05.08.20

Gardner and Colorado Delegation Members Call for Additional Financial Support for Higher Education Institutions and Students

Colorado’s institutions of higher learning are facing a financial shortfall due to COVID-19 Pandemic

Washington D.C.— Today, U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) joined a bipartisan, bicameral letter to House and Senate Leadership signed by Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), U.S. Representatives Joe Neguse (D-CO), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), and Jason Crow (D-CO). The letter requests $47 billion in additional funding for institutions of higher learning and students to address financial shortcomings related to COVID-19, as well as $26 billion for research. The letter also requests that this emergency higher education funding be split between students (through need-based financial aid and direct support for tuition, room and board, and fees) and campuses, higher education centers, and institutions of higher education and requests direct assistance to institutions serving rural communities most impacted by the pandemic given their critical and unique role in the state’s local and regional economies.

In the letter, Gardner and his colleagues noted that even after much-needed financial relief from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Colorado’s higher education institutions alone still could face a shortfall of $274 million for the remainder of the academic year. These institutions anticipate additional revenue declines in the years ahead due to disruptions to enrollment, research, auxiliary services, and predicted state budget shortfalls.

“Our institutions of higher education and their students are facing challenges from COVID-19,” said Senator Gardner. “I’m proud to have supported the CARES Act, which provided millions to Colorado to support our colleges, universities and students, but we must provide Colorado’s students and higher education institutions additional financial support during this critical time. That includes additional support for student financial aid and our universities’ scientific research and development initiatives.”

“Colorado is fortunate to have a diverse array of community colleges, technical schools, research institutions, and public and private colleges that have served our constituents for decades,” said Congressman Neguse. “Colorado’s colleges and universities play an essential role in our state, contributing more than $20 billion to Colorado’s economy and providing students with the skills and training they need to be contributing members to our workforce and communities. Our institutions of higher education are also the largest employers throughout our state, and on the forefront of the nation’s most cutting-edge research, including a treatment and a vaccine for COVID-19. We must ensure the survival of these valuable institutions and provide for the financial needs of the students that have been directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and desperately need our help.”

“The COVID-19 outbreak has further exacerbated the financial challenges facing our institutions of higher education. Decades of underinvestment have placed them in a precarious financial position – and on top of that, they’re now enduring the staggering costs of responding to the virus and taking care of their students and employees,” said Senator Bennet. “While the CARES Act provided some relief for Colorado’s students and higher education institutions, it wasn’t nearly enough. That’s why we’re calling on Congressional leadership to prioritize emergency higher education funding so that our schools and students can weather this crisis.”

You can read more about Senator Gardner’s actions to protect Coloradans from COVID-19 here.

The text of the letter is available here and below:

Dear Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader McConnell,

As you prepare future coronavirus relief packages, we write to request additional support for higher education institutions and students. While we are grateful for the relief provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, more must be done to ensure Colorado’s students and higher education institutions receive the financial support they need at this critical time.

Colorado is fortunate to have a diverse array of community colleges, technical schools, research institutions, and public and private colleges that have served our constituents for decades. Colorado’s colleges and universities play an essential role in our state, contributing more than $20 billion to Colorado’s economy and providing students with the skills and training they need to be contributing members to our workforce and communities. Our institutions of higher education are also the largest employers throughout our state, and on the forefront of the nation’s most cutting-edge research, including a treatment and a vaccine for COVID-19.

Unfortunately, Colorado’s higher education institutions are already experiencing tremendous costs due to the coronavirus pandemic, totaling $349 million so far this year. Even with much- needed relief from the CARES Act, Colorado’s higher education institutions face a $274 million shortfall for the remainder of the current academic year. They anticipate additional revenue declines in the years ahead due to disruptions to enrollment, research, auxiliary services, and state budget shortfalls.  

With that in mind, we respectfully request an additional $47 billion in emergency higher education funding split between students (through need-based financial aid and direct support for tuition, room and board, and fees) and campuses, higher education centers, and institutions of higher education. We also request direct assistance to institutions serving rural communities most impacted by the pandemic given their critical and unique role in the state’s local and regional economies. 

The CARES Act provided critical funding for COVID-19 related research at universities and national labs in Colorado and across the country. Colorado’s research universities have repurposed and redoubled their efforts to combat this virus. At the same time, other research labs and operations have slowed or shutdown. As future relief packages are negotiated, we urge you to provide $26 billion in emergency funding to federal research agencies to sustain research personnel, including graduate students and postdoctoral scholars, as well as operating costs for research labs and services at research universities and scientific institutions.

COVID-19 has also severely disrupted our state and local economies and led to significant losses in revenue. Over the next three years, our state is forecasting a $7 billion state budget shortfall. As state and local budgets reel from the abrupt halt to economic activity, public colleges and universities are at risk of additional severe and devastating budget cuts. To that end, we respectfully request robust funding for state and local governments with as much flexibility as possible for how that funding is used. 

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

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Cory Gardner is a member of the U.S. Senate serving Colorado. He sits on the Energy & Natural Resources Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, and is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.