Matsui, Eshoo, Butterfield, and Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Support Broadband Connectivity for College Students in Need

Legislation provides $1 billion for distance learning connectivity for college students in need, prioritizing funding for minority-serving institutions

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Washington, May 13, 2020 | George Hatamiya (916-201-5412) | comments

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representatives Doris Matsui (CA-6), Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18), G.K. Butterfield (NC-01), and colleagues today introduced legislation to establish a new program to support college students who are unable to participate in distance learning. 

The Supporting Connectivity for Higher Education Students in Need Act provides $1 billion to colleges and universities to pay for at-home internet connections for students in need. Higher education institutions can use the funding to pay for routers, modems, wi-fi hotspots, tablets, or laptops, as well as monthly broadband service for students. Funding would be prioritized for historically Black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, Tribal colleges and universities, and minority-serving institutions, as well as rural-serving institutions. Institutions receiving funding must prioritize students eligible for need-based financial aid such as Pell Grants or means-tested social safety net programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Medicaid.

A companion measure was introduced by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV).

“Schools at all levels have been thrown upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic. To make sure that our students receive the support they deserve, we need bold, innovative solutions,” said Congresswoman Matsui. “As our higher education institutions navigate the realities of remote distance learning, it is clear that more needs to be done to support our most vulnerable students without access to the internet or proper technology. I am proud to join with Representative Eshoo to lead this legislation and address the disparities that are affecting our students’ ability to learn during this crisis.”

“As colleges and universities around our country continue to operate remotely, we must help students who are most in need to continue their education,” said Rep. Eshoo. “I’m proud to introduce this legislation to provide funding to higher education institutions so that they can support the students who are in greatest need by directly paying for broadband plans, equipment needed to connect to the internet, and internet-connected devices.”

“In the wake of COVID-19’s spread, it has become clear just how essential access to broadband technology is for the viability of our nation’s educational institutions.  The virus’s outbreak has particularly severe implications for HBCU’s and other minority serving institutions which were already facing the unique challenges that come with delivering high quality education to the nation’s most underrepresented communities,” said Rep. G. K. Butterfield. “Unfortunately, many of these schools are plagued with infrastructure issues including limited access to digital and wireless technology, as well as outdated equipment and facilities. As universities across the country now rely on distance learning platforms, these problems have serious consequences for an institution’s ability to effectively educate its students. That’s why I am proud to join Rep. Eshoo in leading this legislation to ensure that schools and students have the technological resources necessary to address these obstacles both during the COVID-19 health crisis and beyond it.”

"The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that connectivity is more important now than ever--especially for college students in our communities who already face significant financial challenges. I'm thankful for the leadership of Senators Klobuchar, Hirono, Peters, and Rosen as well as Representatives Eshoo, Matsui, Butterfield, Fudge, Blunt Rochester, and Adams who are committed to equal opportunity for our students with the greatest financial needs, particularly those at historically Black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and other minority-serving institutions. It's imperative they have the resources they need to continue their education and connect with their families and friends during this crisis," said Marc Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League.

The bill is supported by 60 groups: Higher Learning Advocates, The Education Trust, National Urban League, American Council on Education, National Action Network, UnidosUS, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, League of United Latin American Citizens, United Negro College Fund, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, OCA- Asian Pacific American Advocates, MediaJustice, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, Student Veterans of America, Young Invincibles, Students United, Public Knowledge, New America’s Open Technology Institute, Schools Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition, National League of Cities, Council for Higher Education Accreditation, New America's Higher Education Program, American Association of State Colleges and Universities, EDUCAUSE, College Forward, National Skills Coalition, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, America Forward, Institute for Higher Education Policy, Association of Community College Trustees, Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, Council for Opportunity in Education, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, Distance Education Accrediting Commission, National Association of College and University Business Officers, State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, ED2WORK, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment, ACT, Inc., The Graduate! Network, Inc., uAspire, Rebuilding America's Middle Class, WASC Senior College and University Commission, New England Commission of Higher Education, Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, Middle States Commission on Higher Education, LeadMN, Breakthrough Central Texas, San Antonio Education Partnership, Nashville State Community College Foundation, St. Louis Graduates, University of California Student Association, Northwestern Health Sciences University, Cornell Student Assembly, CUNY University Student Senate, Greater Memphis Chamber, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce.

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