Jul 8, 2020
College Officials Testimony Transcript on Higher Education Amid COVID-19
College officials testified on the future of universities & higher education during and after the coronavirus pandemic. Read the full transcript from July 7, 2020.
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Chairwoman Davis: (00:00)
… participating remotely be kept muted as a general rule to avoid unnecessary background noise. Members and witnesses will be responsible for unmuting themselves when they are recognized to speak, or when they wish to seek recognition. And further, per House Resolution 965 and its accompanying regulations, members are required to leave their camera on the entire time they are in an official proceeding, even if they step away from the camera. While a roll call is not necessary to establish a quorum in official proceedings conducted remotely, whenever there is an official proceeding with remote participation, the clerk will call the roll to help make clear who is present at the start of the proceeding. At this time, I ask the clerk to call the roll.
Chairwoman Davis: (00:52)
Mr. Courtney: (00:56)
Mr. Takano? Mr. Jayapal?
Mr. Harder: (01:07)
Mr. Levin: (01:08)
Mrs. Trahan? Mr. Castro?
Mr. Sablan: (01:42)
Miss Bonamici: (01:47)
Mr. Norcross: (01:57)
Mr. Smucker: (02:08)
Mr. Guthrie: (02:11)
Mr. Grothman: (02:17)
Miss Stefanik: (02:17)
[inaudible 00:02:32]. Mr. Walker?
Here. [inaudible 00:00:02:47].
Mr. Watkins? Mr. Meuser?
Mr. Murphy: (03:07)
Mrs. Foxx: (03:10)
Chairwoman Davis, this concludes the roll call.
Chairwoman Davis: (03:16)
Thank you very much. Pursuant to committee rule 7C, opening statements are limited to the chair and the ranking member. This allows us to hear from our witnesses sooner and provides all members with adequate time to ask questions. I recognize myself now for the purpose of making an opening statement. Today, as we know, we are examining how the COVID-19 pandemic is straining our higher education system and discussing what Congress must do to support students and institutions through this difficult time.
Chairwoman Davis: (03:58)
Across the country, the rush to suspend on campus activities and switch to online learning has exacerbated preexisting systemic inequities in higher education.
Chairwoman Davis: (04:10)
For example, the on campus resources that many students from low SES backgrounds normally rely on, like computer labs and reliable internet, are now unavailable to those students. The suspension of on campus activities is also threatening many students’ access to basic essentials like food and housing. And for these students, going to school had been their primary way of meeting these needs. The survey from earlier this year found students of color are disproportionately suffering high rates of food and housing insecurity due to the closure of campuses. Research also indicates how most students do not perform as well in online classes. Now, imagine how students who are already started off with fewer resources are more likely to struggle [crosstalk 00:05:08].
Robert Scott: (05:09)
My name is Robert Scott.
Chairwoman Davis: (05:13)
… under these new educational conditions.
Robert Scott: (05:18)
Chairwoman Davis: (05:19)
To address these disparities, Congress secured 14 billion in emergency relief funding for higher education in the bipartisan CARES Act, and half of this funding was allocated specifically for direct student emergency aid. Additionally, Congress provided immediate relief to student loan borrowers by suspending student loan payments and freezing interest on all Direct and federally held student loans. Unfortunately, instead of quickly dispersing these urgent relief funds to students, however, according to the law that we had passed in March, Secretary DeVos created an arbitrary eligibility requirement for students trying to access the support. These restrictions not only prevent relief funding from quickly reaching students, but they exclude several underserved groups of students who cannot apply for Title IV aid, such as undocumented students and veterans.
Chairwoman Davis: (06:25)
In response, the state of Washington and the California Community College System, which includes the San Diego Community College District, sued Secretary DeVos. Thankfully, these lawsuits have temporarily stopped the department from denying California community college students and students across Washington access to the emergency student aid that Congress secured. But setting aside the delays and the unnecessary restrictions created by the department, we must also address how the CARES Act simply did not go far enough to prepare our institutions for this looming economic recession. Due to the pandemic, institutions are facing unprecedented state and local budget shortfalls that will trigger drastic funding cuts for higher education, and they are facing massive revenue losses due to decreased enrollment and suspended activities. [inaudible 00:07:28] These cuts and revenue loss … end programs that many vulnerable students need to complete their degree and find fulfilling careers. We know that the worst of these consequences are going to fall on historically black colleges and universities, private colleges and universities, minority-serving institutions and community colleges, which have the fewest resources despite serving most of our country’s low income students and students of color. Impending budget shortfalls are also putting many institutions under pressure to permanently reopen their campuses, even at the risk of exposing students, educators and communities to COVID-19. The evidence is overwhelmingly clear: Congress must do more to support our students and our institutions.
Chairwoman Davis: (08:29)
The HEROES Act would take a critical step in the right direction. It provides nearly one trillion to help state and local governments avert massive budget shortfalls and cuts to education. It also provides over 35 billion in relief funds for public institutions and other institutions that have suffered financially, including almost two billion for HBCUs, TCUs and MSIs. Beyond extra funds, however, Congress must also protect students from predatory for-profit schools. These institutions have a record of using taxpayer dollars to target vulnerable students during economic downturns, often leaving them with worthless degrees and debt that they cannot repay.
Chairwoman Davis: (09:22)
Simply put, the COVID-19 pandemic is testing not only our students and our institutions, but Congress’s commitment to ensuring all students have access to safe, affordable and quality education. Today, with the help of our witnesses, and we appreciate their being here, we will discuss whether we can live up to that commitment. I now yield to the ranking member, Mr. Smucker for an opening statement.
Mr. Smucker: (09:54)
Thank you, Chairwoman Davis. It’s great to see you.
Chairwoman Davis: (09:58)
Mr. Smucker: (09:59)
Before I discuss the topic of today’s hearing, I’d just like to mention the importance of doing our work in person. I and several other members …
Mr. Smucker: (10:10)
Mr. Smucker: (10:10)
Should I try without the microphone? Let me switch … [inaudible 00:10:29].
Speaker 1: (10:38)
Mr. Smucker: (10:38)
It was working a little bit ago. Give me just a second, I’m going to …
Speaker 1: (10:42)
Ranking member Smucker?
Mr. Smucker: (10:44)
Speaker 1: (10:45)
Yes, sir, when we did your initial audio/visual check, were you using the AirPods at the time, sir?
Mr. Smucker: (10:50)
I was not.
Speaker 1: (10:55)
You sound fine now, sir.
Mr. Smucker: (10:56)
Is that better? Okay, [crosstalk 00:10:57].
Speaker 1: (10:59)
It is better, sir. Yes, I think it is the bouncing back of the microphones. Thank you, sir.
Mr. Smucker: (11:03)
Okay. Got it. All right. Sorry about that, Chairwoman. Does that sound better now? Are we good to go?
Chairwoman Davis: (11:09)
Mr. Smucker: (11:09)
All right. Again, before I discuss the topic of today’s hearing, I just did want to talk about the importance of doing our work in person. I and several other members are here in the hearing room. Leader McCarthy had recently written in a letter to Speaker Pelosi that our Congress, which is literally a coming together of people and ideas, works best when it happens in person, face to face. And while I know that we’ve all learned how to Zoom and WebEx and all of this, I really do think that we could be operating here in person. And so I will make the same requests that ranking member Foxx made at the start of our last hearing, which is let’s return to Congressional precedent and hold our hearings here in person.
Mr. Smucker: (11:56)
Turning to the topic of today’s hearing, COVID-19 certainly has disrupted nearly every aspect of American society, including our higher education. And it was back in early March, University of Washington became the first school to cancel in-person classes. Today, over 1,000 colleges and universities have switched to online only instruction. From abrupt school closures to remote online learning, students and educators have faced overwhelming challenges during this pandemic, and that’s why Congress and the department of education took several steps to ease the burden for states, for institutions and for students. The bipartisan CARES Act, which was passed in March, included provisions to help students, schools and state governments cope with the changes wrought by the pandemic.
Mr. Smucker: (12:49)
In addition to regulatory relief measures for students and institutions, the CARES Act provided borrowers with temporary respite from their repayment obligations. Specifically, the legislation requires the secretary to suspend all interest accumulation and monthly payments on federally held student loans through September 30th of this year. Most critically, the CARES Act created and funded the Higher Ed Emergency Relief Fund, which provided billions in direct aid to students in post-secondary education institutions, including the HBCUs and MSIs. But of course, that’s not to say our work is done. On the contrary, the pandemic has exposed serious underlying deficiencies in our education system.
Mr. Smucker: (13:37)
Government overreach and unnecessary intervention has contributed to a bloated post-secondary education sector at the expense of students. Tuition and fees have far outpaced inflation for decades. Federal requirements stifle interaction between businesses and college campuses. And unfortunately, rather than innovating, the Democrat’s partisan HEROES Act really doubles down on what have been failed policies. This legislation forgives $10,000 of federal and private student loan debt for some borrowers, which really does nothing to combat COVID-19 or lower college costs. I really do recognize that we want to help people struggling to make ends meet, but we have data from the Urban Institute to prove that across the board loan forgiveness disproportionally helps high earning, highly educated individuals.
Mr. Smucker: (14:29)
Many Americans facing the greatest financial strain as a result of the pandemic do not have student loans at all. The bill also launches a socialist takeover of the private student loan market by forcing private student loan companies to offer income driven repayment terms and conditions that are dictated by the federal government. In contrast, Committee Republicans continue to support reforms that strengthen innovation and completion, modernize federal student aid and promote student opportunities. By giving students the tools needed to complete an affordable post-secondary education, we can prepare them to enter the workforce with the skills they need for lifelong success, regardless of their background. However, these reforms won’t matter if we don’t reopen our nation’s schools and businesses safely and responsibly.
Mr. Smucker: (15:25)
We have a duty to lead this country back to the pre-pandemic economic prosperity that benefited millions of hardworking Americans. Congress can help further unleash our nation’s economic potential by increasing pathways for Americans to succeed in the 21st century workforce. Specifically, this means permitting colleges and universities to leverage employer expertise, encouraging short-term and stackable credentials, and creating a regulatory framework for new methods of learning like competency-based education. These types of forward looking reforms have been championed by the Trump administration. Just a few weeks ago, President Trump issued an executive order to prioritize skills-based hiring within the federal government to help strengthen and diversify our workforce.
Mr. Smucker: (16:13)
This action will take our nation’s workers and students in a positive direction as we recover from COVID-19, and Congress should follow the administration’s lead on this issue. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today about how we can improve our education system to better meet the needs of students, families and workers. Thank you, Madame Chair.
Chairwoman Davis: (16:35)
Thank you. Thank you, ranking member Smucker. All other members who wish to insert written statements into the record may do so by submitting them to the Committee Clerk electronically in Microsoft Word format by 5:00 on Monday, July 21st.
Chairwoman Davis: (16:51)
It’s now my pleasure to introduce our witnesses. First is Dr. Sharon Pierce, PhD, president of Minneapolis Community and Technical College since 2016. Dr. Sharon Pierce has been leading the effort at Minneapolis College to provide transformative student experiences. Dr. Pierce has dedicated her career to advancing the role of community and technical colleges in reducing disparities and providing underrepresented students with an opportunity to achieve academic success. Prior to her higher education career, Dr. Pierce worked as a clinical nurse for 12 years and was appointed by Maryland’s governor to serve on the state’s Board of Nursing. She earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from the University of Maryland and her doctorate degree in urban education from Morgan State University.
Chairwoman Davis: (17:45)
Our next witness is Dr. Timothy White, PhD, chancellor of California State University. Since 2013, Dr. White has been leading the California State University, the CSU system, a system comprised of 23 campuses and 481,000 students and 53,000 faculty and staff. Dr. White is a champion of inclusive excellence and student success, and a proponent of bringing individualized education to scale through the expansion of proven best practices. Prior to becoming CSU chancellor, Dr. White served as chancellor and professor of biology and biomedical sciences at the University of California Riverside for five years, and as president of the University of Idaho for four years. Dr. White pursued his higher education from Diablo Valley Community College, Fresno State, CSU East Bay, and the University of California Berkeley.
Chairwoman Davis: (18:43)
Next is Scott Pulsipher. I hope I have that right, sir. President of Western Governors University. Since 2016, Scott Pulsipher has served as president of Western Governors University, the nation’s first and largest competency-based university. Under his leadership at WGU, WGU has expanded access to online competency-based degree programs that serve students across the country. Prior to joining WGU, Pulsipher gained extensive leadership and experience in technology-based customer-focused businesses including Amazon, Sterling Commerce, which is now part of IBM, and two successful startups. Pulsipher holds a Bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University and a Master’s degree from Harvard University.
Chairwoman Davis: (19:38)
And last is Dr. Shaun Harper, recognizing her as a PhD as well, president of the American Educational Research Association and a provost professor in the Rossier School of Education and Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California at USC. Dr. Harper is also the Clifford and Betty Allen Chair in Urban Leadership, founder and executive director of the USC Race and Equity Center, and a past president of the Association for the Study of Higher Education. For two decades, Harper has studied racial and gender equity in K-12 schools, colleges and university, and corporate context. He has been recognized in Education Week as one of the 10 most influential education professors in the United States. Dr. Harper earned his Bachelor’s degree from Albany State University and a Master’s and Doctor’s degree from Indiana University.
Chairwoman Davis: (20:38)
We greatly appreciate the witnesses for participating today and look forward to your testimony. I wanted to just remind you that we have read your written statements and that they will appear in full in the hearing record. Pursuant to committee rule 7D and committee practice, each of you is asked to limit your oral presentation to a five-minute summary of your written statement. I also wanted to remind the witnesses that pursuant to Title 18 of the U.S. Code section 1001, it is illegal to knowingly and willfully falsify any statement, representation, writing, document or material fact presented to Congress or otherwise conceal or cover up a material fact.
Chairwoman Davis: (21:20)
During your testimony, staff will be keeping track of time and will use a chime to signal when one minute is left and when time is up entirely. They will sound a short chime when there is one minute left and a longer chime when time is up. Please be attentive to the time and wrap up when your time is over and re-mute your system. If any of you experience any technical difficulties during your testimony or later in the hearing, you should stay connected on the platform, make sure you are muted with the mute button highlighted in red, and use your phone to immediately call the Committee’s IT director Sheila Havenor, whose number has been provided.
Chairwoman Davis: (22:06)
We will let all the witnesses make their presentations before we move to member questions. And when answering a question, please remember to unmute your system. It’s now my pleasure to first recognize Dr. Pierce for five minutes. Dr. Pierce.
Dr. Sharon Pierce: (22:22)
Thank you. Chairwoman Davis, ranking members, [inaudible 00:22:25] sub-sub committee members, thank you for the opportunity to testify today. I’m Sharon Pierce, president of Minneapolis College. My testimony will describe the impact of the global pandemic on community and technical colleges and our students, and the need for Congress to provide additional aid. Our college, located in an urban setting, is the only comprehensive community and technical college in Minneapolis. We serve students who are unlikely to succeed elsewhere, provide an opportunity to complete a credential and elevate their socioeconomic status and ability to contribute to the economy.
Dr. Sharon Pierce: (23:06)
Our students face multiple barriers to academic success. COVID-19 put many students out of work, leaving them unable to support family or access transportation or social services, and elevated mental health concerns. Now, they must learn to navigate courses through an online platform, often using a smartphone without reliable internet access, creating difficulty connecting to instructors, classmates, tutors, the library and support services. Our college received 2.3 million in CARES funding for direct student aid. The guidance for this funding was difficult to unravel, and distribution plans needed frequent revising, resulting in more than two weeks delay in disbursement. Ongoing eligibility rulemaking by the Department of Education created uncertainty and limited our ability to direct aid to the most at-risk students.
Dr. Sharon Pierce: (24:04)
In response to COVID-19, we transitioned over 900 classes to alternative remote delivery. Moving forward, technology investments need to be at the forefront of decision-making. Students need hardware or software, network access, training and more. Faculty, especially in career and technical programs, need training to advance their pedagogy using alternative delivery in synchronous and asynchronous format. Equitable access to education can only be achieved by ensuring students have the technology tools they need within their academics and receive support services whether they are on campus or working remotely. To provide a safer campus, we need to invest in facilities upgrades, including contactless hardware, additional cleaning supplies, personal protective equipment, and to engineer facilities to allow for physical distancing. We will continue to reallocate and reduce expenditures as part of our effort to survive potentially significant revenue losses.
Dr. Sharon Pierce: (25:12)
Moving forward, students who already face significant barriers must navigate and new economic reality. Additional funding from the federal government providing direct aid to students impacted by COVID-19 will support their continuous enrollment and aid the economic recovery of our nation. In addition, the importance of ongoing federal stabilization [inaudible 00:25:37] operating costs of institutions like ours during this trying time cannot be overstated. While the CARES Act provided badly needed stabilization funding, more assistance is vital for us to continue to effectively serve our students, provide remote learning and prepare to safely reopen our campus. According to recent estimates, community colleges could face a collective revenue reduction of $10 billion over the next year. We want to stress the importance of using a student head count based formula to allocate future federal stabilization funding to institutions of higher education. This will allow us to account for the needs of all of our students, including those who attend part-time. Thank you for replacing the CARES Act formula with a head-based formula in the recently passed HEROES Act.
Dr. Sharon Pierce: (26:38)
We appreciate your recognition that part-time students need access to the same resources as their full-time peers. We are committed to providing access to the transformative power of education, regardless of socioeconomic status. As the nation strives to recover from COVID-19, higher education will be a critical component of rebuilding the economy. Your unprecedented level of commitment to education is needed now, as your decisions will directly influence students’ ability to achieve their academic goals and support the viability of communities. Thank you.
Chairwoman Davis: (27:15)
Thank you, Dr. Pierce. Now, Dr. White, I look forward to hearing from you.
Dr. Timothy White: (27:28)
[inaudible 00:27:28] ranking member Smucker, I need to …
Dr. Timothy White: (27:40)
Am I …
Dr. Timothy White: (27:42)
Dr. Timothy White: (27:43)
Okay. Great. Chair Davis, ranking member Smucker and members of the subcommittee, thank you for providing me the opportunity to address you today. For those who may be unfamiliar with the California State University, we are the nation’s largest and most diverse four-year university system: 23 campuses, more than 480,000 students and approximately 53,000 faculty and staff. One out of every 20 Americans with a college degree is a graduate of the California State University. Over half of our students are students of color, and one in three are the first in their family to attend college. 54% of our enrolled students, 230,000 of them, are Pell Grant recipients, and just last year alone, 63,000 of those Pell recipients earned their Bachelor’s degree. This dynamic diversity, together with our sheer size, and the quality of our academic programs makes us one of America’s most powerful drivers of socioeconomic ascent.
Dr. Timothy White: (28:47)
Our response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been guided by twin North stars: safeguarding the health and wellbeing of our students, faculty, staff, and the communities we serve; and maintaining our students’ progress to degree. In March, the CSU made the massive pivot to virtual instruction, transitioning over 70,000 classes, together with academic and student support services, to virtual modalities. We’ve taken great care to mitigate the pandemic’s impacts to our students, especially our most vulnerable. Measures include maintaining on campus housing and essential services for students who had nowhere else to call home, distributing thousands of laptops and tablets and offering safe WI-Fi hotspots to help address the digital divide, continuing to meet our students’ basic needs with no contact food distribution and emergency housing services for students who are food and housing insecure. Campus counseling services are offered virtually, serving students presenting with a variety of mental health issues during the crisis, and providing necessary flexibility around academic policies for current students and adjusting admission policies to mitigate hardships to perspective students and their families.
Dr. Timothy White: (30:07)
We’re extremely grateful for the more than $563 million in financial relief provided to our students and campuses through the CARES Act. Because Education Department guidance limited eligibility for CARES Act emergency grants, we have augmented those funds with campus resources so that all of our students in need due to COVID-19, including DACA students and international students, could receive much needed financial emergency support. Informed by the guidance of scientific and medical experts, along with public health officials, we are planning for a primarily virtual fall with exceptions for critical in-person experiences that can be conducted within rigorous standards of health and safety.
Dr. Timothy White: (30:51)
As we plan for the fall and beyond, the CSU confronts a grim new fiscal reality. Our campus has faced soaring costs and mounting revenue losses associated with the pandemic, putting our students’ wellbeing and success at significant risk. The recently passed California budget cuts our appropriation by $299 million, 4.2% of our operating budget, unless additional federal relief funds are forthcoming. So I ask for additional support and investment during this historic public health crisis, I believe so on behalf of the nation’s largest and most diverse student body. Keeping these students, students from all walks of life enrolled and graduating with a high quality degree not only benefits them, their families and communities, it is also a vital public good for the nation.
Dr. Timothy White: (31:44)
Supporting higher education at this critical moment, stimulates employment for hundreds of thousands of Americans now and into the future, spurring tax revenue while reducing reliance on social services. America, for the economic recovery, will require an increasingly nimble educated workforce. We need culturally competent problem-solvers, comfortable and capable in the sciences and technology, climate literate, and inspired to lead the world to a sustainable future. We need them to ensure a vigorous American economy in the changing world of work, and we need them for a vibrant and more equitable society. We stand ready to be a resource as you continue to explore ways to support higher education. Thank you again for the opportunity to address you today, and I’m happy to answer any questions that you might have.
Chairwoman Davis: (32:35)
Thank you. Thank you, Dr. White. Now I recognize Mr. Pulsipher for five minutes. Thank you for being with us, sir.
Mr. Scott Pulsipher: (32:45)
Chairwoman Davis, ranking member Smucker and members of the subcommittee, thank you for this opportunity to share my views on the impact of COVID-19 on the future of higher education. At WGU, we are compelled by our belief in the inherent worth and ability of every individual and in the transformative power of education. We believe that the pathways to opportunities should be open to everyone. WGU is a private nonprofit self-sustaining institution founded in 1997 by a bipartisan group of 19 governors who saw the opportunity to use technology and competency-based education to expand access to higher education and better align with workforce needs. Today, we serve over 120,000 full-time students in all 50 States, over 70% of whom would be classified in one or more underserved categories. We deliver affordable, relevant, high quality programs combined with a student-centered instructional model entirely online, and that propels students towards completion, great jobs and opportunity.
Mr. Scott Pulsipher: (33:48)
Recent months have seen life upended for every American, and particularly for the nearly 20 million students enrolled in higher education. There are immediate and persistent challenges, students have acute needs for material support to stay on their path to opportunity, and we need to ensure access to the online world in which learning now takes place. Over 21 million Americans, disproportionately people of color, do not have sufficient bandwidth to stream this hearing, take part in our civic life, access education or participate in the digital workforce. There are also many anxious questions about the fall semester. But students also need us to look well beyond the fall and address strategic questions facing American higher education.
Mr. Scott Pulsipher: (34:33)
Higher education entered the pandemic with preexisting conditions: rapidly escalating costs, widening disconnect with workforce needs, crushing student debts, unacceptable racial disparities and outcomes, and low completion rates. Now the sector is in the throes of technology-driven disruption, irreversibly accelerated by COVID-19. Near-term issues are certainly pressing, whether safely reopening campuses, enabling institutions’ online shift, or the protection of displaced students due to …
Speaker 2: (35:03)
… for the protection of displaced students due to potential closures. We must reestablish the purpose and mission of post-secondary education and modernize the way we invest in it. We must embrace the technology-first approach to teaching and supporting students. We must move swiftly and radically to not only get the 20 million currently enrolled students back on their path to completion, but also upskill many of the 40-plus million Americans who have been displaced during the pandemic and the tens of millions more whose work is being reshaped by technology. That simply, we need to reimagine post-secondary education as a true lifelong model, providing high quality relevant pathways to both an individual’s first and next opportunities. Even short term support and accommodation should be designed and prioritized with the longterm in mind.
Speaker 2: (35:49)
The written testimony I’ve submitted includes various policy ideas that I believe address many of the challenges our country and its students faced as a result of COVID-accelerated shifts. Its policy ideas are based on a few simple guiding principles. First, students should be prioritized over institutions. Second, student outcomes matter more than institutional inputs and learning or mastery rather than time should be the critical denominator of education.
Speaker 2: (36:23)
In the 1930s, our nation responded to a great economic crisis by passing the New Deal. In the 1940s, facing an unprecedented need for education as young soldiers returned from war hungry for opportunity, Congress opened the door to direct federal investment in higher education by passing the GI Bill. In the 1960s, facing widespread protests and social unrest and response to structural racism, we saw a wave of legislation around civil rights. Today we find ourselves at the intersection of several similar, great forces. We face a significant economic challenge, have an unprecedented need for education in threatening the future workforce, and sadly continue to grapple with inequities which have been both exposed and widened by the pandemic.
Speaker 2: (37:09)
We’re living in unprecedented times, times that demand our best thinking, new frameworks, and smart investment. Congress can renew the pathway to opportunity for every American. We need landmark legislation on education and work, a new approach that can meet the challenges of this moment and the future that follows it, that is designed for the digital and information age, and that can fundamentally modernize our approach to investing in and unlocking the potential of every individual. Thank you for the opportunity to be here today and to be of assistance as you take on the critical question facing America’s higher education system.
Chairwoman Davis: (37:46)
Thank you very much. Appreciate it. Now recognize Dr. Harper for five minutes.
Dr. Harper: (37:53)
Thank you for including me in this important hearing. It is imperative that we devote serious attention to the numerous racial equity consequences of reopening campuses. I present 10 considerations in the written version of my testimony. I will talk only about nine of them here as the one pertaining to student visas and travel bans is outside the purview of this subcommittee.
Dr. Harper: (38:16)
Here are nine critical racial equity considerations. One, disproportionately placing essential workers at risk. Custodians, food service professionals, and maintenance workers will inevitably be deemed essential workers when campuses reopen. Professionals of color are disproportionately performing these roles. Being required to come to campus and interact with other workers and students, places employees of color and the family members with whom they live at greater risk of exposure to COVID-19. Campus reopening plans must consider the health implications of employees of color and lower income essential workers. Federal aid specifically earmarked for the safety of employees who are deemed as central workers would help institutions provide PPE cleaning supplies, contact tracing, and testing.
Dr. Harper: (39:11)
Two, the racialization of layoffs and terminations. Financial effects of the pandemic will force higher education leaders to make tough workforce reduction decisions. Inattention to the race of the persons being terminated and laid off will inevitably yield pronounced negative effects on employees of color given the low level service positions they disproportionately occupy. Hence, campus reopening plans must specify ways to avoid even more significant racialized employment inequities. Federal investments would help minimize the necessity workforce reductions at higher education institutions.
Dr. Harper: (39:52)
Three, risk of violence for Asian American and Asian international students and employees. Recent studies documented horrifying acts of discrimination and physical violence toward Asian Americans and Asian immigrants in the US throughout the pandemic. Thus, reopening plans must include ways to protect these students and employees as they return to campuses so our trauma and grief support for persons disproportionately experiencing loss. COVID-19 deaths are disproportionately affecting communities of color. Because of this, students of color and employees of color from these groups are likelier than their white counterparts to have lost a family member, friend, or someone in their community. Reopening plans must include ways to ensure these persons have more than adequate mental and emotional support resources.
Dr. Harper: (40:50)
Five, sending infected students home to vulnerable families and communities. Many institutions plan conclude on campus living and learning by Thanksgiving in anticipation of a possible second wave of the coronavirus. Given the disproportionately higher numbers of COVID-19 infections and deaths among people of color, it is plausible that students of color returning home from college could pose an especially big risk to communities that have already been disproportionately devastated by COVID-19.
Dr. Harper: (41:25)
Six, placing black football and men’s basketball players at disproportionately higher risk. In 2018, black men were 2.4% of undergraduates enrolled at universities that make up the five most financially lucrative intercollegiate sports conferences, yet they comprise 55% of football teams and 56% of men’s basketball teams on those campuses. Thus, participation in these two contact sports places black undergraduate men at disproportionate risk of COVID-19 infection. Seven, financial support for chronically underfunded minority-serving institutions. Investing significant federal COVID-19 recovery funds specifically into historically black colleges and universities, tribal colleges, and community colleges would help them better serve the low income Americans they disproportionately educate, most of whom were students of color.
Dr. Harper: (42:22)
Eight, addressing racialized digital access inequities. As we have seen throughout the pandemic, low income students lack access to reliable high speed internet. Many of them are students of color. As institutions consider reopening in phases with the fraction of courses meeting on campus and others online, plans must include strategies and investments in closing digital access gaps for students of color who continue to access courses from their homes in lower income communities.
Dr. Harper: (42:50)
And ninth, upskilling faculty members in teaching students of color online. Faculty development activities included in campus reopening cannot focus just on creating teaching tricks to keep all students [inaudible 00:08:03]. They must also pay attention to ensuring that students of color are not experiencing the same racism in virtual classrooms that they experienced in on campus learning environments long before the pandemic. Thank you.
Chairwoman Davis: (43:17)
Thank you, Dr. Harper. We appreciate all of you and appreciate your staying within the limits, especially. That’s very helpful. Under committing rule 88, will now question witnesses under the five minute rule. I’ll be recognizing subcommittee members in seniority order. Again, in order to ensure that the members’ five minute rule is adhered to, staff will be keeping track of time and we’ll use a chime to signal when one minute is left and when time is up entirely. It’s a little annoying charm chime that we have, but nevertheless, it’s helpful to us. They will sound a short chime when one minute is left, a longer time when time is up, so please be attentive. If any member experiences technical difficulties during the hearing, you should stay connected on the platform. Make sure you are muted with the mute button highlighted in red and use your phone to immediately call the committee IT director Sheila [Havener 00:44:13] whose number has been provided.
Chairwoman Davis: (44:16)
And as chairwoman, I now recognize myself for five minutes. And again, just putting this in a bit of context as everyone has done. As evidenced by the last recession, we know that state higher education budgets are often the first to be cut during economic downturns as states look to balance their budgets. A study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that states will lose 765 billion over the next three years. Already states across the country have announced cuts to higher education spending. For example, California announced a $970 million cut for the University of California and California State University systems. These budgets drive up tuition costs that ultimately place the burden on students and their families and reduced academic quality. And of course we know it’s not just the tuition of costs that students bear, but it also is living expenses, a whole host of other needs to be successful in their studies. Dr. Harper, what was the impact of state higher education budget cuts on students and institutions in the great recession?
Dr. Harper: (45:32)
Thank you for that question. The impact was for sure disproportionate on chronically underfunded institutions like community colleges, historically black colleges, and tribal colleges. Certainly the steep roads to recovery for them was a much deeper climb than for more highly resourced institutions. In many instances, the financial pain of that time period still remains for many of those institutions as they are seeking to catch up. It is why I am especially worried about the financial consequences of the pandemic on those institutions. We have seen this before again with the Great Recession, so I’m hoping that Congress will pay particular attention in its investments to ensuring that those institutions don’t have a steep hill to climb in their recovery.
Chairwoman Davis: (46:27)
Thank you. And just following up on that because I think sometimes people feel that there doesn’t need to be a federal role here, so why is federal investment critical to supporting students in institutions? Why isn’t it the state governments or in the case of other schools, enough without that kind of federal funding and what’s likely to occur without that immediate federal action to address these funding shortfalls?
Dr. Harper: (46:56)
Well, for one, we will see tremendous unevenness across States and their investments in post-secondary education. But secondly and I think most importantly, higher education is a public good that benefits the entirety of our nation and our nation’s position in a global economy. Therefore, federal investment into higher education is really an investment into the economic security, the homeland security, and the viability of the United States.
Chairwoman Davis: (47:33)
Yeah. Thank you. I want to turn to Dr. White. Dr. White, how will this multimillion dollar state budget cut impact CSU’s ability to operate and serve students? I know you addressed this somewhat, but focusing on those students already having difficulty for a variety of reasons pre-COVID, we have to I think deconstruct the reasons why students were having those difficulties in the past as well? Dr. White?
Dr. White: (48:03)
Yeah. So in the spring term alone across the California state university, we lost $337 million in lost revenue and added costs to pivot these classes and do it in a healthful way. The state budget that was just approved by our governor has a $299 million cut in our base appropriation, which is about 4.6% of our operating budget. Importantly, the federal government can play a role here. [inaudible 00:48:33] set up is that you by October 15th provide another financial support to the states, that $299 million will be reversed and given back to the CSU. So it does have an effect. These numbers are real and we will do our very best to meet the needs of our students, as many as we possibly can going forward.
Chairwoman Davis: (48:56)
Thank you, Dr. White. I think my time is up as well. Appreciate it. I want to turn to Mr. Smucker from Pennsylvania for the ranking member to ask his questions.
Senator Smucker: (49:12)
Thank you, Madam Chair. I thank all the panel [inaudible 00:49:15]. President Pulsipher, have just a question for you in regards to what’s already been mentioned college affordability, which is of course a top priority for policymakers, but certainly for students and their families. I know Western Governors has a track record of keeping costs low, but this pandemic is adding additional financial burdens in all schools. I’ve certainly heard from institutions throughout at my home state, Pennsylvania, that a COVID-19 is going to lead to increased costs on students in order to safely and accurately implement health protocols. So would like to get your thoughts on that, including how has federal action helped the sector so far and what role could Congress play? What role should we play in helping colleges open responsibly and helping them to reduce additional costs on students?
President Pulsipher: (50:14)
Thank you, ranking member Smucker. COVID-19 was surely not in any institution strategically plan, and so the cost of adapting are definitely quite large and great for many institutions. Because of WGU’s operating model, WGU itself is not experiencing any budgetary pressures like many of our peer institutions. That’s primarily because much of our investments and operating expenses do not include the operating buildings and campuses and many other things that also have been revenue sources from housing, feeding, or even student life activities and athletics, et cetera. So with that kind of operating model where our entire self-sustaining operations is dependent on tuition alone, it has allowed us to continue on interrupted.
President Pulsipher: (51:05)
I think these same COVID pressures are highlighting now or exposing, if you will, the many challenges that exist with the economic model that we have in higher education in the US. And so I think in general we should be focused first and foremost with this principle on students and how do we consider the funding and supports necessary to provide the instruction, the access, the improved digital experiences that they need to continue in their progress and the programs. And so how do we ensure that students are not so severely disrupted that they’re stopping out, ends up to where they’re not completing. And so I think that can be a guiding principle is Congress contemplates how to provide the appropriate aid and stimulus so that the near term impact of pandemic could be managed, but also we can design for the longterm and really reinvent the economic model of higher education.
Senator Smucker: (52:00)
Thank you. I know the department and Congress have provided institutions some temporary reprieve from regulatory burdens throughout this crisis, which I believe we all believe was appropriate to help institutions quickly adapt to meeting the challenges of COVID-19. What can we learn from that for the longterm? What regulations, what guidance should Congress reevaluate for the longterm in light of what we’ve learned through the pandemic?
President Pulsipher: (52:36)
Thank you for that question. I think those were appropriate. Surely the rapid shift from a traditional classroom or place-based instruction to a predominantly, or if not, 100% online instructional model, it does require the rethinking of this faculty-student interaction and requires rethinking about the even time of instruction and credit hour and the pacing of learning. And if you consider many of the eligibility requirements that are program and institution, even a student level for federal student aid, they’re constructed around a very conventional model of learning.
President Pulsipher: (53:14)
And so now when we are having a rapid shift to a technology enabled model, those paradigms that we’re used to are being reconstructed. And so I think it’s appropriate to have short term accommodation for that. Now it’s really informing how we should think about distance education, how we should think about pace and learning progress, assessment of learning, et cetera, that those models should be contemplated in the future.
Senator Smucker: (53:42)
What about current, and I’m sorry to cut you off, I’m almost at the end of my time, but we use a number of accountability metrics like cohort, default rates, financial responsibility scores, and so on. Should we be looking at any of those and thinking about which of those would you continue and which should potentially be changed?
President Pulsipher: (54:02)
We should definitely be looking at primarily what I would call student success metrics. I think there’s elements around persistence and progress and completion rates and also attainment and placement rates that lead to things like loan repayment rates as being a good measure of accountability for the effectiveness of the educational pathways. And I think that’s a good example of where focusing on measurements of outcomes as the quality measures of learning rather than institutional models or input.
Senator Smucker: (54:27)
Chairwoman Davis: (54:27)
Okay. Thank you very much. [inaudible 00:19: 34]. I now want to turn to Dr. Foxx, the ranking chair of the education committee. I understand that Dr. Foxx, that you’d love to go next.
Dr. Foxx: (54:52)
Well, thank you very much, Madam Chair. I was quite willing to wait until the next person, but thank you. I appreciate it.
Chairwoman Davis: (55:03)
You’re fine. Go ahead. I’m sorry. I actually was going to go to Mr. Courtney, but I just got a notice that you wanted to be next in the queue, but if Mr. Courtney is okay with it, we’ll go ahead and hear from Dr. Foxx and then we’ll go back to Mr. Courtney.
Mr. Courtney: (55:19)
I’m fine. Go ahead, Virginia.
Chairwoman Davis: (55:21)
Okay. Thank you.
Dr. Foxx: (55:22)
Thanks, Joe. I appreciate it. Mr. Pulsipher, thank you again for your testimony today, for the work you do to help students, and particularly one student, I know you’ve helped and I’m very grateful for. Western Governor’s University has shown competency-based education, which is an educational program where students progress based on mastery of skills instead of time spent in the classroom, is a successful model for many students. CBE can benefit students by quickening time to a degree, lowering college costs, building portfolio of success. Could you describe WGU’s experience building CBE programs and the success of your student graduates compared to other institutions post-secondary education? I’m particularly interested in the achievement of your low income first generation of minority students and how CBE benefited their lives. And again, I know of particularly one low income first generation student that you’ve been a big help to.
President Pulsipher: (56:23)
Thank you, ranking member Foxx. Surely WGU was not the inventor of competency-based education, but we are one of the pioneers of it. We today we have over 191,000 graduates since founding, and the use of competency-based as a pedagogical model was a purely a function of our focus on the students, particularly the working learners that we serve. And so really competency-based approach focuses on keeping the standards for proficiency or learning constantly and allowing the time to vary, and that affords us the ability to better align learning outcomes with the workforce needs, to personalize the student journey to increase the probability of the individual student’s success, and ultimately allows them to both leverage prior learning and move at their own pace.
President Pulsipher: (57:12)
For WGU, we are serving students in all 50 states. We have a 45 four-year graduation rate at the bachelor’s level, which is significantly higher than the 30% nationally. We have really high employment rates at 95% with 88% in fields [inaudible 00:57:31]. And maybe more importantly, employers, 97% of them are saying our graduates meet and exceed expectations and are ready for the job.
President Pulsipher: (57:42)
Particularly to your question about low income and underserved students, while we still see gaps in their attainment versus their white peers and their higher income peers, the reality is, is that they are achieving at a higher rate than we have seen nationally, and particularly in low income, rural, and military categories of individuals. And so we’re quite proud of our ability to access and serve underserved individuals.
Dr. Foxx: (58:11)
Thank you. The Higher Education Act does not have a clearly defined pathway for the CBE model. How is the flexibility of current law restrained other institutions from creating CBE programs? What recommendation do you have to reform the HEA to encourage the proliferation of high quality CBE programs?
President Pulsipher: (58:33)
Thank you. As noted in my written testimony, it’s definitely we believe it’s time to fully embrace competency-based education. If I recall, according to CBN, the Competency Based Network, over 600 institutions have pilots or programs developing for competency-based education, but they are hampered like we were with the disparity with current regulatory definitions, mean the design of it. And that could be trying to shoehorn program considerations into credit our accreditation models, regulatory criteria around full time and pacing, et cetera, that it makes it quite difficult to rapidly innovate and expand access to these highly effective and aligned program models. And so we do believe that legislation and regulatory frameworks should encourage innovation, not just support it. And if we also focus more on student success and outcomes rather than prescribing a model, our nation and our American workforce will be better served.
Dr. Foxx: (59:37)
Thank you. You’ve built a strong connection between WGU and employers. Why’d you [inaudible 00:59:43] and how did this outreach contribute to your students’ success? What can other institutions do to engage employers in their academic programs?
Speaker 2: (59:55)
Well, I think we simply believe that if education is to be the surest path to opportunity, then it has to be aligned with the market that presents those opportunities. And so we leveraged large data sets from partners like MC or Burning Glass about workforce demands and roles, and that informs the programs and credentials that we develop and offer. And then beyond that, we we partner directly with employers and experts from those fields to design the curriculum so the learning outcomes directly map to the competencies required in the workforce. We do believe that the future of education is based in skills and competencies and it’s a language that employers are speaking more fluently, and higher education can invest in this more workforce and employer partnership model to increase the alignment and relevancy of educational pathways to opportunity.
Dr. Foxx: (01:00:45)
Thank you very much. Madam Chair, I’d like to submit for the record facts related to funding by various entities and the growth in spending that has occurred over the years. We’ll submit that separately. And thank you very much. I appreciate, and again, I appreciate Mr. Courtney’s consideration. Thank you.
Chairwoman Davis: (01:01:07)
Thank you. I’ll now turn to Mr. Courtney for his five minutes.
Mr. Courtney: (01:01:11)
Great. Well, thank you, Chairwoman Davis and ranking member Smucker, and Mrs. Foxx, always glad to accommodate your schedule. Dr. Harper, you’re correct in your testimony that our committee does not have direct jurisdiction over the state department or the Department of Homeland Security. However, the Higher Education Act does authorize various programs that does promote exchange students in international cross-pollination and our higher education programs with countries over the world. And so just strictly from just a pure monetary standpoint, there’s about a million international students that are enrolled in the US. That’s about $41 billion in terms of revenue. The Department of Commerce actually treats that tuition money as an export for the purposes of our trade balance. And obviously, I think as you I’m sure can attest, the policies of this administration, which has pretty much shut down the visa availability for wanting to enroll in the US, and then [inaudible 01:02:27] announcing that ICE can actually deport students from this country whose [inaudible 01:02:32], just really kind of goes and flies in the face.
Mr. Courtney: (01:02:42)
We’re hearing today about the fact that do we need a regulatory structure that needs to be flexible given the COVID emergency and just to also recognize that online virtual learning, partly because of necessity, but also partly because as a value as we just heard from Mr. Pulsipher, is something that we are a place right now where we have to incorporate having the arbitrary policies that are actually now talking about deporting people. It really puts education in an impossible position about sort of having to balance things like staying on the right side or fiscal government and trying to protect their [inaudible 01:03:26]. I was wondering if you could touch on number 10 in your opening remarks and how we have to look at it in the whole picture holistically, in terms of [inaudible 01:03:37] which we’re facing right now for us. S.
Dr. Harper: (01:03:40)
Sure. Appreciate you giving me an opportunity to talk through that point. It’s really important. Those policy section are not only arbitrary as you’ve noted, but they’re also [inaudible 00:28:55]. I wrote that particular consideration in my written testimony before we got the news Monday about the ICE deportations. I somehow had a scary suspicion that this administration would find some way to target [inaudible 01:04:15] students and international students from other countries.
Dr. Harper: (01:04:19)
It is so important to note that international students make our colleges and universities better. They afford American students the opportunity to interact with people who [inaudible 00:29:38]. Well, if that’s the case, we need international students here to afford our students that kind of learning opportunity. But I think it is important to push against all of the xenophobic and sinophobic actions that we’re seeing in this administration. And these most recent actions concerning ICE and the deportation of international students is just ridiculous. They require stronger federal oversight.
Mr. Courtney: (01:05:23)
Thank you. I mean, we’ve had a lot of press in Connecticut about student athletes. I think the NCAA calculates there’s about 20,000 international students as part of the NCAA. Geno Auriemma, the women’s basketball Hall of Fame coach was in the press talking about three student athletes that are in his program, one from Croatia, one from Poland, and one from Canada who are now basically unable to get into the country, but to his credit, I mean, he pointed out in the press and I’m quoting him now,” not just athletes, but kids who are enrolled here going to school. What is the issue here? Can’t we [inaudible 00:31:03]? What, because they don’t make two million a year in the NBA or major league baseball, the NHL?” Because obviously ICE [inaudible 01:06:11] and allowed visas for athletes who are in [inaudible 01:06:17] college sports. So again, we’re just sort of dealing with these contradictions that are putting pressure on campuses to open more than [inaudible 01:06:27] be given where they’re located [inaudible 01:06:30] different classes of people from overseas who can actually come here [inaudible 01:06:37] our country. Thank you for your testimony. And with that, yield back, Susan.
Chairwoman Davis: (01:06:42)
Thank you very much. [inaudible 01:06:43] Kentucky, you have five minutes.
Speaker 3: (01:06:47)
Thank you much, Madam Chair. I really appreciate you conducting this. My question’s for Mr. Pulsipher. I know in your testimony, you said that suddenly 3.3 million teachers were suddenly grappling with how to teach online, and I know that Western Governors University is online. [inaudible 00:32:10]. I actually had the occasion, which I have my daughter home this half a semester and watching her online [inaudible 01:07:20]. although the price didn’t change, the quality was the same between, and she was at her traditional on campus program.
Speaker 3: (01:07:28)
So I guess my question, Mr. Pulsipher, is what has Western Governors done to propel students into the workforce that is at least equal to, but I guess in your opinion, would be superior at least to a traditional a student program? What are the things online that you’ve figured out that other universities need to do if we move forward this way? Specifically I’d like to if you address the minority students or students of color, particularly with the digital divide that Dr. Harper [inaudible 01:08:00] the digital divide was also rural and urban as much as anything else. And so it [inaudible 01:08:11] you address the digital divide?
Chairwoman Davis: (01:08:28)
Thank you, Congressman [inaudible 01:08:30]. I appreciate that question. I think one of the most important thing [inaudible 01:08:34] embrace the entire capabilities of the medium. And by that, what I really mean is you have to have a tech-first mindset. How does technology enable all facets of the engagement of the student with the content, with the instructors, with the pure students, everything else. And if you truly consider all the other dynamics that we as the consumers experience, [inaudible 01:08:58] few of them if any would you argue that the online experience is worse than the traditional place model, whether it’s [inaudible 01:09:05] Well because we realized that teaching and learning models online is about [inaudible 01:09:16]. And so you have to think about how are we providing access to the subject matter and the instructors that really help at an individual basis. How do you change the nature of content consumption away from a lecture in a hall to what all the videos [inaudible 01:09:33] and the virtual courses [inaudible 01:09:35] with peers on. So much of the instruction of learning actually occurs asynchronously that’s outside of the interaction with the instructor. [inaudible 01:09:47] concept of time, but now an individual is in control of the time rather than an institution setting lecture schedule and office hours for faculty, et cetera. The last thing I would point out is that the data could then become
Scott Pulsipher: (01:10:03)
The last thing that I would point out is that the data that then becomes available to an institution to really test the efficacy of all the different pedagogical approaches, the technology that’s deployed, et cetera. You can actually now measure the impact on student progress and learning. This extends to our ability to help underserved students and individuals of color, because you can actually engage with them, every student, on a one to one basis.
Scott Pulsipher: (01:10:25)
The last point is I would extend what Dr. White has also said in his testimony is that [inaudible 01:10:32] has invested in providing scholarships that cover specifically technology, like laptops as well as high-speed bandwidth access, things like that. [inaudible 01:10:46] to address this digital divide that now exists.
Speaker 4: (01:10:51)
Okay, so my [inaudible 01:10:55] is if you’re looking at an online model, and you’re on the other side of the digital divide, that you might not see that as an opportunity for you, even though, as you said, could be a [inaudible 01:11:09] opportunity for you. So [inaudible 01:11:10] Western Governor’s University reach out to students that may not [inaudible 01:11:14] view this as an opportunity for them to make sure that they know that it’s there. Oh, am I out of time?
Chairwoman Davis: (01:11:18)
I think you’ve had the second bell.
Speaker 4: (01:11:25)
I thought that was the first bell, I’m sorry. Okay. I’m sorry. I’ll yield back then. I apologize.
Chairwoman Davis: (01:11:31)
Thank you very much, Mr. Harder of California. You have five minutes. Is Mr. Harder? Mr. Harder? Oh, Mr. Takano? Okay, I don’t have you-
Mr. Takano: (01:11:56)
Chairwoman Davis: (01:11:57)
Yes. Mr. Takano, you are next, but I hadn’t had you earlier. So if you are ready to go, go ahead.
Mr. Takano: (01:12:04)
Yes, thank you. Thank you, Chairwoman Davis for holding this critical hearing on the future of higher education in our country. During recessions, states typically cut funding to their public education systems first when they are experiencing budget shortfalls. These cuts almost always disproportionately impact, low income students and students of color. During these cuts institutions will be forced to provide less resources to help these students. The [inaudible 01:12:43] dollars Congress provides in the CARES Act was an essential lifeline, but it doesn’t come close to covering the full extent of the need. The American Council on Education had previously estimated that institutions and students will need at least 46.6 billion dollars to address the challenges and [inaudible 01:13:04] created by COVID-19.
Mr. Takano: (01:13:05)
As of last week, ACE now estimates that institutions may need an additional $74 billion to cover just the costs of resuming in-person hybrid instruction in the fall. In my district, the University of California-Riverside has already experienced a revenue loss of $22 million. Now, my first question for [inaudible 00:03:34]. It’s good to see you again, sir. Can you please tell us about the [inaudible 01:13:38] that the Cal State system has suffered as a result of COVID-19? Dr. White? [inaudible 01:13:49] White.
Dr. White: (01:13:49)
Just had to hit my unmute button. Nice to see you again. Yes. So just in the spring term alone, from the sort of two and a half months, from March through the end. I guess three months. We had $337 million dollars in loss across the California State University. That includes the increased cost of mitigating COVID with personal protective gear, buying laptops and wifis and giving them to students and the faculty and staff and all of that. That was just a three month period of time. So about a 100 million dollars a month.
Dr. White: (01:14:26)
We anticipate that rate to continue this next 12 months. In addition to that, the state of California has cut our state appropriation by $299 million, which is 4.6% of our operating [inaudible 01:14:41] for next year. However, the federal government can play a role in reversing that if there is another federal stimulus package that is received in California before October 15th, it’s a reverse trigger proposal that the governor has signed. Then that cut in our state appropriation would be reversed for the next fiscal year, which will be enormously hopeful to meet, as you point out, the students that are first generation and often of low income who needed a little extra support in order to stay engaged with their studies.
Mr. Takano: (01:15:11)
Thank you for that answer, Chancellor White. It’s imperative for Congress to, for the Senate to act on future legislation that would address. I know that we do much of that in the HEROES Act. Dr. Pierce, what are the revenue losses at your institution?
Dr. Pierce: (01:15:36)
Yes, thank you for that question. We’re not a system, we’re a standalone institutions, so our numbers may sound small, but the impact is the same. We are looking at approximately 850,000 dollars in just parking and auxiliary services alone. Our original FY21 budget was based on our enrollment being flattened, meaning that we didn’t anticipate growth nor loss. But we’re now projecting a deficit of anywhere between 10 to 20% in enrollment, and that would essentially mean $4.2 million. If we’re down 10%, and $7.78 million, if we experience the 20% loss. So that’s a significant impact on our overall budget that we would have to mitigate in ways that would be very detrimental and painful for our students, [inaudible 01:16:36], and staff and have an overall impact on our community.
Mr. Takano: (01:16:37)
Well, thank you for that, Dr. Pierce, and Dr. Harper, my question to you is what lessons can we learn from the last recession about the impact that state budget cuts have on college access affordability and quality?
Dr. Harper: (01:16:52)
Sure. We can certainly learn from the last time that [inaudible 01:16:59] taking a largely raceless approach to correcting longstanding inequities is only going to, at best, sustain those inequities, but perhaps even exacerbate them. So I think as I documented in the 10 points of my written testimony, we have to bring a race forward, race salient lens to thinking about COVID-19 recovery.
Dr. Harper: (01:17:27)
Because the truth is we have way too much evidence to confirm that COVID-19 has had a racially disproportionate impact on communities of color. Therefore, it would be just really reckless of us to attempt to remedy those inequities in a largely raceless way. I am not suggesting that class and socioeconomic status is somehow unimportant, but there is a way that race and class co-mingle in these United States of America, to really produce disparate outcomes for people of color.
Mr. Takano: (01:18:03)
Thank you for that response. I see, Madam Chair, my time is up. I yield back.
Chairwoman Davis: (01:18:10)
Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Takano. Now we’re going to turn to Mr. [Growthman 00:08:21], but beforehand, Mr. Guthrie, if you want to reclaim your one minute, and I guess I should reclaim my one minute too. But Mr. Guthrie, go ahead, and if you need an extra minute. Let’s see, is Mr. Guthrie there?
Chairwoman Davis: (01:18:41)
Perhaps Mr. Guthrie has left. So we’ll go on to Mr. Growthman. If Mr. Guthrie comes back later on, he can get his one minute again. Mr. Growthman.
Mr. Growthman: (01:18:53)
Thank you. I always love these kinds of online things because we can see the beautiful decorating that we haven’t in our members’ houses. So you do a very good job there. I appreciate looking what’s behind you. I’m kind of in a boring conference room myself, but next time I’ll try to give you more interesting decor as well. Mr. Pulsipher, is all of your classes online?
Scott Pulsipher: (01:19:22)
Yes, they are.
Mr. Growthman: (01:19:24)
Okay. Do you feel compared to a traditional college, a higher percentage of your graduates come out with a skills based education?
Scott Pulsipher: (01:19:36)
Yes, we do. Based upon the surveys that we utilize from Gallup and Harris and others, is that there’s a pretty good indication from the employers, as well as the graduate surveys, that our graduates are better prepared for the workforce, 97% of employers say that they are meet or exceed expectations. 97% of employers would hire them again. I think that our alignment in the curriculum with those competencies needed in the workforce is significantly increasing the readiness of graduates.
Mr. Growthman: (01:20:08)
Can you give me a comparative number? Is there a comparative number you have for other universities?
Scott Pulsipher: (01:20:15)
Yeah, there is, at least in our surveys, if I flipped to our annual report, I would look at things like, so in the Gallup or in Harris surveys, if we looked at graduates, was it worth the cost? Our graduates are 77% versus nationally 38%. Did it prepare me for a job? 76% versus nationally, I think it was below 50%. From an employer’s standpoint, there’s data like 97% of have graduates from WGU exceed or meet expectations. The other thing with Gallup surveys is that I think the numbers, I think we could provide them and submit them to test my after the fact. But I think a specific on Gallup, I think it’s more than twice as likely that our WGU grads are performing well in all five dimensions of wellbeing versus nationally.
Mr. Growthman: (01:21:09)
Wow, that’s pretty incredible. Do you think it’s because you’re online? Or do you just think you approach your job with a different attitude, an attitude of a student first attitude? Do you think you could duplicate these fantastic numbers in a more traditional university if they would adapt the same interaction with their students?
Dr. Harper: (01:21:33)
Based upon the research from Gallup and others, there are probably three things that I do think should be considered. One is how do you really think about the faculty engagement with students and make it more personal in the interaction? If you will, the office hours and the one on one interaction become vitally important because a lecture is just content online.
Mr. Growthman: (01:21:54)
Do you steer your people more towards the skills based education?
Scott Pulsipher: (01:21:59)
We are entirely competency based in our design, such that as soon as you demonstrate proficiency against the learning outcomes, you can progress. So it’s very clear that time now becomes a variable and most of our students’ lives versus sitting in a seat for the prescribed 15 hours a week for four months. So I think that the mentoring, the faculty engagement model, is highly important and noted that if you have a faculty who encourages your dreams and aspirations, I believe Gallup noted that you’re two and a half times more likely to say that your school is right for you. I also think college affordability factors heavily into graduate satisfaction performance, and then of course, designing curriculum and learning outcomes that are directly relevant and ready a graduate for success in the workforce that also dramatically increases graduate and student satisfaction. I think we have opportunities to advance education’s design in all of these dimensions.
Mr. Growthman: (01:22:56)
Okay, I’m particularly concerned with the middle class students. They don’t get Pell grants. So really in our society, we really put the middle class students at a disadvantage. How do you deal with student debt, or do you feel the amount of student debt your middle class students come out with us higher or lower compared to a traditional university?
Scott Pulsipher: (01:23:18)
We know for a fact that it’s actually lower. So 57% of our students at WGU actually utilize that aid in some form or receive aid in some form for their education at WGU. On average, our graduates are graduating. I’m just trying to find the specific statistic really quickly. They’re graduating with just over $12,000 in debt at graduation. That compares to nationally at $29,000 per graduate. More importantly, you can see that our cohort default rates and loan repayment rates among our graduates are also performing better than national averages. Our cohort default rate is just about 4% versus nationally at 10.8%.
Mr. Growthman: (01:24:04)
Wow. Well, I guess what it means is we need, do you ever think about setting up an Eastern Governor’s University?
Scott Pulsipher: (01:24:11)
The nice thing is, is that that didn’t preclude us from serving students in all 50 states. So we have more students in the east than we do in the west.
Mr. Growthman: (01:24:19)
Okay. I guess you’re giving me the hook.
Chairwoman Davis: (01:24:23)
Thank you [crosstalk 01:24:24] .
Mr. Growthman: (01:24:24)
Well, thank you. I’d like to thank you again for letting us see your beautiful house. Very wonderful. We’re happy to hear next from Chairman Scott, chairman of education and labor committee. Chairman Scott.
Chairman Scott: (01:24:39)
Thank you, thank you Madam Chair, and certainly thank you for holding this hearing. I’d like to start with Dr. White, you’ve talked about this a little bit, but can tell us exactly what would happen if the cuts go through. I know we’re dealing with this in Virginia. Our general assembly passed a budget. When we came back for the schedule, what we call veto session, where we consider governor’s vetoes and amendments, we learned a new word: unallocated. The 2% teacher raise was unallocated, the counselors in the schools, the aid to low income students of community colleges, construction of colleges, all unallocated because of their re-forecast and revenues. We assume we’ll learn another word if the HEROES Act were to pass and the revenue were restored, the federal assistance reallocated. So could you tell us what would happen, who gets laid off and what effect it would have on education if the cuts actually remained?
Dr. White: (01:25:55)
Yes. Thank you, member. I think we’ve done several things to decrease our costs. We immediately put in a hiring freeze across the system. We’ve also banned travel initially for health reasons and now for economic reasons. So when our various constituent groups gather, they’re doing it virtually going forward. We also have, during the last eight years I’ve been chancellor, we’ve been in a position to grow and we’ve put aside a reserve during that time, as has the state of California. So we’re going to be using some of that reserve, spinning that down in order to mitigate the costs. But there would also be some employee attrition issues that’ll lower our cost as well. So we think our enrollments are steady here in the summertime and all indications are for the fall they will remain steady.
Dr. White: (01:26:53)
It’s going to be variable across the campuses. Some of the urban ones are going up. Some of the more rural run to going down a little bit, but overall, the cut from the state budget of $299 million can be reversed if Congress acts with the next federal bill, and that will help us continue to make access in support of our students generally have low income and middle income to the last members’ questions, as well as to our students of color. So we think it’s a very vital role for the federal government to play here. Asking the state to maintain efforts, so the state doesn’t further cut us. But if these federal dollars come in, it’ll make a huge difference for our students going forward, earning their degrees.
Chairman Scott: (01:27:38)
Thank you, Dr. Harper, are you familiar with the new regulation from the Department of Education making it harder to get a recalculation of your financial aid if you lose your job or have other reasons to want your aid recalculated?
Dr. Harper: (01:27:58)
No, I haven’t followed that legislation.
Chairman Scott: (01:28:03)
Okay. They’re making it harder, so, the problem there would be if you lose your job and are not able to make the anticipated contribution, obviously if you can’t recalculate the aid that’s needed, bad things will happen. If you’re not familiar with that, Dr. Pierce, you talked about reopening. There are some things you didn’t mention. How can you reopen that would be testing all of the students before day one?
Dr. Pierce: (01:28:42)
Yeah. Well, with us being a non-residential campus, we would be following the guidelines provided by CDC and the Minnesota State Health Department, which the state of Minnesota is providing for those who want it and need it, and we’re able to work in concert with them. So our screening procedures follow the guidelines from the CDC, the Minnesota State Department of Health, and the Office of Higher Ed.
Chairman Scott: (01:29:12)
Does that include testing everyone before day one?
Dr. Pierce: (01:29:15)
It dos not.
Chairman Scott: (01:29:16)
What about a ventilation?
Dr. Pierce: (01:29:19)
Yes. Well, part of our reopening is to look at air quality because we are very much aware of the fact that it’s something I’ve recently learned, actually, is that we want to minimize any cross ventilation in terms of air moving from one geographic area to another. So we’re looking at air quality and we’re also looking at space. So we’re looking at our HVAC system and the quality of air in our HVAC system. I’ve been actually learning quite a bit about it in terms of [inaudible 01:29:56] standards, which are a way of measuring air quality versus air efficiency. So as we’re looking at-
Chairman Scott: (01:30:05)
My time has expired, but one of the things about air conditioning is they recirculate the air, which has been identified as problematic. If they pull the air out and then send it outside and rather than re-circulate, just cool the air, the best they can, you’re better off. But ventilation has been identified as a problem. There are a lot of things about reopening that are problematic. You’re dealing with it the best you can, and I appreciate that. [crosstalk 01:30:41]. Thank you. Thank you, Madam Chair.
Chairwoman Davis: (01:30:42)
Now turning to Mr. [Vonic 01:30:44] Of New York for five minutes. Mr. Vonic? We’ll go to Mr. Banks.
Mr. Banks: (01:31:04)
Thank you, Madam Chair. I want to start with Mr. Pulsipher. since many American families are above the federal Pell grant income eligible level, how can aid better be distributed to students who really need help to return to school in the fall?
Scott Pulsipher: (01:31:23)
Thank you for that question, Congressmen. I do think that there is no doubt a short term hardship that should be contemplated in considering how to support students who need to continue on their path. So even at WGU, while our institutional operational models have not been impacted, our students, given the disproportionate number that we serve in underserved categories have been largely impacted by the economic fallout of the pandemic. So there are considerations around supporting non-tuition related expenses, whether that be housing, food, other necessities of life, that we ourselves have established a $10 million aid fund, and in just the last six weeks have distributed aid to over 4,000 students.
Scott Pulsipher: (01:32:10)
Those things can be contemplated as we consider both short term and long term considerations, that would not just only be related to Pell eligible students, but individuals who are trying to advance from lower middle income to upper middle income, and how do you support that investment? One of the longer term examples is something as simple as a lifetime learning account that can model after things like a health savings account, or even like a home equity line of credit that just allows individuals to tap into [inaudible 01:32:42] day to support their upskilling and reskilling that will be increasingly part of their life going forward.
Mr. Banks: (01:32:47)
Very helpful. I want to turn my focus to a subject we haven’t talked to a great deal about yet today, and that’s liability protections. All of your institutions belong to advocacy groups who have called for liability protections. I want to go first to Dr. Pierce, can you talk about how important are liability protections to reopen your institution for in the classroom training in the fall?
Dr. Pierce: (01:33:14)
Thank you for that question. We are a state institution. So we are covered under the State of Minnesota. However, I am very much aware that institutions feel a great risk in terms of liability opening. In terms of how they are going to be able to cover any lawsuits that may emerge as a result of students, faculty, and staff returning to campus, who may come into contact with COVID-19, who may have increased hospital bills and things of that nature. Even though the schools are following every guidelines provided by the CDC, their individual state health departments and Office of Higher Education, the liability is there. The liability is real, and it has a chilling effect on our plans moving forward.
Mr. Banks: (01:34:09)
Dr. White, could you weigh in on that subject as well?
Dr. White: (01:34:17)
Our twin north stars about moving to a primarily virtual fall term, and quite frankly, academic year, was driven by the health and safety issues and our student progress to success and health and safety issues, not only for our students, but for our faculty, our staff, and the community. Our campuses in California stretch over 800 mile distance from the North coast up in Arcadia, down to San Diego State, and a lot of our students come from other parts of the state. So we’re very concerned about those two things.
Dr. White: (01:34:52)
We did not use liability as one of our determining factors to move to an essentially virtual fall and quite frankly, academic year. One of the issues here that I think is really important to recognize is this pandemic is not, a lot of people are using past tense. How did you manage the patent pandemic? This is not a two month problem or a six months problem. This is a 12, 18, 24 months as a minimum problem. In California, we’re approaching it that way. So the flexibility around policies can’t be shortsighted. Some of the recent policies that have come out that have undone some of that flexibility seem to be tone deaf to the reality of the biology of the disease, that is something that we’re not yet able to get our hands around.
Mr. Banks: (01:35:38)
Mr. Pulsipher, your situation is different at WGU, but can you talk about important liability protections would be for an [inaudible 00:25:49].
Scott Pulsipher: (01:35:49)
Yeah. Congressmen, as you noted, obviously with no in-person instruction and no campuses on which students congregate, this is not a circumstance that we understand all the variables at play and considered. S it is a topic I would definitely defer to my colleagues that have campuses and their broader considerations there. I’m not unaware of them, but it’s not something that I’ve personally spent the time and attention and understand the details to give a cogent answer to.
Mr. Banks: (01:36:20)
Understood. Thank you very much. I yield back.
Chairwoman Davis: (01:36:22)
Thank you, Mr. Banks, and I now yield to Ms. [Jayapal 01:36:29]. Is Ms. Jayapal with us? If not, Mr. Harder, you have five minutes. Mr. Harder of California? Mr. Levin of Michigan.
Mr. Levin: (01:36:59)
Thank you very much, Madam Chairwoman, I’m here. Yes. Appreciate it. I appreciate you convening this hearing on this super important topic. I want to get very concrete about the difficulties of running a university or a community college during this pandemic. As a Michigander, I want to mention the COVID-19 outbreak in East Lansing that’s been linked to a popular bar near one of our great institutions, Michigan State University. As of July sixth, yesterday there had been 170 confirmed cases, 1-7-0 confirmed cases of COVID-19 linked to this one bar restaurant, including 27 secondary cases, meaning people who did not visit that establishment, but caught the virus from someone else who did. The entire Lansing region has been moved back into the high risk category of our Governor Gretchen Witmer’s reopening plan, given the enormous impact of this outbreak.
Mr. Levin: (01:38:14)
This is over just an eight day period following the restaurant’s reopening. It has since closed again. I bring this up because it’s a cautionary tale of the risk involved in reopening college campuses this fall. We can’t just think about classrooms and dorms. Colleges anchor entire communities. Restaurants, bars, stores and so on. Cases of COVID-19 within a student body or faculty aren’t going to stay within a campus’s walls. Many reopening plans developed by institutions center around the need to test students, test faculty, test staff, to contain cases of COVID-19 on campuses.
Mr. Levin: (01:38:59)
However, estimates show that the testing capacity in most states is still far below what is needed to contain the virus. In fact, the lack of adequate testing is the lead story in today’s New York Times. Dr. White, when you decided to remain online for this fall, and as you say, perhaps the whole academic year, did testing capacity and possible scenarios like the situation in East Lansing play into that decision at all?
Dr. White: (01:39:29)
Absolutely, it did, Congressman Levin. I mean, Jiminy Christmas, we’re responsible for well over 530,000 people with our employees and with our students, let alone to your point exactly what’s happening in East Lansing and the communities where we embedded. [crosstalk 00:01:39:51].
Mr. Levin: (01:39:51)
Dr. White: (01:39:52)
We [inaudible 01:39:52] $50 million a month to do testing on a routine basis, which is just not in the cards. Quite frankly, to your point is if you test today and you’re negative and it’s an accurate test, that doesn’t mean you don’t pick it up tomorrow. Right? So we have gone to the notion of really anywhere from about 3 or 4% to maybe 10% of our courses are going to be in person. They’re the laboratories, they’re the health care training where, they work on mannequins, et cetera. But everything else will be done in the virtual space because of the cost and the inefficiency really of helping solve this and keeping the disease under control for students. But we have like 25% of our employees are in their sixties and above. We’re responsible for them.
Mr. Levin: (01:40:44)
You consulted with faculty and staff when you made your decision as well, I assume?
Dr. White: (01:40:49)
Faculty, staff, students, local public health officials, epidemiologists, and infectious disease experts in the state government. Yes. Broad consultation across the system.
Dr. White: (01:41:01)
As you say, it seems like you could easily see what’s happening in East Lansing, play out at any college bar in the country, or even at a party on a campus anywhere. So let me ask Dr. Pierce, if we improve testing and stood up a nationwide contact tracing program, do you think school administrators like yourself around the whole country would feel better equipped to reopen knowing there’s an infrastructure in place to contain outbreaks? I’m talking about, Dr. Pierce, the federal government fully taking responsibility, saying, “We will have a national contact tracing and testing program in place.” Would that affect your decision making?
Dr. Pierce: (01:41:47)
I believe it would. I think that we follow the guidelines provided for us by the state of Minnesota, the CDC, and the Office on Higher Ed, but having a robust screening and testing policy and practice in place would certainly play into our total decision making and make us feel a lot safer about welcoming our students to campus. Our whole guidelines are based on the health and safety and employees. So anything that would enhance that would be welcome.
Dr. White: (01:42:20)
Thank you so much. As I hear, Madam Chairman, my time’s expired. I’ll just say that I feel so badly as a member of Congress, which is supposed to govern our whole country, that we’re putting these wonderful administrators of our great universities and community college into this position of having to deal with this pandemic when we’re not providing the national infrastructure of public health that we’re capable of providing, that would help them so much, and with that I yield back.
Chairwoman Davis: (01:42:53)
Thank you, Mr. Levin. Mr. Klein? Mr. Klein of Virginia.
Mr. Klein: (01:42:58)
Thank you. Madam Chair.
Chairwoman Davis: (01:42:59)
Please, go ahead.
Mr. Klein: (01:43:00)
Great. Thank you, Madam Chair. As we’re adjusting to this new normal, as they call it. I’m not partial to that term, but some are calling it that. It’s important that we evaluate how this pandemic has impacted the traditional way higher education has been delivered to students and how it will continue to transform moving forward.
Mr. Klein: (01:43:20)
Online learning is one of many approaches that’s proven to be successful, and its implementation and exploring opportunities for expansion presents a promising alternative to in person classes during this time of increased virtual connections. Not only does it allow students flexibility in their individual response to COVID, it solves many of the contributing disparities to educational access that minorities and those of lower socioeconomic classes face by eliminating certain barriers.
Mr. Klein: (01:43:46)
But it does create new ones, as was already discussed in relation to a lack of broadband access. Online learning offers more affordable options that can be customized to meet individual schedules, allowing for continued learning to be a viable option for those who are balancing other commitments, like caring for family or holding a job.
Mr. Klein: (01:44:06)
Prior to the pandemic, 20% of student loan borrowers were behind on their payments. This further emphasizes the importance of affordable and flexible education, particularly as student debt has climbed over $1.5 trillion dollars. When I served in the Virginia general assembly before coming to Congress, I authored a bill inspired by the Western Governors University structure. I directed the Virginia Secretary of Education and the State Council of Higher Education to work with Virginia public colleges and any private colleges who were willing to develop a program for an online degree with a lower cost, at that point $4,000 per academic year.
Mr. Klein: (01:44:42)
Virginia is blessed with many great institutions of higher education, and it’s important that they’re affordable and accessible to students. I’m committed to continuing to work on ways to incentivize these types of innovative paths forward while I serve in Congress. So I’ll ask President Pulsipher, I know you mentioned 77% of WGU alumni respondents reported that their-
Congressman Klein: (01:45:03)
… 77% of WGU alumni respondents reported that their education was worth the cost, compared to the national average of 38%. That’s a testament to the work you’ve put forward. Let’s see. I want to ask, as the COVID pandemic disrupted lives across the country, you note in your testimony that many people will need mid-career re-skilling. What are some barriers stopping people from seeking additional skills-based education and how can Congress help people whose lives were disrupted by the pandemic-caused economic downturn?
Mr. Pulsifer: (01:45:39)
Thank you, Congressman Klein, for that question. I think there is increasing evidence for sure that learning to earning, if you will, or educational work is absolutely the loop of what adults are going to go through in the future. And some of the barriers are simply that, what is the program design, and whether those programs are eligible for federal aid that many of our lower and middle-skilled workers actually need to advance their careers and professions and such.
Mr. Pulsifer: (01:46:05)
And so, for example, many such programs, whether they’re apprenticeship in design, or short form in duration. Whether they be technical coding boot camp models, or a short micro-credentials, as they’re often referred to. These often don’t meet the eligibility requirements, whether it’s full time attendance, or whether it’s elements related to a degree-seeking, a credential model that is a credit hour-based model. And so, these aren’t typically contemplated within the scope of federal regulation that governs higher education.
Mr. Pulsifer: (01:46:39)
Higher education generally is oriented towards the notion of a first-time, full-time student who is pursuing an associates or a degree of some sort. And what we’re seeing is that employers are now increasingly entering into the space and providing employer-led training programs, paid internships, apprenticeships, or even partnering with the technical colleges that are advancing the availability of these programs. These are opportunities for us to address not only the first-time students, but also the re-skilling, up-skilling students.
Congressman Klein: (01:47:11)
Thank you. I appreciate it. Yield back.
Chairwoman Davis: (01:47:15)
Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Klein. And I now turn to Mr. Sablan for the Mariana Islands. Mr. Sablan, you have five minutes.
Mr. Sablan: (01:47:25)
Thank you, Madame Chair. And thank the witnesses all for their participation today. My questions are generally directed for Dr. Pierce and Dr. White. And then I have other questions I will submit for the record. So the CARES Act provided over what, $14 billion in emergency support to institutions and students to address the immediate impacts of the pandemic? Colleges are required to use at least half of the funds they received on emergency financial [inaudible 01:47:57] the students, while the other half can be spent on institution expenses associated with the change in delivery of education resulting from COVID-19.
Mr. Sablan: (01:48:09)
So while distribution of all the CARE funds from the administration to my districts [inaudible 01:48:15] were delayed. Directs to them relief payments began the first injection of economics stimulus for individuals in the Marianas since the beginning of the pandemic. So I’d like to hear from Dr. Price and Dr. White about how they’ve used the federal funding that they received today. Could you both speak briefly to how you approach the awarding of the [inaudible 01:48:36] emergency grants and campuses? Specifically I’d like to hear about how you identified and prioritized the students with the most need in awarding emergency aid. I’ll have to use the institutional sheriff cares funding that you received. And what other activities and services would you fund? Did you put access additional federal support, like in the hero side? Thank you.
Dr. Pierce: (01:49:01)
Okay. Thank you for the question. What we considered the funding in terms of the intent from Congress to meet the needs of students and especially students that were, had higher needs levels. And we also [inaudible 01:49:19] students credit load because that is part of the funding formula. We identified eligible students and they each received a base award of $100. Then eligible students received additional supplemental funds based on credits and a percent of the share.
Dr. Pierce: (01:49:39)
Then we also withheld a percentage of the total grant so we can award additional funding based on a short application to meet additional needs such as housing, food, basic needs, child care, technology, transportation, and things of that nature. And so that’s how we disbursed the funds because we… it was very important for us to use an equity [inaudible 01:50:06] in distributing the funds. We used additional funds…
Mr. Sablan: (01:50:08)
Dr. Pierce: (01:50:10)
Mr. Sablan: (01:50:12)
No, go ahead Dr. Pierce, please.
Dr. Pierce: (01:50:14)
We’ve used additional funds to pay for increase [inaudible 01:50:18] costs. The funds that were in the second half of the funding that arose such as cleaning supplies, laptop rentals for all students, [inaudible 01:50:27] library services and licenses and things of that nature. Software licenses, internet access, additional computers. And [inaudible 01:50:36] And we anticipate [inaudible 01:50:42] significant amount of [inaudible 01:50:44] instruction restrictions that would not operate [inaudible 01:50:56] of COVID.
Mr. Sablan: (01:50:55)
Okay. Yeah, and this may be below Dr. White’s pay grade, but do you have any comments Dr. White? Do you have anything to add to what Dr. Pierce just said please?
Dr. White: (01:51:05)
Well, we distributed $263 million in direct student funding, but directly to financial institutions. So where students, even those who lacked documentation, could access the funds. So deep seated to inclusive excellence and equity to student success. We wanted to make sure that students who were involved [inaudible 01:51:27] progress to degree and administrative simplicity. So our awards range anywhere from $500 to up to over $5,000. And we used it in the panel student body, which is over 60% of our students. We use those at least expected family contribution first and worked our way up, from the bottom up until that amount of money. Equity, ease, and simplicity and accountability, were the ways in which we distributed those funds. University aside, just like Dr. Pierce, we’re using it for COVID-19 induced additional expenses across that 23 institutions.
Mr. Sablan: (01:52:08)
Yeah. And then Dr. White, you have a student population that’s just as great as the district I represent in number. I’ve been to your institution, your system. I have additional questions to ask and I will submit it for the record if you could please respond to them. I appreciate it. Thank you.
Mr. Sablan: (01:52:34)
I hate that bell.
Chairwoman Davis: (01:52:36)
Thank you, Mr. Sablan. And now I believe Dr. Murphy, of North Carolina. I know he was here earlier. I don’t see him. Let’s see. Mr. Smucker, I’m going to go on to the rest of the Democrats that are there. Is there… I just want to be sure that [inaudible 01:53:11] whether or not you have someone on you side.
Speaker 6: (01:53:14)
[crosstalk 01:53:14] Chairwoman Davis, Dr. Murphy does appear to be still available in the participant list.
Chairwoman Davis: (01:53:20)
Oh, okay. Great. Dr. Murphy, are you there? Well, we’ll come back to Dr. Murphy.
Speaker 5: (01:53:33)
I have a chair. Mr. Watkins was on previously as well. I don’t know if he still is.
Chairwoman Davis: (01:53:41)
Speaker 6: (01:53:42)
Dr. Murphy is visible.
Chairwoman Davis: (01:53:44)
Oh, terrific. Okay. I’m going to go back to the grid, but I didn’t see him.
Speaker 6: (01:53:49)
Dr. Murphy. You’ll need to unmute, sir.
Dr. Murphy: (01:53:54)
Okay. I consider unmuted.
Chairwoman Davis: (01:53:57)
Great, Dr. Murphy you have five minutes.
Dr. Murphy: (01:53:59)
All right, thank you guys very much for your time. I want to actually ask different members of the committee to answer this question. I’m really concerned and help me walk through this because I think we’ve lost a little bit higher education, a little bit about what our purpose is in some ways. I want to say that a lot of industries and everything, obviously the nation’s been hit with a calamity, the like of which we didn’t expect this anymore. So, we want to train and educate our individuals that go off to colleges and universities to live lives of constant learning. And that’s where it is. It’s not technical school per se. It’s allowing critical minds to think. And I’m wondering though, that in and of itself though, where industry is exampled, we have times where we have to cut our belts, trim our fat. And given the fact that money now flows very, very freely from the federal government to colleges and universities, really with no strings attached. I’m wondering what suggestions each of you could offer that colleges and universities could tighten their belt areas that they could.
Dr. Murphy: (01:55:12)
And we’re here-to-for, it’s been basically a blank check from the federal government. And now given the shortage that’s happening across every industry in the country; where colleges and universities will fall in that line. So if everybody can just do it in sequence, I look forward to your responses.
Dr. Harper: (01:55:30)
Sure. I’ll weigh in on this one first. I want to acknowledge that so many college or university presidents, as well as campus re-opening task forces are working incredibly hard. And they are figuring out how to bring recovery plans to life, understanding that there’re going to be really tight fiscal constraints.
Dr. Harper: (01:55:56)
I wonder if instead that energy might be better placed on figuring out how to effectively educate students in a virtual environment. At least for this fall semester and thinking about how to do that well. It feels to me like that is a much less expensive project in terms of both the expenditure of human and fiscal resources. I frankly find it annoying that so many campuses are scrambling to figure out how to play football this fall and how to ensure physical distancing in stadiums. It just feels to me like the money would be better spent trying to figure out how to close the digital equity access gaps. And again, how to better prepare faculty to teach online, at least for this fall semester.
Dr. Murphy: (01:56:51)
All right. Thank you.
Dr. Pierce: (01:56:54)
Thank you Dr. Harper for your comments. I would like to just speak on the point of about community and technical college. In terms of… That is exactly where we are spending our time, our effort and our resources. And figuring out how to make sure that our students have the same quality level of an online hybrid experience that they would have-
Speaker 7: (01:57:18)
[crosstalk 01:57:18] two weeks of August. So this could potentially unravel-
Dr. Pierce: (01:57:23)
– delivering instruction. However, there are some career and technical programs that simply cannot be offered in an online environment. For example, air force, I’m sorry, air craft maintenance technician. External accrediting bodies and the work that they must do requires that they be face to face with their instructors so that they’re able to demonstrate a level that is acceptable for the FAA. So it is incumbent upon us to spend the time and the resources to make sure that we’re able to deliver that type of instruction to students in a safe environment, that protects the faculty and staff who work in those [inaudible 01:58:06]. For example, [inaudible 01:58:09] that is another career [inaudible 01:58:11] that absolutely requires face-to-face interaction. So we’re balancing the needs of our students, the needs of the program, the needs of our external accrediting bodies, so that we can meet our mission.
Dr. Pierce: (01:58:27)
Those are all incredibly important things for us to do. We are balancing the needs to control spending by delaying [inaudible 01:58:38], or different types of construction programs that need to be done.
Dr. Murphy: (01:58:45)
Right, thank you. I want to make sure everybody gets a chance too miss. I appreciate the answer.
Dr. Pierce: (01:58:50)
Dr. Murphy: (01:58:51)
Dr. White: (01:58:52)
Congressman Murphy, Tim white here. An educator [inaudible 01:58:56] in the public good; equity matters. So federal funds and for MSIs and for institutions matter. Education really is a matter of social justice. At all times, and particularly-
Dr. Murphy: (01:59:13)
All right, let me ask you this. I get all the matter stuff. How are you going to trim costs?
Dr. White: (01:59:18)
We have trimmed costs by decreasing hiring, decreasing travel, going together with other universities on procurement, better rates and eliminating unnecessary activities that can be postponed in terms of construction and maintenance. But it’s really important to recognize that the investment by the feds is a investment in the nation’s future. Unemployment is one half. If you have a college degree versus not, at any given rate of unemployment. So let’s not be looking just at the cost, but looking at the return on investment.
Dr. Murphy: (01:59:52)
I understand that. I have a terminal degree, so I appreciate that. One other individual. Can we get our other, four?
Mr. Pulsifer: (02:00:01)
Yeah. Thanks Congressman Murphy. I think to get to the heart of your question, one of the considerations should be simply to consider what is the percent of an operating budget that’s directly on instruction.
Dr. Murphy: (02:00:13)
Mr. Pulsifer: (02:00:13)
Advancing student outcomes and the attainment of their credentials. And then the question it would be is, for those costs that are not related to instruction, what are the revenue sources for those? I would just echo what Dr. Harper had said, which is the emphasis and the priority I think should really be focusing on how does an increasing percentage of operating budgets focus on teaching and the transfer of learning to the individuals who are seeking and acquire your credential. There’s no doubt that universities have taken on many different purposes and missions of so much of that as a merging a life, or emerging adult experience. But that can be a very costly undertaking with a very different operating in the economic model, but now has been disrupted by COVID. And so I think one of the considerations is what percent of operating budgets are dedicated to destruction and increasing probability value.
Chairwoman Davis: (02:01:08)
Thank you very much.
Dr. Murphy: (02:01:10)
I guess that’s our time. Thank you.
Chairwoman Davis: (02:01:12)
Thank you Dr. Murphy. I now move to Mr. Harder. Mr. Harder are you there? [inaudible 00:16:18].
Mr. Harder: (02:01:21)
Wonderful. Well, thank you so much, Madame chairman-
Chairwoman Davis: (02:01:23)
You have five minutes.
Mr. Harder: (02:01:24)
Well, thank you. Thank you so much to the panel for participating. In my district, the schools are right now announcing their efforts to resume on campus instruction. What exactly that’s going to look like this fall. Clearly, it’s going to be very different from what it might’ve been last year and while our CSU Stan Sate will hold classes primarily online, I think it’s really important to make sure that our educators and their families and the students themselves are getting guidance for reopening. I wrote a letter to secretary DeVos with, with bipartisan support, asking for guidance from the Department of Education. And I continue to hear from teachers and parents, that this is their top concern that we are… As we’re going through this reopening process, that we’re making sure that we’re doing it safely with the right guidance to folks on the front lines.
Mr. Harder: (02:02:20)
Dr. White, my first question’s for you. Reopening is really going to be uncharted territory, whether schools choose to do so in the fall semester or if they choose to do so later on. What measures, what guidance and support, would you hope to see from the Department of Education in advance of resuming on campus classes?
Dr. White: (02:02:45)
Well, I think you know, the CDC has been helpful with their guidelines for, and their guidelines. And the thing that I think really matters here is there’s such variability in across the state of California, let alone across the country with respect to disease progression. We cannot change the biology of the disease, but what we can do is change the human behavior around that biology. And here in California and others have commented in other States in the union, where things have started to re-escalate again. Okay. We imagined another bump later this summer. We have a forecast that’s a very strong forecast of a greater wave of this disease. Coupled with influenza come October, November. And another wave coming in sort of March, April.
Dr. White: (02:03:34)
So our planning horizon has been for the longer term, rather than trying to figure out how to get to the next two weeks or two months. And I think that is a fundamental mindset that took awhile through collaboration with our faculty, staff, students, and communities to go from, how do we preserve what in person to, how do we move to a virtual and then back away from that as the disease progression allows us to do. Fundamentally different approach.
Mr. Harder: (02:04:02)
That’s helpful. And my next question actually comes from that. It’s around connectivity. I think making sure that we have the right infrastructure in place is going to be really important. This pandemic has exposed the digital divide in rural areas, such as my district, the President of Stan State shared with me that she’s concerned by the lack of access to wifi and internet, in the 21st century. Lack of internet access for our students is simply not acceptable. Dr. White, what can the CSU system do to help connect students in these areas to internet and what can the federal government do to support you in those efforts?
Dr. White: (02:04:42)
Well, I think as a university, we have had a lot of our campuses create wifi spots in their parking lots, provide security services into the parking lot. So students that drive, stay by themselves in their car and do their work. There is the edge of room, internet capability that perhaps a college student from Stan State could be close to an elementary school. And it’s somewhere in Sacramento or down in Fresno and still get access to the internet. The governor’s council on post-secondary education at Gavin Newsome appointed myself and the other heads of public and private higher education in the state has made getting rid of the broadband digital divide one of the top priorities for California. And this is a place where I think federal investment, it helped jumpstart that if you will, to get more dollars into getting rid of this, [inaudible 02:05:36]. The key for equity and social responsibility going forward is to remove that divide.
Mr. Harder: (02:05:43)
Thank you. And that’s a big focus for a lot of students in our area. Finally, Dr. Harper, I have a question for you. We know the great recession, disproportionally impacted education in underserved communities with reduced enrollment, higher dropout rates, even students graduating with large debts and no jobs to pay back those student loans. What can we do to better support our students in this pandemic?
Dr. Harper: (02:06:09)
I think it is important for us to get ahead of the predicted outcomes. And recognizing that in prior periods, everything that you just named had a disproportionate [inaudible 02:06:22] We will [inaudible 02:06:25] in our recovery efforts.
Mr. Harder: (02:06:28)
Okay. Thank you with that. I yield back. Thank you so much to our panel and thank you, Madame chairman.
Chairwoman Davis: (02:06:37)
Thank you, Mr. Harder. And I believe Mr. Watkins of Kansas is with us. Mr. Watkins, you have five minutes.
Mr. Watkins: (02:06:44)
That’s right. Thank you very much. Thanks to the panel for offering your time and expertise. Mr. Pulsifer, what are the practical ways colleges can remain affordable for students? Has the pandemic changed that or created any new changes to making schools more affordable?
Mr. Pulsifer: (02:07:07)
I do think the pandemic has accelerated a trend towards an increasing kind of digitally native approach to things. Digitally native means how do you really leverage technology? And in advancing the student’s ability to access a foreign experience education. There is no doubt that when you have a digitally native approach to things that you’re going to remove a lot of elements of an operating budget that aren’t necessary to that, I think that’s definitely been one of our core models. Is that how do you focus the largest percent of your operating budget, specifically on instruction? How do you make it more interactive with faculty? How do you provide more, a higher student to faculty ratio? How do you make sure that the technology is accessible anytime, anywhere so that students can learn independent of time and place? There are a lot of those elements that are addressing things that are not related to the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and abilities that they need in their credentials. And so you can take that out of the cost.
Mr. Pulsifer: (02:08:05)
Ultimately, we are at this point where I think we are fundamentally going to start addressing the arc of the cost curve in higher education and bending it down rather than just finding out or devising new funding and financing mechanisms to afford a ever increasing cost. So those are opportunities that are now being accelerated because this rapid shift to digital. And to Dr. Harper’s point, I would simply add that the investment required to enable and expand the digital infrastructure necessary to cover 100% of our individuals in America would be far less than investing in campuses and buildings, et cetera, to try to make a campus available within 15 minutes of every person. You can now bring education to every American, how to invest in making sure that they… the cellular networks, the high speed internet, fiber optic cables, whatever it may be, is fully accessible and aid programs that cover technology, devices, et cetera, that are necessary for students to learn. And that hasn’t typically been contemplated, but yet we’re willing to afford the accommodations for housing and living and other things like that. It can be very expensive.
Mr. Watkins: (02:09:16)
Understood. Thank you. And you did touch on this in your answer, but I’d like you to maybe think of any other mistakes institutions of higher learning are making with respect to their business models. And can those schools do better to adopt to the changing landscape in the post-secondary education instruction?
Mr. Pulsifer: (02:09:37)
Well, I think the first and most important thing is to really, as an institution, ask yourself the question, what is your primary purpose and how are you solving for that purpose and let everything else become secondary to that. And when, if your primary purpose is fundamentally about teaching individuals and helping them achieve the credential they came to achieve, then you’re going to focus all of your faculty design, your costs and investment model, your pedagogical engagement, peer to peer interactions around learning. And when you do that, and I think you can start to slough off a lot of investments that may remove that.
Mr. Pulsifer: (02:10:13)
You know, quite frankly, because we were designed in the age of the internet, we view place based classrooms, campuses, constraints to access. We also view them as constraints to even the advanced inequality of instruction and learning because you can now personalize in a way, learning and an online, digitally native environment that you can’t necessarily do in a classroom of 30, a hundred or even 500 students. And so I think it’s just an opportunity for leaders and for individuals like yourselves and legislators and regulators to consider how is technology shaping the future of how [inaudible 02:10:50] education.
Mr. Watkins: (02:10:53)
All right. Thank you, sir. And that’s all, I’ve got. I yield back.
Chairwoman Davis: (02:10:59)
Thank you, Mr. Watkins. We now turn to Mrs. Lee of Nevada.
Mrs. Lee: (02:11:05)
Thank you. Thank you, Madam chair. And I’d like to thank all the panelists for their insight today. I represent Southern Nevada and we were hit obviously during the great recession and now, are impacted tremendously during this time. And what the great recession taught us. It was a lot that may be happening now in the higher education space and in our economy. Following that recession, many people sought out quick opportunities to gain skills and training in order to rejoin the workforce. This trend was also coupled with loosened accountability standards, which resulted in exponential growth of for profit colleges.
Mrs. Lee: (02:11:47)
In Southern Nevada alone, we saw 30 for-profit schools close within the last 10 years. Data suggests we’re seeing this pattern again now. And we know the track record of for profit colleges in their predatory tactics used to defraud students. In particular, [inaudible 02:12:06] colleges and ITT tech are a couple of institutions that abruptly closed their doors, leaving tens of thousands of students strapped with worthless degrees and mounds of debt. Unfortunately, Secretary DeVos’ borrower defense role has made it nearly impossible for them to seek relief for this burden. Setting the precedent that fraudulent bad actor schools are coddled by the government while students and taxpayers are stuck footing the bill. I’d like to ask this question of Dr. Harper and others are welcome to chime in. What do you think Congress can do right now to prevent predatory bad actor schools from preying on students during this recession?
Dr. Harper: (02:12:51)
I think that the Obama administration began to make some really serious traction on this. And obviously lots of those efforts have been rolled back. I think we need to restore those efforts. I think about this and I care very deeply about it because we know that it is people of color and more specifically, low income women of color, single mothers, working mothers who are really the targets of the predatory practices. We owe it to those women of color to safe guard them from being preyed upon when they are most vulnerable. As we see joblessness rates increase across the country, who’s most affected? African-Americans. So, when those people are out of work and thinking about being out of work, affording them an opportunity to up-skill, re-skill, pursue higher education, we must protect them from being preyed upon by for profit institutions.
Mrs. Lee: (02:14:00)
I’ll move on to Dr. Pierce. How does the department’s failure to protect students from predatory actors hurt the ability of community colleges to serve these students?
Dr. Pierce: (02:14:20)
It has a severe impact on our ability to serve the students. They arrive having used up a great deal of their Pell eligibility or having used up all of their Pell eligibility. They also frequently arrive already in debt because they’ve also taken on additional debt in addition to having used up their Pell eligibility. They arrive with credits or credentials that don’t lead to a degree, don’t lead to a living wage. And it makes very difficult to serve the students and it limits what they’re able to do. So they start 10 feet behind the start line, and it makes it that much more difficult for them to move forward, to get to a place where they’re able to actually complete a credential and earn a living wage.
Dr. Pierce: (02:15:12)
So instead of program maybe taking 12 months, it takes 24 months. And they are steadily increasing their debts [inaudible 02:15:21] started out with a deficit to begin with.
Mrs. Lee: (02:15:27)
Thank you. Just one final question. The pandemic has brought obviously great uncertainty and we’ve seen many choosing to delay or forgo college altogether. And I’m concerned that some students may never return. I’m even more concerned about figuring out exactly who these students are. We know that FAFSA renewals among students of low income families has dropped about 8% compared to the same time last year. Dr. Pierce and Dr. White, have your institutions seen a decline in enrollment? And can you expound upon what type of student you’ve seen a decline in?
Dr. White: (02:16:12)
To California state university, we’ve not seen a decline in enrollment. But that’s because of a massive effort by our faculty, staff and administrators to reach out and recreate in the virtual space all of the sorts of things that students, first time students as well as continuing students expect from us. The summer bridge programs, getting their courses established. [inaudible 02:16:36] So that’s our approach and so far so good. We’ll know in the fall how it works out. But that’s the direct we’re headed.
Mrs. Lee: (02:16:46)
Well, that’s good news. Thank you. My time is up. And I thank you.
Chairwoman Davis: (02:16:52)
Thank you, Mrs. Lee. Mr. User of Pennsylvania I believe you are there.
Mr. User: (02:16:58)
Yes. Thank you, madam chair. Thank you very much to our witnesses. Thank you very much for being with us and for your important information on this important topic. Over the last 30 years, public schools costs for tuition room and board total cost tripled after being adjusted for inflation and private schools have doubled. Now, I certainly know the argument I was on our state board of the public schools went up and cost more because in some states there were cut backs in education funding from the States. But even if it’s double after being adjusted for inflation. In the business world, costs largely due to technology and efficiencies remained were cut in many cases or remain relatively neutral outside of course, a payroll costs. So I just ask Mr. Pulsifer to start off with. Seeing your background as a business person, you were in the technology field, you’re now head of a college. Not online college. How do you explain that? The high level of increased costs over the last 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, a two all virtually all higher education, universities and colleges.
Congressman Klein: (02:18:36)
Yeah. That’s a much longer answer than time allows, but maybe let me just highlight two things that I think about. One is there is a investment or an asset and operating model, the utilization of which doesn’t support the total consumption. And so when you consider that for most a classroom or campus based residence based on models of that, you really have to dramatically increase the utilization so that you can get the long run average cost curve to decline. Otherwise the support and operations for the buildings, for the facilities, for the student life housing, et cetera, that is going to ever increase in costs. And it’s very difficult to not let enrollment grow with it, such that if you fix enrollment, you’re not going to grow the revenue. If you’d cover that increasing costs. And there is a dynamic of that economic model.
Congressman Klein: (02:19:27)
The other important thing to note is that over the last several decades, the percent of operating budgets that is spent on instruction has been declining over time. And the emerging expenses that are spent on student life or even research and athletics and other things that have been growing as a percent of operating budgets.
Congressman Klein: (02:19:48)
There’s one other dynamic that I don’t think is often talked about, which is this notion that quality is somehow measured by scarcity or exclusivity, such that in that model, that you have this perverse behavior where if you actually increase price…
Speaker 8: (02:20:03)
Behavior where if you actually increase price, the potential quality goes up, such that the demand goes up. So you have this weird model in higher education, that there is no constraints, if you will, on institutions to raise their price and having no impact on demand and stuff can go on unbridled.
Dan Meuser: (02:20:23)
Well, what’s more of a concern is a student comes in, whether the university costs $25,000 a year or $60,000 a year. And what seems to be and I don’t get good answers on this in previous testimony. When you review their major, how much guidance is received? You take their major into consideration. You take their level of loans that they’re taking out. The student’s feedback on whether or not they’re on track to achieve that major in a four year period, loans outstanding. So there’s no big surprises at the end that they can’t get a job for more than $38,000 a year say, and in many cases, and yet they have $60,000 in loans. Now it doesn’t seem to me. I’m going to ask you all, is that type of feedback strong? Feel a responsibility to providing that feedback to the students.
Tim White: (02:21:28)
Congressman Meuser this is Tim white, our tuition and fees is $7,300 a year, more than half of our students graduate without debt. And those that do have debt is well below the national average, we’re about $17,000 in debt. With the analytics we provide a lot of advices. Students pursue their dreams, keeping them on track to degree. We’ve had a graduation initiative in place. Now for several years in Ted, we’re having all time highs in any way you calculate graduation rates. Finally, in terms of bending the cost curve, it’s just not the online colleges that can do that. During the last eight years of the CTU, we raised tuition one time for $237 in nine years. And when we were serving before COVID we had returned to post recession budget. Yet we’re serving 40,000 more students every year and graduating 75,000 more students every year than we did before. So there are ways of bending the cost curve and keeping cost down to the states, but you have to be intentional about it [inaudible 00:02:36].
Dan Meuser: (02:22:38)
Thank you. Congratulations those are good stats. Appreciate it. Thank you. I yield back madam chair.
Speaker 9: (02:22:45)
Very much. Thank you, Mr. Meuser. And Ms. Bonamici you now have five minutes.
Suzanne Bonamici: (02:22:51)
Thank you so much. And thanks to the chair and ranking member and to all the witnesses. Just to follow up on the comment from my colleague and Chancellor White’s response. The value that people contribute to our communities and to our society is not necessarily measured in the amount of their salary, which is exactly why we have things like the public service loan forgiveness program. But I want to start by saying that technology and online learning have a place, especially during a global pandemic, I would be very concerned if we’re having a conversation about the trend of higher education, moving to online learning. Portland State University here in Oregon, just did a survey of their students. 70% responded that they had a challenge with the transition to remote learning. 82% had difficulties focusing on remote instruction and prefer face to face learning. Importantly, 50% said they don’t have access to reliable internet service. And a third of the students with assessability accommodations said they had very serious challenges with accommodation. So we know that there are a lot of inequities in higher education, even before the pandemic and the pandemic has exacerbated so many of those.
Suzanne Bonamici: (02:24:07)
I’ve spoken with college students pre-coronavirus about the challenges of housing, food insecurity, childcare for students who are parents. And now with most classes moving online or moved online, and most campus housing and dining halls closed students are really facing these sudden emergency expenses. We know historically unrepresented students have had… Underrepresented have been disproportionately affected as a Dr. Harper talked about. A recent Hope Center survey found a 19 percentage point gap in basic needs insecurity between black students and their white peers. So Dr. Harper, can you talk more about the non tuition expenses and how those contribute to gaps? And I really want to get in time for another question, but I’d like your input on that, please.
Dr. Harper: (02:24:58)
Sure. I’ll be concise. It is really important to think about the important work that colleges like Compton College do to ensure that students have their transportation needs met, that they have access to and so on. And that we don’t have a solution for that necessarily if we go to them too far online, I do think that Compton College really stepped up in a really impressive way during the pandemic to partner with Grubhub and with other institutes to get meals too students and their families. But I’m not sure that that kind of model necessarily is scalable. What I think is more scalable is what Compton College was doing before the pandemic, where they were centralizing those resources. So we need more of that as we return to campuses at some point. We need a serious strategy to continue to meet students’ basic needs.
Suzanne Bonamici: (02:26:06)
I appreciate that. I also very much appreciate Dr. Harper, your statement that higher education is a public good. I think certainly Chancellor White established that with his comments about what’s happening in the California system. I was a state legislator during the great recession and know how hard it can be to balance the budget. But I’m also a graduate of a community college, a public university, and a public law school, and recognize the value of these institutions and the detriment to students when education budgets are cut. So we did provide some funding in the bipartisan CARES Act, but I know that’s not enough as Mr. Takano discussed. What specifically and this is to Dr. Harper and Dr. Pearson and Chancellor White, if there’s time, what specifically is needed to make sure that higher education institutions can continue to provide academic programming? I want to emphasize it. That is to all students and close those equity gaps that are so critical and maybe we’ll start with that Dr. Pearson and see if there’s time for Dr. Harper and Chancellor White.
Dr. Pearson: (02:27:14)
We are really committed to making sure that students continue to access basic services. So funding to help us meet those needs is critical. Students need transportation, they need childcare, they need access affordable healthcare. They need access to mental health counseling. They need access to collegiate recovery programs. They need access to peer mentoring and tutoring and they need access to their learning community. For some of our students, the act of coming on campus and being on campus is what inspires them to persevere being disconnected from the campus. It’s very difficult for them. Everyone doesn’t have quite stable environment in which to learn at home. So we need to be able to maintain access [inaudible 02:28:02] for specialty labs, computer labs, especially software, career and technical programs where students have to perform skills that must be done [inaudible 02:28:14]-
Suzanne Bonamici: (02:28:12)
Thank you. I see my time has expired, but I will ask Dr. Harper and Chancellor White on the record to respond to that question. Thank you and I yield back.
Speaker 9: (02:28:26)
Thank you Ms. Bonamici. and I don’t believe… Mr. Smucker, can I just I’ll ask you as far as you know, is there anybody on the line that… I’ve looked through here, I don’t see anybody waiting?
Mr. Smucker: (02:28:43)
I think you’re correct madam chair. I think we’re through all the [inaudible 02:28:46].
Dr. Adams: (02:28:45)
Speaker 9: (02:28:49)
Okay. I will get to Ms. Adams. Absolutely.
Suzanne Bonamici: (02:28:55)
I just wanted to double check in with Mr. Smucker. Okay. Great. Dr. Adams next followed by Mr. Norcross if he’s available and in the room, but Dr. Adams, you have five minutes.
Dr. Adams: (02:29:15)
Thank you madam chair. Thank you to the ranking members. Well, thank you for convening the hearing today and to the witnesses thank you for your extraordinary testimony. Historically black colleges and universities, tribal colleges, universities, minority serving institutions, and community colleges are primarily public institutions. That’s sort of many of our country low income students and students of color. However, these institutions are chronically underfunded. They have fewer resources to support their students. So Dr. Harper, how will state budgets cut disproportionately impact HBCU, TCUs, MSIs, and community colleges and their ability to operate effectively and continue to serve their students?
Dr. Harper: (02:30:01)
As a proud graduate of Albany State University, a public historically black university. I especially appreciate this question. State budget cuts will affect those institutions in the ways that state appropriations have affected them. They’ve been inequitable for far too long. And therefore when there are cuts, those cuts are going to have an especially deep fact on those chronically underfunded institutions. I really appreciate it. Chancellor White’s earlier response to the question where he named the price of what it costs to be a student at the California State University. So many HBCU, tribal colleges and community colleges effectively educate students of color. What far too few resources is quite remarkable. As a matter of fact, how’d they make so much out of so little, just imagine if we were able to finance them appropriately. They could, in fact together, they could help us close racial equity gaps across all industries, if only we would invest in them equitably.
Dr. Adams: (02:31:25)
Absolutely. Well, certainly thank you for your question. I am a proud two time graduate of North Carolina A and T State University, the largest, a public HBCU in the country right now. I’m a 40 year retired professor from Bennett College in Greensboro, which is a private school. But I’ve been reading that some of our nation’s HBCU could face enrollment drops of up to 20% in the fall due to the nature of this pandemic and the impact that it’s going to have on low income students. So Dr. Harper schools like HBCU are heavily tuition driven. These schools rely heavily on tuition for revenue. How should Congress support them at this time? How do we prevent what we saw during the 2008 recession where many of our schools in particular HBCU faced enrollment drops and therefore fiscal calamity down the road. So is there a way to change that tuition based model in your opinion?
Dr. Harper: (02:32:25)
Sure. I think that federal investment that are specifically earmarked for bolstering enrollments at HBCU will be incredibly helpful. Just six months ago, I concluded a project that was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation in which I was looking at HBCU enrollments. The good news is that enrollments actually have not declined over time. They have flatlined, I think with some specific federal funding that those institutions could in fact invest in the very expensive technologies that my university and others like it use to recruit students and to yield students. But those institutions don’t have the money. When you have to make a choice between repairing a sidewalk to ensure that students are safe or investing in technologies that are going to allow you to really bolster your enrollments and, or attract more students, most presidents are left with the [inaudible 02:33:34] with the choice of having to repair the sidewalk.
Dr. Adams: (02:33:39)
Okay. Well, thank you for your question. I really want to get some input from the other panelists in terms of the importance of the meticulous Department of Education oversight over CARES Acts, but funds were dispersed and used by institutions. And you may have to send me this in writing, but I think we got like one more minute. So Dr. White or Dr. Piers, if you could respond.
Tim White: (02:34:06)
Yeah. We believe in inclusive excellence, all our students, whether they have documentation or not, whether they’re international students, whether they’re from Florida or from California. So we supplemented the CARES Act with our own money. I’ll make anybody who had a COVID 19 induced had an expense, was able to be supported, but it seemed incomprehensible to me that the department of education would exclude those students because they are part of the fabric of public higher education, bringing perspectives from around the world and around the country [inaudible 02:34:41].
Dr. Adams: (02:34:43)
Okay. Well, I’m out of time. Thanks to all of our panelists for the responses and for your participation today. I yield back madam chair.
Speaker 9: (02:34:52)
Thank you. Thank you, Dr. Adams. I want to go back now to Mr. Norcross. Is Mr. Norcross available? And then Mr. Castro. Mr. Castro, you have five minutes. Mr. Castro [crosstalk 00:15:15]-
Mr. Castro: (02:35:17)
Thank you chairwoman. Thank you chairwoman.
Speaker 9: (02:35:18)
Mr. Castro: (02:35:18)
And thank you to the panelists for your testimony today. [crosstalk 02:35:21].
Mr. Smucker : (02:35:20)
Okay, folks I am back.
Mr. Castro: (02:35:25)
I had a few questions about what you believe the longterm impacts of COVID-19 will be on higher education. And let me preface my question with this. When the pandemic broke, I had conversations with both superintendents in my district, K through 12 institutions and also leaders of the higher education institutions. Our two year colleges, community colleges, and our four year universities and they all expressed some concerns and some different ones. But for example, many of the four year university said that they were seeing students drop off of plans to enroll in their institutions in favor of community colleges, simply because of the fear that they wouldn’t be able to afford to go to those four year institutions any longer.
Mr. Castro: (02:36:13)
We’ve seen that the pandemic, especially in certain States like mine in Texas, has stretched on longer and longer. And given that in higher education, there’s often this inverse relationship between cost and completion. In other words, the places that are cheapest to go to often have the lowest completion rates. What is the longterm impact of COVID-19 on where students go to college, their ability to complete, and also the support that our colleges and universities are able to offer for them? I open that up to any of them panelists?
Speaker 8: (02:36:54)
Thank you Congressman for that question. I’ll just go ahead and offer a perspective on it. There’s little doubt that individuals and their families are consumers of higher education and what we offer. When you have something like a pandemic create real disruption in the value proposition that was previously contemplated, that is going to change how the consumers of education think about it. So simply being the father of two children who are currently in a traditional model of higher education, as well as a graduate of it, but also being the leader of online competency based education. I think that dynamic is such that if many of the really beneficial emerging adult experiences, social aspects, student engagement. If those things are not part of the value proposition because of longstanding or long tenured effects of something like a pandemic, then the return on investment for the cost asked to be paid is going to be a challenge, such that many individuals, I do think we’ll start focusing more specific how can I still acquire the learning and credentials I need to advance towards the opportunities I require?
Speaker 8: (02:38:04)
What is the more affordable ROI I can get for that? If many of the other values that I previously had available to me are not available. The other thing I do anticipate is that you will see an emerging number of no employers and alternative pathways that will start to emerging. As you also consider the 40 plus million adults and 10 million workers, that are going to be displaced because of either technology pandemic that need to be re-skilled and up-skilled. A four year degree pathway is not going to be fast enough. So you will see emerging credentials and alternative pathways that serving not just the first time, full time students, but the working learners and adults who need to find pathway to their next opportunity.
Mr. Castro: (02:38:48)
Oh, thank you. I don’t know [crosstalk 00:18:50].
Dr. Pearson: (02:38:52)
Congressman I would be very quick and say that what you’ve described is exactly the mission of community and technical colleges, meeting the needs of students as they emerge. I anticipate over time, you will see an increase in enrollment and [inaudible 02:39:12], if people comeback to short term credentials, long term credentials, transfer programs, as well as opportunities to fill up and transfer into different areas of growth. Community and technical colleges are affordable. They are valuable proposition and they offer excellent opportunities to retool our economy.
Mr. Castro: (02:39:35)
Tim White: (02:39:36)
Congressman Castro, one thing [inaudible 02:39:39] conversation for a different day. But I think just this learning deficit that is appearing in our case with [inaudible 00:19:45] system, with the interruptions and disruptions are happening in public schools and in public schools that will lead to a disproportion of across the spectrum of a race and ethnicity and income level. Those students, when they do finally get to a community college or a four year university or an online college, we’ll have a different set of preparation, there’ll be some learning deficits there that the colleges and the universities are going to have to deal with. We may not be causing the problem, but it’s going to be ours to resolve at the end. That’s going to fundamentally change, I think the relationship of public higher education in particular in the years and decades ahead.
Mr. Castro: (02:40:26)
Well, thank you. I appreciate it. I yield back to you.
Speaker 9: (02:40:30)
Thank you very much. I appreciate that. I believe that we’ve come to the end of members who are ready for questions and I just check out grid again and be sure anybody and then that we didn’t see. Okay. Then I wanted to just remind my colleagues that pursuant to many practice materials for submission for the hearing record must be submitted to the committee clerk within 14 days following the last day of the hearing. So that would be by the close of business on July 21st of 2020. The materials submitted must address the subject matter of the hearing and only a member of the subcommittee or an invited witness may submit materials for inclusion in the hearing record. Documents are limited to 50 pages each. Documents longer than 50 pages will be incorporated into the record via an internet link that you must provide to the committee clerk within the required timeframe. But please recognize that years from now that link may no longer work. Pursuant to house resolution 965 and the accompanying regulations items for the record should be submitted electronically by emailing submissions, firstname.lastname@example.org. email@example.com.
Speaker 9: (02:41:55)
Member offices are encouraged to submit materials to the inbox before the hearing or during the hearing at the time the member makes the request. The record will remain open for 14 days for committee practice for additional submissions after the hearing. And without objection, I would like to enter those following reports into the record. I want to thank our witnesses, certainly for their participation today, it’s been outstanding and we know that there are many more questions out there. We are all anxious and worried quite honestly about what’s going to happen. So we know that how important it is that your remarks have been today.
Speaker 9: (02:42:39)
Members of this subcommittee may have some additional questions for you. And we asked the witnesses to please respond to those questions in writing. And that hearing record will be open for 14 days in order to receive those responses. I want to remind my colleagues in pursuant to committee practice, witness questions for the hearing record must be submitted to the majority committee staff or committee clerk within seven days. The question submitted must address the subject matter of the hearing. I now want to recognize the distinguished ranking member for his closing statement. Mr. Smucker, thank you for being with us today and I would welcome your comments.
Mr. Smucker : (02:43:19)
Thank you, Madam chairwoman. I agree. This was a great discussion. I appreciate you scheduling this hearing. I want to thank the witnesses as well for all of your testimonies, for your insight, your perspectives, and for the great work that each of you are doing in your institutions. We’ve heard from all of you about the challenges that the schools have faced in the spring, as the coronavirus forced institutions to quickly shift two virtual learning environments. We also learned that there will be further obstacles that schools have to grapple with in the fall. The pandemic accelerated the underlying trends that are shaping up post secondary education. Increasingly students are demanding a better return on investment. They’re demanding on demand education and the ability to fluidly transition between the classroom and the workforce. Simple fact is that the pandemic exposed what members on our side have been asking for, for some time that Congress must really past, real ATA or higher ed authorization reform.
Mr. Smucker : (02:44:23)
We need to get beyond just doubling down on the failing status quo, which unfortunately is what the Heroes Act does. And Congress, since that should come together in a bipartisan manner to pass… We did come together, I should say, in a bipartisan manner to pass the CARES Act. We provided billions of dollars in relief to institutions and to students that have been impacted by the coronavirus. Unfortunately, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle are insisting on spending billions more in taxpayer money without first understanding the full effect and impact of the cares act as Congress discusses additional relief, we should broaden the conversation beyond simply just more money for the sector. We should be judging our success by how well we enhance opportunities for students to seek education and to improve their station in life. Over several decades, the federal government has played an increasingly larger role in our higher education system and with some pretty dismal results, just over half our nation’s college students are graduating within six years.
Mr. Smucker : (02:45:36)
And those who do graduate are finding themselves woefully unprepared for the workforce. So Congress must work together in a bipartisan manner pass legislation that encourages universities to innovate and adapt to meet the needs of the day students. Our focus should be on reopening responsibly, and we cannot lose sight of doing what is best for students. Congress can help all students regardless of their backgrounds succeed by encouraging proven methods of learning, such as competency based education, improving workforce participation in the college classroom and allowing for innovative and stackable credentials. The time for substantive HEA reform is now. Again, I want to thank the witnesses for your testimonies today. I look forward to work with my colleagues to reform the HEA in the best interests of the students, institutions, and taxpayers. Madam chairwoman, thank you and I yield back.
Speaker 9: (02:46:35)
Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Smucker. I now recognize myself for the purpose of making our closing statement. I certainly want to thank once again, our expert witnesses for joining the subcommittee’s first virtual hearing and for your compelling testimony today. Our discussion certainly offered an important reminder that Congress still has much work to do from providing institutions with additional relief, to protecting vulnerable students from fraud, and ensuring that all students can access and complete a college degree. I think we would love to have had students in the room as well to share for us how devastating for a number of students, this has been, to try and make some adjustments, to anticipate and to even inquire and ask themselves and their families. Is it good to try and continue with my higher education at this time? What should I do for freshmen who are just entering for those who have been, maybe they had a year of school behind them, and now they’re really troubled about what the next step is.
Speaker 9: (02:47:46)
I’m sure that you all could have offered some advice about that. But our role here is to try and understand what can we do? What’s can the Congress do? What should we be doing? So again, we have a lot of work to do in that regard. We are well aware that there are a number of alternative pathways. In fact, the committee on higher ed has been working hard on workforce investment. I’m looking at how do we scale up apprenticeships more? How do we help young people who may be, are looking for alternatives to be able to access those? And especially at a time like this, when things are so uncertain. But at the same time, we have to be sure that those institutions and those programs are highly accountable, not just to the people that they serve, of course, but also to the taxpayers.
Speaker 9: (02:48:37)
So that’s a keen interest of ours and we’re working very hard on that. We also know that there are a lot of reasons why young people are not able to profit from their education as well as they should. I think as we look at how we can, re-imagined how we can think differently about higher education that we need to be certain that we understand what are those reasons for them not being able to achieve in the way they wanted in the past. How do we work hard? How do we adjust our higher education system to respond to that? And again, look at our workforce investments. So again, I thank you very much for being here and we know that we must advance the Heroes Act. I think a little differently than my colleague, Mr. Smucker. I think that we need to have that support there in order to do what needs to be done to create this re-imagining within our communities.
Speaker 9: (02:49:41)
If we don’t have that, then those students who benefit from that support, that mentoring, all that we’ve been able to do in the past will not have that in school. They will probably leave the system and maybe never return, even though they have the great potential to be able to have made those contributions as individuals in the future, we can’t let that happen. So we have to be certain that we’re thinking ahead about the support that’s needed. There’s no question, but that COVID has impacted the ability of each and every school to prepare their students and to be able to deliver in the way that they need to deliver. So I hope that we can come together on behalf of the Heroes Act and overcome this pandemic and excel into the future. Thank you again, we really benefit from your expertise today and with that, there’s no further business without objection, the subcommittee stands adjourn. Thank you all. (silence)