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TX Higher Ed Orgs Call on State Lawmakers to Expand Student Supports During COVID Pandemic

Moments ago, the Texas Postsecondary Advocates Coalition and Austin College Attainment Network released a joint open letter urging Texas lawmakers to expand supports for Texas students through the COVID-19 pandemic. Signed by a diverse coalition of Texas higher education and college access organizations, the letter provides concrete policies the state can implement now and in the 2021 legislative session to support students most impacted by this crisis. 

“During these unprecedented public health and economic crises, Texas’ students are struggling to make ends meet as they lose their jobs, adapt to the new realities of an online college education, and keep themselves and their families healthy,” said Aurora Harris, Southern Regional Director for Young Invincibles. “With 75 percent of student jobs nationally being cancelled, delayed, or moved to remote work, we invite our leaders in Austin to the table to ensure that young Texans have the support they need to stay healthy and financially stable. By aligning emergency resources, addressing the financial burden of student loan payments, and expanding health services including mental health, we can help ensure every Texas student can weather this crisis and still have a chance to build a stable and secure life.

But we need to act now. Just a decade ago we saw the impact that a recession has on students. If we are to avoid another devastating setback for the state’s students, we need leadership from Austin now. We stand prepared to work with any lawmaker willing to seriously address the issues that are impacting students during this pandemic,” Harris concluded.

“As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, Texas college students are facing the perfect storm of health, education, financial, and familial challenges,” said Ashley Williams, Policy Analyst for the Center for Public Policy Priorities. “Many Texas students faced only days’ notice of the loss of their critical on-campus housing and jobs. In addition to the personal and familial housing and financial insecurity exacerbated by the crisis, students confront the additional challenges of adapting to digital classrooms, all under the severe stress caused by a global pandemic.

We appreciate the extremely difficult choices federal, state, and local officials are making to slow down this deadly virus and to “flatten the curve” on new cases. During this critical moment, institutions, elected officials, and state leaders must collaborate on policies that assist vulnerable students through the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath,” Williams concluded.

“COVID-19 is disrupting the dreams of a college degree for hundreds of thousands of college students in Texas,” said Michael Griffith, ACAN Policy Chair and Executive Director of Breakthrough Central Texas.”Now more than ever, we need to invest in students and the institutions of higher education they attend.” – 

The letter makes 12 recommendations for steps the Texas legislature can take either immediately or when they return to session in 2021, including:

  • Aligning campus-level efforts to address basic student needs, including internet access, while prioritizing students most in need.
  • Ensuring no negative student loan or financial aid impact to students as a result of the crisis
  • Combatting the student debt crisis in Texas by implementing state-level legislative protections against unscrupulous student loan servicer activity

You can read the full text of the letter — including the co-signers — here.