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CCCU Monitoring of & Response to COVID-19

CCCU Monitoring of & Response to COVID-19

March 10, 2020

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Update 12/1/20

ED Extends COVID Changes to Distance Education Regulations
Our government relations team participated in a call with AACRAO and Deputy Under Secretary Diane Auer Jones about regulations on distance education and innovation taking effect in July 2021. This NPRM from April adjusted academic engagement and distance education rules because of the COVID-19 pandemic and these rules will remain in effect until the end of the calendar year or the end of the pandemic declaration. See a full summary of the regulatory update here.

Advocating for Student Loan Payment Extensions
The CCCU recently joined a letter written by ACE that urged the Department of Education to extend the current suspension of payment and zero percent interest for federal student loan borrowers, as well as the suspension of collections on defaulted loans up to Dec. 31, 2021. Given the continuing impact of COVID, we believe this extension is essential for the benefit of our students.


Update 10/26/20

CARES Act: Update
Recently, the Department of Education published its third set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding the use of funds from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) in the CARES Act. NAICU has summarized the FAQ, highlighting key information here.

H-1B Visa Program: Summary of Changes
The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor announced major changes to the H-1B visa program last week, implicating immigrant high-skilled workers. The rules will go into effect 60 days after publication in the federal register with no comment period.

  • The DOL rule includes a wage-scale revision. It sets a high wage floor for different categories of workers, requiring companies to pay high prevailing wages and revises the way in which the DOL calculates prevailing wage. For example, the level of the highest skilled-workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, will now be paid in the 95th percentile compared to comparable job positions, increased from the 67th percentile. This graphic from the Association of American Universities demonstrates the new established levels.

The DHS rule narrows the definition of “specialty occupation” and narrows opportunities for foreign workers by requiring the job align specifically with a higher education degree in that field. There are increased documentation requirements and more oversight by DHS after the visa is approved. Overall the administration will look to scale back the number of H-1B visas issued. According to the new rules, around one-third of applicants in recent years would have been denied.

Clery Act: Changes to the Reporting Requirements
On Oct. 9, the Department of Education announced it is replacing the 200-page handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting that attempts to define what schools must do to be in compliance with the Clery Act. There is now a shorter document that makes clear that campuses now have far more flexibility with respect to compliance with Clery requirements. If you are a NACUA member, you may find this recorded briefing helpful.


Update 10/6/20

Update on Next COVID-19 Stimulus Package
Efforts continue on Capitol Hill to work out a new COVID-19 stimulus package. Rcently, House Democrats introduced an updated Heroes Act package of $2.2 trillion on Sept. 28, which the House then passed on Thursday, Oct. 1. The bill includes provisions such as an extension of student loan payment suspension and about $39 billion for higher education funding, including $27 billion for public colleges and $12 billion for private nonprofit colleges and universities, with specific allocations for HBCUs and Hispanic-serving institutions. With renewed talks of a deal, we continue to advocate for the necessity of another bill that includes appropriate higher education funding. We signed on to a letter along with the American Council on Education (ACE) requesting $120 billion for higher education.

In addition to that, we also signed onto two additional ACE letters as part of our continued work to support of our institutions and our students during the pandemic. The first letter requests the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs to extend flexibility for distance learning capabilities for veteran students. The second letter asks for a provision in the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for international students to continue online classes until the end of the pandemic.

FEMA Grant Opportunities for Disaster-Impacted Institutions
FEMA announced federal emergency aid opportunities for those in affected by natural disasters in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, California, and Oregon. If your institution was affected either by Hurricane Laura or by wildfires, we encourage you to look into these opportunities that give aid to alleviate the costs of damage, provided to us by the Department of Homeland Security Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives.


Update 9/17/20

New Main Street Lending Program Loan Options for Nonprofits

As you know, the Federal Reserve Board announced that the Main Street Lending Program would offer two new loan options for nonprofits. Unlike the PPP, these loans are not forgivable, but medium-size businesses are able to access these loans. These programs are now operational and ready for applications. Please see the nonprofit facilities FAQs (here is a document that tracks the changes).

CARES Act Updates:

  1. Applications Available Again for CARES Act Funds: The Department of Education is reopening and extending the application period for institutions of higher education intending to apply for funding under the CARES Act until Sept. 30, 2020. This move gives applicable institutions additional time to submit applications and associated data. Applicable institutions includes those that did not initially apply for CARES Act funding and those that are branch campuses eligible to receive funding under the allotment for Historically Black Colleges or Universities, Tribal Colleges or Universities, and Minority-Serving Institutions whose main campus did not initially apply for or receive an award.
  2. Reporting Requirements Updated: The Department of Education made three changes to the reporting requirements that colleges and universities must follow if they received student emergency grants under the Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds from the CARES Act. See NAICU’s description of the changes for more information.

Resources for the Fall from CDC and the White House Task Force

Now that you have started the new academic year, here are some resources for you:

  • The CDC released guidance pointing to methods of planning, preparation, and response to COVID-19. They have resources and considerations to make as students come back to campus to ensure safety is a priority.
  • Additionally, the White House Coronavirus Task Force issued a one pager with recommendations for students as they return to campus. It includes encouragement to take proper precautions of social distancing and wearing masks, along with steps to take if a student tests positive or is symptomatic.
  • Also, please note that Dr. Anthony Fauci is expressing concern over colleges and universities sending students home as they see coronavirus spreading on their campuses, according to Inside Higher Ed. He states that “it’s the worst thing you could do,” as students who may be asymptomatic could bring the virus back into their home communities. Caring well for students who need to isolate is crucial to preventing spread.

Update 9/2/20

Additional CARES Act Funds Available for Hardest Hit Schools
The Department of Education has announced that institutions particularly hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic are eligible to apply for $28 million in additional FIPSE funds provided under the CARES Act. Institutions must submit a notice of intent to apply by Sept. 10, 2020, and the full application by Oct. 20, 2020 via grants.gov (the opportunity grant number you will need is ED-GRANTS-082120-001). Priority for grant awards will be given to colleges and universities with the greatest unmet needs related to the coronavirus. More information is available here, but institutional eligibility requirements include: A student population enrolled at the beginning of the term that included March 13, 2020 (the declaration of the emergency) in which more than 30 percent of full-time students received a Pell Grant; and/or Institution was underserved by other CARES Act programs either because: Institution did not receive a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program established by the CARES Act; and/or Institution serves large numbers of part-time students and, as such, received a reduced per-student allocation relative to institutions of the same or similar total enrollment that serve mostly full-time students; and Institution has other unmet needs due to the novel coronavirus, as described by the institution in its application.

Department of Education Issues Final Distance Learning Rule
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought renewed attention to the need for postsecondary institutions to expand high-quality learning opportunities through the use of remote and advanced technologies to assist students in reaching their educational goals. The Department of Education issued a final distance learning rule last week. Luckily, the Department released a fact sheet in tandem with the ruling. These finalized rules are the product of the Department’s 2019 negotiated rulemaking. They establish the right framework to facilitate innovation while maintaining educational quality, as well as important safeguards to protect students and taxpayers. These flexibilities go beyond the temporary waivers offered during the pandemic and provide the certainty institutions need to make longer-term investments in the development of new learning strategies, materials and opportunities. The regulations will take effect July 1, 2021, but we would recommend starting making changes now to help improve distance learning on your campus amidst this pandemic.


Update 8/20/20

Update on Stimulus Legislation
The Senate Republicans introduced a “skinny” bill called ‘‘Delivering Immediate Relief to America’s Families, Schools and Small Businesses Act.” This bill includes liability protections and a little less than $30 billion in funding for higher education. The cost for this bill is about half the cost of the $1 trillion in the HEALS Act, but it is far less than the amount the Democrats want to spend. The CCCU has been staying in touch with key deciders in the Senate urging them to lead in this time of continued need.

Telehealth Access
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is proposing changes to expand telehealth permanently, consistent with the Executive Order on Improving Rural and Telehealth Access. To learn additional information about the proposed rule read the press release here.

COVID-19 Resources


Update 7/30/20

The American Council on Education estimates that students and institutions will need at least $120.4 billion to cover the costs of reopening, lost revenue, and emergency financial aid in the coming year. That amount will still not meet all students’ needs or make colleges and universities whole for the substantial losses and additional unforeseen expenditures they have had to shoulder, but it will provide a lifeline for students, families, and schools struggling to survive this crisis. The Senate bill introduced July 27 provides just $30 billion for higher education, and the House bill approved in May just $37 billion. Both of these amounts fall far short of what is needed by colleges and universities.

As the cultural and economic hearts of our communities, reopening campuses is an essential step in returning our country to normal life. Students struggling in a challenging economy need support to start or continue their college educations. Colleges and universities can’t reopen until they can make every reasonable effort to ensure the health and safety of their students, staff, and visitors, which necessitates added costs for testing, contact tracing, expanded health services, deep cleaning of facilities, and related activities. Given the sizable losses in institutional budgets, incorporating these costs on short notice will be difficult for all institutions—and impossible for some—without federal support. Without federal support, many institutions will make the type of financial cutbacks that would harm surrounding local and regional communities.


Update 7/21/20

ICE released new FAQs that provide some answers about the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) in light of COVID-19. We recommend you review these FAQs. As you know, this is a result of the Trump administration’s agreement on July 14 to rescind guidance issued by ICE that would have not allowed international students only taking online courses to remain in the United States. The lawsuit filed by Harvard University and MIT in federal court was resolved by this agreement, and the original March ruling on international students is reinstated. While we are relieved to see that our current international students’ educational experience will not be unfairly impacted by the global pandemic, we recognize there is still a great deal of uncertainty around what this means for our new students hoping to attend our institutions this fall. This FAQ should help address some answers.

The Federal Reserve announced the modified Main Street Lending Program that will provide greater access to credit for nonprofit organizations such as educational institutions, hospitals, and social service organizations. The minimum employment threshold for nonprofits was lowered from 50 employees to 10, the limit on donation-based funding was eased, and several financial eligibility criteria were adjusted to accommodate a wider range of nonprofit operating models. Additionally, each organization must be a tax-exempt organization as described in section 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(19) of the Internal Revenue Code. The Main Street nonprofit loan terms generally mirror those for Main Street for-profit business loans, including the interest rate, principal and interest payment deferral, five-year term, and minimum and maximum loan size.


Update 7/14/20: Resources on Pandemic Relief

New Guidance on Returning Title IV Funds

The Department of Education released guidance on June 16 to update institutions on the timeframe for relief from Return of Title IV Funds requirements under the CARES Act. The new timeframe is now extended to include “periods that include March 13, 2020, or begin between March 13 and December 31, or the last date that the national emergency is in effect.” The Department also released new supplemental FAQs to clarify further questions about the CARES Act guidance. They state the deadline to spend emergency funds as Sept. 20, 2022, as well as provide further instruction on eligibility as to enrollment status and information about what the funds can be used for. We recommend your institution review these to clarify any questions you may have.

Higher Education Access to Main Street Lending Program and Keeping Congress Appraised of the Costs of Reopening

We joined a comment letter on June 22 with our partners at the American Council on Education (ACE) to address the Main Street Lending Program. It is critical that our institutions have access to these funds, given the economic crisis higher education is facing. We addressed the following points in the letter:

  1. Ensuring that both private nonprofit and public colleges and universities are eligible for the MSLP funding.
  2. Changing the list of qualifications for eligible borrowers to make it more accessible.
  3. Expand the employee threshold to 15,000 so that all institutions are able to qualify.
  4. Expanding and changing the terms of the loans so that colleges and universities can respond well to the COVID-19 crisis, as this program is unique for nonprofits.

We hope to see these important clarifications from the Federal Reserve in order for our institutions to be able to receive funds through the new nonprofit lending facility.

Additionally, we joined with ACE and others in the higher education community to gather reopening costs from a representative sample of institutions; we estimate that right now, it will cost about $74 billion. We then joined a letter that ACE sent to Congress, which is working on the next relief and stimulus package; the letter details many of these costs so that our congressional leaders would be up-to-date on the needs of American colleges and universities.


BestSemester Program Update
6/26/20

Due to the global impact of the COVID-19 crisis, the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU) made the difficult decision that we will not run eight of our nine BestSemester programs for the duration of the 2020-21 academic year. Our Scholars’ Semester in Oxford program may run as a hybrid online/in-person program for the coming academic year (we will be making that call later this summer).

The following programs will not run for the 20-21 academic year:

  • American Studies Program
  • Australia Studies Centre
  • Contemporary Music Center
  • L.A. Film Studies Center
  • Latin American Studies Program
  • Middle East Studies Program
  • Northern Ireland Semester
  • Uganda Studies Program

This was a difficult decision made in response to the ongoing impact of the coronavirus. Future program activities are still under consideration, and the CCCU will be using this next academic year to create a new strategy and vision for our global education offerings moving forward. Future programming decisions will be posted on bestsemester.com.

More than 13,000 students have benefitted from our academically rigorous, Christ-centered experiential education programs for the past 40 years. We remain committed to offering global experiential education opportunities for students that foster their intellectual, cultural, vocational, and spiritual growth, and will continue to work with

All students that were scheduled to attend our programs have been notified of these decisions, and any confirmation deposits that have been paid will be refunded in their entirety.

If you have any questions, please contact the BestSemester team at info@bestsemester.com.


Update 4/22/20

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law March 28, 2020, provides approximately $14 billion for higher education institutions. We’ve compiled a list below of some of the most relevant resources from the Department of Education:

Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund: Institutional Portion

Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund: Student Aid


Update April 2020 

The CCCU continues to closely monitor the evolving updates on COVID-19 and is paying close attention to news and advisories coming from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and the broader higher education and study abroad communities.

We are in close communication with our 180+ institutions to share updates and resources as they transition to online learning and navigate decisions regarding their students and campuses. We have been encouraging our campuses to utilize our various listserv platforms to share best practices for how individual campuses are responding to COVID-19. For information on individual campus responses, most campuses have also created a dedicated COVID-19 response page on their website.

On March 12, 2020, the CCCU made the difficult decision to conclude the residential component of all of our spring 2020 off-campus study programs (in nine locations across the U.S. and around the world) and move to online programming through the end of the semester. Additional updates on our off-campus study programming are available here.

We have a number of upcoming scheduled conferences and events happening at various locations across the country (listed here). We are actively monitoring the situation in each geographic location—any event cancellations will be clearly communicated to registered attendees and posted on the individual event pages on our website.

In the midst of extended disruption to higher education, we have 40 CCCU campuses participating in our online course-sharing consortium through Acadeum to get students back on track as quickly as possible. Acadeum is currently providing an accelerated onboarding process to assist institutions in providing additional summer courses for students impacted by the current disruption.

For the latest medical information and guidance, please refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website or the Johns Hopkins tracker of COVID-19 Global Cases.

All media inquiries should be directed to media@cccu.org.

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act:

 COVID-19 Higher Education Resources:

COVID-19 Partner Resources:

 


Update 3/12/20

Dear Members of the CCCU BestSemester Community,

Like you, the CCCU continues to closely monitor the evolving updates on COVID-19 and is paying close attention to news and advisories coming from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and the broader higher education and study abroad communities. In light of the totality of the circumstances, we are adjusting our off-campus programming for the remainder of the semester. All of us are being asked to do our part for the good of the many. As Christians, we believe that we can be up to that task even with some sacrifice to ourselves.

Action plan moving forward:

First, the CCCU off-campus programs will shift to online programing or available substitute options within the next week through the end of the semester.

We lament that the off-campus experience will be in some way altered by the reality of this global health crisis. The CCCU, in coordination with the students’ sending campuses, will work with students to finish their semesters as best as possible given the experiential nature of the curriculum. Additional details for the teach out plan for each program will be provided by the program’s specific director.

Second, by the end of next week (or earlier, depending on the program), the residential component of all of our Spring 2020 BestSemester off-campus study programs will conclude.

Given the nature of the programs around the world and the individualized schedules, the programs are working with their students to make travel arrangements that are consistent with the program circumstances. To the extent possible, we are encouraging students to coordinate with parents, emergency contacts, and campuses.

Students will receive further instructions from their program directors regarding next steps.

The CCCU has been in frequent contact with campus faculty and staff and will continue to monitor travel advisories and share important updates. Please continue to check our website for additional updates. Our offices will remain open for questions or concerns.

Thirdly, as of today, we remain optimistic that the Oxford Summer Programme from June 11-July 13, 2020 will proceed as planned.

The CCCU is grateful for the close communications from our sending campuses and the wisdom they have displayed. The CCCU is also grateful for the hard work, ingenuity, care, and flexibility of our program directors and staff teams who love their students and will work diligently to care for each student until they are home. As I often say, “We are in this work together.” It is my hope and prayer that we will be open-hearted learners to all that God is teaching us through this particular health emergency. It is also my prayer that our CCCU institutions and programs will be a witness to many that even while we prepare, we trust God for the future.

 


Update 3/10/20

The CCCU continues to closely monitor the evolving updates on COVID-19 and is paying close attention to news and advisories coming from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and the broader higher education and study abroad communities.

We have a number of upcoming scheduled conferences & events happening at various locations across the country (listed here). We are actively monitoring the situation in each geographic location and making decisions on a case-by-case basis in light of evolving information. Some of these events are scheduled to be held on CCCU campuses, and we are consulting with our individual campuses and following their recommendations. Any event cancellations will be clearly communicated to registered attendees and also posted on the individual event pages on our website.

  •  In consultation with Trevecca Nazarene University, we have made the decision to cancel the Regional Immigration Summit on March 17 in Nashville, TN.
  • In consultation with Oklahoma Baptist University, we have made the decision to cancel the Regional Immigration Summit on March 26 in Shawnee, OK.

Our CCCU staff have been in frequent contact with the students, faculty, and staff on our BestSemester off-campus study programs to share important updates. As of right now, we have decided not to suspend any of our off-campus study programming, but we have taken a number of precautionary measures, including restricting travel to specific countries based on CDC, WHO, State Department, and Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) recommendations, communicating with students regarding good hygiene practices, and encouraging students to stay home from work/class in the event they are feeling unwell. We are also offering to work with students to complete their coursework remotely in the event they would like to leave their program early. We will continue to monitor travel advisories and share important updates.

We have been encouraging our CCCU campuses to share resources & best practices via our various listserv platforms.

Please join us as we continue to pray for those impacted by the virus.

COVID-19 Higher Education Resources: