a new administration and Congress heralds a vastly different policy landscape. This brings opportunities to broaden access to higher education, restore immigration policies key to our national interest and universities, and garner renewed investment in research tackling societal challenges while spurring economic growth. Public universities are working to address urgent student needs, advance equity and degree completion, and address their communities’ most urgent work. It’s a privilege to stand with you in undertaking this critical work and we’re thrilled to deepen our member engagement in the coming year.