Higher Education Updates Related to COVID-19
To follow is system-specific information detailing major steps each system has taken with resect to COVID-19:
Texas A&M University System
Texas A&M University System (TAMUS) serves 151,000 students across the state through its 11 universities and health science center.
Campuses remain open to students who need to remain in the dorms. These students are being provided with food service, health services and other needed support.
TAMUS institutions are delivering courses online and are continuing academic support, advising, and financial aid resources as needed.
Students who are opting to leave campus for the remainder of the semester are able to apply for refunds or credits for housing and dining, and institutions are working through issues related to making those refunds/credits available to the students.
Essential faculty and staff are maintaining administrative operations, critical research support and other core functions to operate the campuses, and TAMUS is adhering to federal, state, and local guidelines for social distancing, infection control, and stay-home orders to help combat COVID-19 while continue to maintain essential services.
University of Texas System
All instruction will be provided online. There will be no on-campus classes or other academic gatherings. Unique research activities will be managed at the institutional level.
Living in campus residence halls and participating in campus dining programs will be limited to students who do not have a suitable alternative. This will be determined on a case-by-case basis, to serve students who require this accommodation, while observing social distancing practices.
In light of the Centers for Disease Control's guidance prohibiting gatherings, all spring commencement ceremonies shall be postponed. Graduating students will receive their degrees as scheduled, but the ceremonies we all look forward to will be held at a later date, most likely in the fall.
Students who have paid for residence halls, dining plans, and other specific, related campus services they cannot use will be reimbursed or credited for unused portions, and we will work with you on system-wide guidelines for these plans.
UT System is establishing a system-wide emergency fund to be made available to institutions to address specific student needs. UT Austin’s Student Emergency Fund is in place.
UT Austin, UT Arlington, UT El Paso and UT Dallas have announced that all summer courses will be in an online modality. Other system institutions are preparing for this as well and announcements should be forthcoming.
University of North Texas System
UNT Denton has launched an emergency relief fund and has delayed payment deadlines until the end of the semester to aid students who are financially struggling. Individuals who wish to contribute to the fund can do so on the UNT website.
UNT Denton is keeping housing and food services open for students who have nowhere else togo and are offering space for healthcare workers and first responders who need to stay in the area to fulfill their duties.
UNT Dallas is partnering with the North Texas Food Bank to bring a weekly disaster relief mobile food pantry to campus. This service will be strictly drive-thru, and safety precautions have been established to limit any physical interaction with NTFB and UNT Dallas volunteers. The service is available to UNT Dallas students, faculty, staff and all community members throughout Dallas County.
UNT System is launching “In the Green: UNT World Well-Being”, a program to offer free mental health resources during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program will provide free resources to assist with Physical, Financial, and Interpersonal Well-Being, and will focus on providing mental health resources to employees and their families.
UNTHSC has opened up an off-campus COVID-19 testing site for Tarrant County area first responders who may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus but are not experiencing symptoms. Available exclusively to first responders, the testing site is intended to keep them informed of their health status, and to allow those who test negative to return to their jobs rather than wait out the 14-day self-observation period after a possible exposure. First responders include police, fire, emergency medical technicians, paramedics and constables.
UNTHSC students, faculty, and staff are helping answer questions about COVID-19 on Tarrant County Public Health’s 24-hour information line. The collaboration, which launched on March 19th, will allow triple the call capacity of the information line during the COVID-19 pandemic.
UNTHSC donated 5,000 surgical masks and 50 N-95 masks to the Fort Worth Fire Department to support the work of first responders in Tarrant County.
University of Houston System
UH System universities are doing online learning.
UH System has re-started their Cougar Emergency Fund, which is dedicated to providing emergency funds to students in need. Similar funds exist at all four UHS System universities.
Cougs Care, an online forum which allows the UH community to help each other by posting opportunities to help in the community or one another, was re-launched
Teaching labs for the UH Nursing program at UH Katy and UH Sugar Land have a total of 33 hospital beds, plus other physical exam tables that have been offered up in the need for overflow space from area hospitals
UH is now offering a pass/fail system as an option to students who believe their GPA might suffer as a result of the current situation. Students must decide by May 18th for the current semester as to whether they will choose a pass/fail option or continue with the traditional letter grade system. The other three universities within the system are working to establish similar systems for their own students.
Texas Tech University System
All Texas Tech System institutions have gone fully online for instruction and are working with students who do not have internet access. The institutions have implemented employee remote work programs to eliminate personal contact.
All Texas Tech System institutions are working with students who can to move out in an orderly fashion while dorms remain open for students who do not have another place to live.
Texas Tech System and institutions are working with the THECB and appropriate accrediting bodies to make sure students who are completing their program this spring are able meetdegree requirements, including clinical and in-person requirements, and graduate on time. For example, this includes working with TEA for options on student teaching hours for education students.
Texas Tech System institutions have developed a process for issuing refunds and credits for unused housing and meal plans
Texas Tech System institutions are maintaining open communication with all their constituencies and serving as a resource for them. For example, the Texas Tech Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has information on the front page of their website with links to Covid-19 resources.
Texas State University System
Shifted to online learning modality, with very few exceptions such as labs
Expect that many residential students will return “home” and they will be provided a credit for housing/dining.
TSUS institutions and the System Administration have directed all employees, except those who are essential to maintain campus operations, to work remotely until further notice. Social distancing measures, including Flex-Scheduling have been implemented to ensure the safety and well-being of the few employees, students, and visitors who are required to be on campus.
Establishing Emergency Assistance Programs for students
CARES ACT AND INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION Below are details on the higher education and student loan-related provisions in the CARES Act. (Source: The Institute for College Access and Success, www.ticas.org, accessed March 30, 2020)
Resources for Student Loan Borrowers
The CARES Act directs the U.S. Education Department to automatically suspend payments on most federal student loans through September 30, 2020. No interest will accrue on loans during this time. After September 30, this payment suspension and interest waiver will end. Borrowers will receive information from their student loan servicer throughout this process about how it will work.
In short, if the loans are covered (more on that below), the borrower does not need to worry about making loan payments until October 1, 2020. There will be no penalty for not making payments and the loan will not go into delinquency or default. Interest will not accrue.
Borrowers do not have to take any action to receive these benefits. It will likely take the Education Department some time to implement these benefits, since the bill was just passed into law on March 27. It will take some time for borrowers to see these changes reflected in their account.
If borrowers would still like to make payments during this period, they can do so by logging in to their online account and making payments at any time.
These benefits do NOT apply to two types of federal student loans — older FFEL loans held by commercial lenders and campus-based Perkins loans.
If borrowers are not sure what type of loans they have, they can use the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) to find out what federal loans they have and who their loan servicer is. They must log in using their FSA ID to see specific information about their loans.
If borrowers are at least 31 days behind on your payments as of March 13, 2020, or become more than 31 days delinquent after that date, they will automatically be placed in an administrative forbearance to give them a safety net during the COVID-19 national emergency. Borrowers do not have to take any action to receive these benefits.
Being in an administrative forbearance means that borrowers can temporarily stop making their federal student loan payments without becoming delinquent.
Because interest is being waived during the COVID-19 national emergency, interest will not accumulate while borrowers are in forbearance.
Education Stabilization Fund The bill provides a total of $30.75 billion to an “Education Stabilization Fund.” These funds include a ‘maintenance of effort’ requirement that states must maintain their average funding for K-12 and higher education from the last three fiscal years for the next three fiscal years. However, the bill gives the Secretary of Education broad authority to waive this requirement. The fund is divided as follows:
About 10 percent of total funds (approx. $3 billion) to governors to distribute. o Governors can distribute these funds to agencies and institutions across K-12 and higher education that “have been most significantly impacted by coronavirus” to support their ongoing functionality and ability to continue to deliver education and services to students.
The bill provides dedicated funding for K-12 agencies and directly to colleges and universities. o 43.9% (approximately $13.5 billion) is directed to K-12 and 46.3% (approximately $14.25 billion) is directed to higher education institutions. o The remaining two percent is dedicated to U.S. outlying areas, states hardest hit by coronavirus, and the Bureau of Indian Education.
Of the approximately $14 billion dedicated to colleges and universities:
90% (approximately $13 billion) will go directly to institutions of higher education: o Three-quarters of these funds will be distributed to schools based on their enrollment of Pell students and the remaining one quarter will be distributed to schools based on their non-Pell enrollment. Students exclusively enrolled in online courses prior to coronavirus are exempt from this funding. o Institutions must use at least half of the funds they receive (for a total of approximately $6.975 billion across all institutions) to provide emergency financial aid grants to students for expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus. These expenses include costs such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and child care. o An additional 7.5% (approximately $1 billion) is reserved exclusively for Historically Black Colleges & Universities and other Minority-Serving Institutions.
o The remaining 2.5% (approximately $356 million) is reserved exclusively for certain institutions under Part B, Title VII of the Higher Education Act that the Department of Education determines have the most unmet need related to the effects of coronavirus. Flexibility for Colleges & Universities & Emergency Aid to College Students The bill also gives emergency flexibilities to college students as well as colleges and universities. For example, institutions will no longer need to match funds for campus-based aid programs. Institutions are also now allowed to use federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG) funds for emergency scholarships to students. Schools can also issue work-study payments to students who are unable to work due to workplace closures. The bill also takes steps to ensure students who had to leave school due to the effects of coronavirus will not be penalized in the future by excluding the term from counting toward financial aid time limits and waiving Satisfactory Academic Progress requirements. It also waives certain program requirements for teachers pursuing teacher loan forgiveness.
Employer Tax Credit for Student Loan Borrowers The bill includes a temporary provision to expand the existing tax exclusion for employer–provided educational assistance to include employer-paid student loan benefits (the benefit ends at the end of 2020, meaning it will only last for one tax filing season). The tax break would enable an employer to provide up to $5,250 toward an employees’ education costs (existing law) or toward an employees’ existing student loan debt (new temporary benefit). This benefit would be excluded from the beneficiary’s wages and therefore not taxed.
If you have any questions in regards to this information, please reach out to our District Office by calling us at 972-239-5367 or by emailing District102.Ramos@house.texas.gov