Update on Phase IV Relief Package
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) met with President Trump on Monday about the Senate Republican coronavirus relief bill that may be released this week.
expected for education with $30 billion for higher education. Expected supplemental funding for research agencies has not yet been detailed. The size and scope of the relief package is also a point of contention for lawmakers. Leader McConnell’s bill is projected to cost around $1 trillion, which is nearly half of what was enacted in the CARES Act and $2 trillion below the HEROES Act, the House-passed Phase IV relief package.
APLU’s Phase IV priorities document includes requests of $47 billion for institutions and students, a Maintenance of Effort requirement to prevent harmful state cuts, $26 billion to support research, tax relief and access to capital, temporary and limited liability protections, and funding for Cooperative Extension. Although timing on enactment of a Phase IV bill remains ambiguous and there is much to be negotiated, both chambers have signaled strong support for passage before the August recess.
DHS Rescinds July 6 International Student Directive and Issues New Guidance
Harvard and MIT reached an agreement with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in its lawsuit to stop implementation of the Department’s July 6 directive that would have precluded international students in the United States from engaging entirely in online education and distance learning.
DHS fully rescinded the guidance and agreed to return to the status quo of the spring directive. APLU President Peter McPherson released a statement applauding the move while also seeking clarification on impacts to new and existing international students currently outside of the United States. APLU joined other higher education groups in a letter urging DHS to provide assurances that all students with valid visas will be able to enter the country.
DHS also released new guidance, which appears to be an extension of the directive published in the spring. Of major concern to colleges and universities, the guidance does not make clear if new international students will be allowed to come to the U.S. and engage in online learning. The guidance indicates that “if initial students have not arrived in the United States, they should remain in their home country.” APLU is registering questions and concerns with the administration.
APLU continues to work with partner organizations including the Chamber of Commerce. In the Chamber’s priorities for Phase IV supplemental appropriations legislation, they note the need for more certainty for international students in light of the updated guidance.
State Department Unveils Phased Resumption of Routine Visa Services
The Department of State announced the phased resumption of routine visa services. Per the notice, services will resume on a post-by-post basis, although the Department cautions that it is unable to provide specific dates for when each mission will resume specific visa services, or when each mission will return to processing at pre-COVID workload levels. Services highlighted include visa processing for F-1 and M-1 students and certain J-1 visa categories.
Furthermore, the State Department announced additional details on “national interest exceptions” to travel bans. Students traveling from the Schengen Area, the UK, and Ireland with valid F-1 and M-1 visas, do not need to seek a national interest exception to travel. Students from those areas who are traveling on a J-1 may contact the nearest embassy or consulate to initiate an exception request.
APLU Urges Congress to Fix Exclusion of Public Institutions in Tax Relief
APLU, the American Association of Community Colleges, and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities sent a letter to the Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee requesting that the forthcoming Phase IV COVID-19 pandemic relief legislation fix the exclusion of public colleges and universities in eligibility of tax benefits. The associations specifically request that public universities be made eligible for the paid leave tax credit created in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the employee retention tax credit included in the CARES Act. The letter also asks that any new support offered to private nonprofit and for-profit colleges and universities in Phase IV be extended to public institutions of higher education.