Dear Senator Toomey/Senator Casey:
First, I’d like to send my deep appreciation for the support provided by the federal government to postsecondary students and institutions in the CARES Act. For Gettysburg College, we are the largest employer in our borough and the second largest in our county, therefore, supporting higher education at this moment is an essential component of restoring our economy, both locally and within the state of Pennsylvania.
The pandemic caused institutes of higher education, like Gettysburg, to quickly move their spring semesters online and cancel their summer programs. These decisions, though necessary, had a significant impact on our finances for the current fiscal year, and while we are managing these losses, the projections for the next fiscal year—if we must remain online—are daunting.
We are working diligently to develop plans that will allow us to safely reopen our campus to students in the fall. Certainly, returning to our physical campus is important for our students’ intellectual, social, and cultural development, as well as for the vibrancy of our economy, but we must do so in a way that is safe for our students, faculty, staff, and our broader community.
As we prepare for the future, I write to urge you to consider additional support for higher education that will help us to safely reopen in the fall and limit the financial impact to Gettysburg College and our surrounding area.
As Congress prepares additional legislation to address the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, I would like to draw your attention to the significant remaining needs that students, educators, and institutions like Gettysburg College still face. Outlined below are three areas in which I am hoping you will be able to address in the next round of federal stimulus:
- Increase federal support for institutions of higher education to $46.6 billion. The Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania (AICUP) estimates its member institutions alone, which constitute only one portion of the vibrant higher education sector, have incurred $344 million in increased expenditures and lost revenue through the spring 2020 semester, with an additional $41 million expected over the summer. Expected declines in enrollment this fall will dramatically increase projected losses. AICUP conservatively estimates its schools will lose revenue totaling $365 million with just a 5% decrease in enrollment. That number rises to $1.1 billion with an enrollment drop of 15%. As you know, national estimates of decreased enrollment are 10-25%.
- Ensure that emergency student financial assistance grants are not taxable. Although we understand that Congress intended the CARES Act direct student grants to be tax-free, that intention is not reflected in the actual legislation. Taxing this aid undermines the intent to provide as much relief as possible to students.
- Prioritize institutions of higher education for testing resources. This will allow us to get back to business sooner, which will help repair the damage done to the Pennsylvania economy. We know we can provide a safe, stable environment for our faculty, students and staff as they return to school, but we will need access to those resources that sustain mitigation and containment efforts. Any interruption of our ability to conduct our business thus impacts the availability of workers who are vital to the state’s health and economy.
The ability of colleges like Gettysburg to persevere during this crisis will depend on our ability to secure the resources needed to continue operations for our students and employees through the expected enrollment downturn and ongoing social distancing measures.
Thank you for your continual support and leadership through this crisis.
Robert W. Iuliano