Calls for Relief, Essential Colleges and Seniors Having Fun

Everything you need to know about higher ed and the coronavirus to start your week in one easy-to-read package.

March 23, 2020
 

After slogging through a week that felt like a year, we hope your weekend was (relatively) nice.

If it wasn't, here are some palate cleansers to serve as a little Monday pick-me-up.

In Boulder, Colo., a senior citizen gave a concert to his retirement home after the music conference he was supposed to attend was canceled.

At a nursing care center in Wales, residents are keeping their minds off COVID-19 with a human-size game of Hungry Hungry Hippos, Mashable reports.

And D.C.-area restaurants are delivering brunch, via Washingtonian.

I hope that helped. Let’s get to the news.

Federal student loan borrowers are getting some relief, but advocates say it's not enough.

In a letter to Betsy DeVos, the U.S. education secretary, Senate Democrats are asking the department to keep student loan call centers open and to not collect loans by garnishing wages or Social Security.

DeVos later gave federal student loan borrowers the option to suspend payments for up to 60 days, without interest. Those who are delinquent on their loans also automatically have payments suspended.

Experts and advocates say these are good moves, but not enough. Several groups sent a joint letter asking Congress to include provisions in stimulus packages that would keep borrowers from being placed into default, ban involuntary collections and assure borrowers of no forgiveness penalties, among other measures.

California enacted a shelter-in-place order Thursday. Higher education institutions are considered "essential" parts of the nation's infrastructure, particularly as government facilities. It's unclear exactly what that means, but some colleges likely will keep their own essential services running.

Several colleges around the nation also are prepping to offer their facilities for local emergency response efforts, as worry over hospital overcrowding mounts.

As the recession gears up and brings near-record layoffs, some colleges are trying to keep vulnerable staff afloat. Harvard University announced it will pay graduate workers through the spring. And Duke University committed to paying its contract workers. On the flip side, contract staff are being laid off at many colleges. Petitions have circulated at Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania, asking the universities to halt plans to lay off contract dining staff or at least offer them financial support.

Here’s a quick roundup of our latest stories, in case you’ve fallen a bit behind (we don’t blame you):

Rick Seltzer asked how hard coronavirus is hitting institutions' finances.

NCAA athletes who couldn't compete this spring due to coronavirus are counting on an eligibility extension, Greta Anderson reports.

Elizabeth Redden looked at everything going on with international and study abroad students right now.

The Republican proposal for helping student loan borrowers and higher education through the crisis disappointed some, Kery Murakami reports.

News From Elsewhere

What is pivoting to online in a matter of days like? The Chronicle of Higher Education sheds light on this issue with faculty interviews.

The New York Times has a rundown on the coronavirus relief package.

Colleges now face attendance challenges as students resume class online, Education Dive reports.

Percolating Thoughts

This is a time when everyone has an opinion. As journalists, we try not to have opinions, but we've gathered some interesting ones from others.

Higher ed might need a bailout, writes one consultant.

An associate professor at the University of South Carolina at Beaufort thinks faculty members should take time to reflect right now, to stop the "McDonaldization" of college.

"GradHacker" has a guide to virtual academic conferences.


Got any percolating thoughts, or notice any from others? Feel free to send them our way or comment below.

We’ll continue bringing you the news you need in this crazy time. Keep sending us your questions and story ideas. We’ll get through this together.

-- Lilah Burke contributed to this article.

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