Higher Education Heads Online With Support From Cares Act


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WASHINGTON, DC — The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed on March 27, was a first step in bringing relief to nearly 17 million people out of work, but there was also nearly $30 billion dollars set aside for higher education institutions as well.

Tom Netting, Director of the Career Schools Private Education Network, says a major portion of that money is to help institutions online.

“We have disparity in when the institutions are doing it. You think back to when the start of the pandemic took effect out in Washington State and Oregon going all the way back to the late stages of January and early stages of February, we look at states like New York and Louisiana, where it took hold in the month of March…but all institutions have focused on, since the executive orders of the president, on a move to online education,” Netting told 104.7 WONK FM’s Jen Richer.

Taking an entire system online is a major haul for traditional classroom institutions and trade schools, but for private online institutions, the change came relatively easily. They have all been working over the past few months to make those conversions to distance learning.

“One of the things that is unique about the private sector, not that traditional higher education wasn’t able to transition, but the fact that proprietary schools, private non-profits and for-profits, were able to convert over pretty quickly, even in some disciplines you might not think of normally being online, like a lot of the true career trades: cosmetology, barbering, as well as some of the allied health programs,” Netting said. “But all of them have made the leap and all students have made the leap with them. Technology works for some, but not for all, that’s why some students choose the brick-and-mortar side.”

The CARES Act set aside money to help transition education online.

“There is specific funding provided in the CARES Act, not only for what you’ve heard about with regard to individual payments…but there were subsidies provided for in the form of $30 billion dollars for education and those funds that were included as portion of what they’re calling the ‘stabilization grants,’ was basically broken up into three pockets of money,” Netting said.

One of those “pockets” include governor’s emergency relief funds which are set aside for states to disperse between primary, secondary and higher level education systems.

“There is specific language in there talking about the governor’s ability to recognize programs at the higher education level in particular that are deemed essential. A lot of what we believe will be parts of that are as you would imagine a lot of the allied health programs: nursing programs that keep the pipeline of potential additional nurses for those frontline employers to go forward.” Netting said.

A second pool of money included in the CARES Act totaling $14.25 billion dollars goes to the Department of Education for higher level education systems to convert to online learning.

Listen to the full interview with 104.7 WONK FM's Jen Richer here:

Tom Netting