Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) President Peter McPherson today released the following statement regarding the congressional deal reached on coronavirus relief and Fiscal Year 2021 spending.
“Our nation’s public research universities are facing extraordinary financial challenges as a result of the pandemic. Costs for safely and effectively delivering on their vital mission have increased dramatically and losses have skyrocketed. All of this is against the backdrop of substantial cuts in state funding. We very much appreciate that lawmakers are addressing some of the need in this coronavirus relief package. The pandemic relief bill will provide much-needed funding to support universities and their students. But while this deal represents a key first down, we’re still only on our own 20-yard line. We urge lawmakers to view this deal as only a step toward providing more comprehensive relief.
“We urge Congress to pass this bill, but the need for much more support remains urgent. APLU and other higher education groups outlined the need for $120 billion in emergency aid to support the nation’s colleges and universities as they manage massive losses and expenses and address the substantially increased needs of students. With $22.7 billion allocated to higher education institutions and students, this deal provides just a fraction of the needed support. And while the deal supports vaccine distribution and longer term COVID-related research, no funding is allocated for other research activities at a time when researchers and labs across the country desperately need emergency support to address the substantial expenses and losses related to the global pandemic. The costs include personal protective equipment, increased equipment costs due to supply shortages, lab infrastructure changes to address public health spacing requirements, and biological sample and other lab material replacement.
“We also applaud lawmakers’ work to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year. At a time of extraordinary uncertainty, this will help public research universities deliver on their mission to advance the public good. In a year with budget caps, we’re particularly appreciative of small increases in funding for the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation and other research agencies that are vital to our nation’s continued scientific and economic success. As Congress begins work next year on appropriations it should boost its support for the nation’s critically important research agencies. APLU also appreciates the modest increase in the maximum Pell Grant and campus-based aid programs, which will help make higher education more accessible and affordable for more students, although much more must be done to invest in these programs.
“We appreciate the education provisions included in the package that will open up the Pell grant program to an estimated 500,000 additional students and significantly expand the number of students who qualify for the maximum grant amount. Further, the bill provides critical relief for many of our nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), including several of APLU’s 1890s land-grant institutions, through forgiveness of existing HBCU Capital Financing Loans. APLU is still analyzing the impact of changes to the federal needs analysis process contained in the package, as well as measures to simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
“Public research universities have risen to the challenge of addressing the pandemic – from storing and administering vaccines to treating patients to helping their communities address the economic fallout. Often, they have done this despite great institutional costs and losses. With the pandemic worsening in the winter months, there is much more to do. These costs and losses will only compound in the weeks and months ahead.”