By Deanna Howes Spiro, Vice President of Communications, AJCU

Like many other institutions of higher education, Jesuit colleges and universities begin this new academic year facing challenges associated with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the national call for racial justice. In academia, the wounds of systemic racism are felt in the disproportionate numbers of students, faculty and staff of color on college campuses, and in the poverty experienced by many of those who live within and around our local communities. At some Jesuit colleges and universities, they are reflected in the historic records that document the sales of enslaved persons to help save their financial livelihood and prevent their closure in the 19th century. At others, they reflect an acceptance of laws and cultural assumptions in the Jim Crow era that continued to relegate African-Americans to second-class citizenship.

As educators and advocates, we have a responsibility to effect real, positive change on our campuses and in our communities: today, Jesuit institutions are learning from the past to address the challenges of the present and work toward a brighter future. This month’s issue of Connections highlights new initiatives at four Jesuit universities to combat racism, including Boston College’s establishment of the Forum on Racial Justice in America, and the development of a guide for Teaching Anti-Racism at Creighton University. You will find even more examples on our Racial Justice Resource page, which is updated regularly.

There is more work to be done, and we at AJCU are working closely with our Conferences and affinity groups to better understand the issues impacting our institutions, and to develop strategies to support our students, faculty, staff and alumni of color. You will learn more about those efforts in the months to come through our website and weekly e-newsletter, AJCU Higher Ed News. We welcome your suggestions as well: if there are areas where you see a need for improvement, please let us know by writing to

All of us at AJCU wish you a successful start to the new academic year, and good health for you and your loved ones.

By Vincent Rougeau, Dean, Boston College Law School

Dean Vincent Rougeau (Photo courtesy of Boston College)
Dean Vincent Rougeau (Photo courtesy of Boston College)

In 2021, Oklahoma will mark the 100th anniversary of what has come to be known as the Tulsa Race Massacre. That city’s Greenwood district had been a vibrant, affluent African-American community, but in a night of terror, marauding gangs of White men became lynch mobs and burned Greenwood to the ground. At least 300 Black people were murdered, but the true number of lives lost will never be known. Although it has been labeled a riot by some, it would be more appropriate to call it a pogrom.

At the time, Blacks were a despised minority who could be driven out of their homes and businesses on the smallest pretense and murdered at will. The attackers knew that their victims had no recourse to any meaningful form of justice. The racist structures of U.S. law and society made whatever rights Blacks had in principle meaningless in practice.

This kind of American story is an important antecedent to the passionate calls for racial justice that we are hearing today. We must recognize that racism remains a systemic problem in this country, part of the “structures of sin” that Pope John Paul II discussed in his 1987 encyclical, “Sollicitudo Rei Socialis” (“On Social Concern”).

At Boston College, we have decided to address the reality of structural racism through a new project called the Forum on Racial Justice in America. This will be a transformative process for the University and will launch a rethinking of how we understand our role in higher education, in the greater Boston community, in the nation and in the world.

As a Jesuit university, Boston College has access to rich theological and intellectual understandings of justice. My hope is that the Forum will draw heavily upon that knowledge. Catholic social teaching is remarkable in the American cultural context because of its ability to draw immediate attention to our tendency to individualize agency and avoid notions of collective responsibility.

We now find ourselves as a nation reckoning with a long history of racism that cannot be properly understood through a lens of personal morality or individual acts. The racist structures of the United States still mean that Black Americans attempt to exercise their rights and freedoms under constraints that White Americans do not face. The structure of the society itself, influenced by the conscious and unconscious assumptions of many people nurtured within it, limits the dignity and flourishing of Black lives in our nation.

As the inaugural director and someone who has spent many years thinking in scholarly terms about the relationship between U.S. law and Catholic social teaching, I see the Forum’s work as being rooted in a profound understanding that personal conversion alone is insufficient to end racism in this country. Boston College must commit as an institution to dismantling racist structures. Members of the BC community must live out the core values of our mission: that all human beings are created in God’s image, are of equal worth and have an inherent right to a dignified existence regardless of race. If we are committed to these values, we must, as the scholar Ibram X. Kendi has noted throughout his work, choose to be “anti-racist.” Being anti-racist means we recognize that racism is everyone’s problem. We become actively conscious about race and racism, take actions to end racism in our daily lives, and understand that we all have a role in stopping it.

The Forum will move forward in its work to dismantle racist structures through three stages modeled on the process of “observe, judge, act”: an important part of Jesuit pedagogy. Ultimately, my goal is to forge a university community that is working to build a new solidarity in American life, one that rests on an active rejection of racism and its distortion of our social order.

In the first stage of our work, we will observe, as it were, through listening. We plan to organize a series of events modeled on the processes of truth and reconciliation and restorative justice that will allow victims of racism to speak and be heard. These voices would come from within the Boston College community and from the broader communities of which Boston College is a part. Restorative justice recognizes that an essential part of restoring the dignity of those who have suffered is inviting them to determine what they need to recover. In this process, we also want to ensure that those speaking can do so freely without interruptions or distractions designed to ease the discomfort of those listening. At Boston College, we have many people across a range of disciplines, including education, social work, theology and law, who have expertise in structuring these dialogues.

The second phase will be one of discernment and judgment. Based on what we have heard and learned, how should Boston College respond? What are our obligations to those who have suffered, including members of the BC community and the local, national and global communities? How do we rebuild these communities in a spirit of solidarity and so that every member feels fully able to participate? What actions should we take as a university to harness the resources and talents that we have at our disposal to offer ideas and policy prescriptions for change?

Finally, we should move quickly to act. This means a new mission for Boston College. We will be a university that will offer a unique voice to anti-racist work and engagement, and we will bring our values, resources and expertise to thinking comprehensively about racial justice at the national and global policy levels.

As a Jesuit institution, Boston College is committed to, as the 32nd General Congregation of the Society of Jesus proclaimed, building “a community among human beings which is based on sharing rather than on greed; a willing openness to all persons rather than seeking after the privileges of caste or class or race; on service rather than domination or exploitation.”

Taking an aggressive stance against racism and racial injustice is a natural outgrowth of serious engagement with Catholic social teaching and the values of a Jesuit education. Harnessing the resources of the Boston College community to fight for racial justice and create an anti-racist future will build solidarity with people of good will across American society who share this commitment.

This article is re-published here with permission from America.

By Blake Ursch, Office of Communications and Marketing at Creighton University

Christopher Whitt, Ph.D. (center), visiting with then-students Traemon Anderson, BSBA’20 (left) and Jamel Walker, JD’20 (right), last fall in the Harper Center at Creighton University (photo taken before the coronavirus pandemic)
Christopher Whitt, Ph.D. (center), visiting with then-students Traemon Anderson, BSBA’20 (left) and Jamel Walker, JD’20 (right), last fall in the Harper Center at Creighton University (photo taken before the coronavirus pandemic)

Amid renewed public attention to calls for racial justice following this summer’s killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, individuals and institutions across the country are working to understand their own part in perpetuating systemic racism, and are actively pursuing ways to dismantle it, eliminating a hierarchy of human value and establishing equity for all.

Because doing nothing isn’t enough.

This is the idea behind the concept of anti-racism, a word that’s come into common usage in recent years, particularly following the publication of Ibram X. Kendi’s bestselling 2019 book, How to Be an Antiracist. According to Kendi, “One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an antiracist. There is no in-between safe space of ‘not racist.’”

Building on the social justice work of its faculty, staff, students and administrators, Creighton University is investing more energy and resources than ever to the anti-racism cause, says Christopher Whitt, Ph.D., Vice Provost for Institutional Diversity and Inclusion at Creighton, and a new addition to the President’s Cabinet. Creighton also recently named Catherine Hughes, founder and chairwoman of Urban One, the nation’s largest distributor of radio, television and digital programming for Black audiences, to its Board of Trustees.

Whitt says, “I think we’re coming to a realization. People talk about the broken economic system. The reality is, the system is not broken. The system is in need of transformation.”

With the help of Whitt’s office and other organizations on and off campus, Creighton is working toward that transformation in a broad array of disciplines, both on campus and in the wider community.

“Creighton University is called to do more, as an institution of higher learning, and as Jesuit and Catholic, to create healing and wholeness,” says Creighton President, Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, S.J., “and we will continue to reflect on and discern ways we can best achieve that directive.”

Teaching Anti-Racism
Even before this summer’s nationwide Black Lives Matter protests, two faculty members in Creighton’s College of Arts and Sciences were working on a tool to help their colleagues address issues of racial justice in the classroom.

Erika Dakin Kirby, Ph.D., the A.F. Jacobson Chair in Communication Studies, and Guy McHendry, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies, published “Teaching Anti-Racism,” a collection of articles, books, videos, podcasts and other resources aimed at helping their fellow faculty understand the current conversation around race.

Kirby and McHendry’s guide highlights Kendi’s book, as well as other nonfiction works including The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism. But the professors also recommend more literary works, including W.E.B. Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk and Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, as well as movies, podcasts and documentaries.

How to Be an Antiracist is also the selection for a new University-wide reading group led by Creighton’s Schlegel Center for Service and Justice (SCSJ) and the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion. Interest in the group has been high, says Kelly Tadeo Orbik, BA’06, MS’08, associate director at the SCSJ. In its first session, which began in May, the group maxed out with 46 participants. The second round, which began in mid-July, numbered more than 50. A third round is planned for the Fall.

LaShaune Johnson, Ph.D., associate professor in the Master of Public Health program in Creighton's Graduate School & assistant director of the Creighton University at Highlander team
LaShaune Johnson, Ph.D., associate professor in the Master of Public Health program in Creighton’s Graduate School & assistant director of the Creighton University at Highlander team

Anti-Racism in Public Health
The COVID-19 pandemic has opened Americans’ eyes to the interconnected web of public health in ways that few events have done before, says LaShaune Johnson, Ph.D., associate professor in the Master of Public Health program in Creighton’s Graduate School.

“When we think about the ways in which racism is systemic and baked into our institutions, and we see the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has had on communities of color, we can now also see that racism is embedded in public health,” Johnson explains.

As of June 2020, 80% of people who tested positive for COVID-19 in Douglas County, Nebraska (in which Creighton is located) were non-White. This in a county in which 69% of the population is White. In addition, some ZIP codes in predominately-Black North Omaha report an average life expectancy ten years below that in mostly-White West Omaha.

In her role with the University, Johnson serves as assistant director of the Creighton University at Highlander team. With the Highlander, a community enrichment center that is part of a North Omaha revitalization effort, Johnson organizes public health and education events for the community. In doing so, Johnson says, she and her team work to amplify Black voices, giving Black people a platform to share their experiences in the health care system.

Anti-Racism in Housing and Law
Creighton School of Law Dean Joshua Fershée, J.D., says he’s been meeting with students, faculty and staff in the School of Law to hear their stories for how to increase awareness and combat structural and institutional racism. In addition, he says, each semester, students have the opportunity to work with the School of Law’s Milton R. Abrahams Legal Clinic, which provides free legal assistance on civil matters for low-income people in Douglas County.

In the wake of the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, Fershée says that the legal clinic has been handling an above-average amount of eviction cases. According to the work of another Creighton expert, eviction disproportionately affects Omaha’s communities of color.

Pierce Greenberg, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology in Creighton's Department of Cultural and Social Sciences
Pierce Greenberg, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology in Creighton’s Department of Cultural and Social Sciences

Pierce Greenberg, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology in the Department of Cultural and Social Studies, recently co-authored “Understanding Evictions in Omaha,” with local attorney and Creighton alumnus, Gary Fischer, BA’75, J.D.’79. The study features a heat map that illustrates a stark reality: Most of the city’s evictions occur in areas that were historically segregated, particularly the traditionally-Black North Omaha.

“We just wanted to start the conversation,” Greenberg says, “and start it grounded with the evidence that these racial disparities do exist. And we hope that this leads to more conversation and that it becomes the basis for action and policy change that can help reduce this problem.”

Anti-Racism in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution
While the conversation around anti-racism largely deals with transforming the racist structures that inflict harm, the Creighton Graduate School’s Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Program also teaches skills to address individual conflicts that are triggered by racist attitudes.

To dismantle racist structures, says Jacqueline Font-Guzmán, J.D., Ph.D., director of the Negotiation and Conflict Resolution program, people must be willing to engage with conflict in a productive way. This means having uncomfortable conversations and directly confronting conflict in a way that either productively escalates conflict to raise awareness and change policies, or de-escalates the situation to foster dialogue. Coursework teaches students how to name conflict, and, if it can’t be resolved, how to stay with it in a way that doesn’t overwhelm.

“Creighton is in a good position to highlight and promote inclusiveness and belongingness, not only for African-Americans, but for all underrepresented groups,” Font-Guzmán says.

“We have these conversations so the invisible becomes visible,” she adds. “It’s not to make immediate change. It’s to raise awareness so that the change can follow. It’s about conversation that leads to action.”

All photos courtesy of the Office of Communications and Marketing at Creighton University.

By Andrea Mueller, Saint Joseph’s University ’21

Dr. Phyllis ANastasio (photo via
Dr. Phyllis Anastasio (photo via

As a student at Saint Joseph’s University, I have listened as faculty, fellow students and friends shared their personal experiences of racism through casual conversations and University forums on racism. Over the past three years, my ears, eyes and heart have been opened to see the injustices of racism in my own unconscious bias, on my own campus, and in this world that is not my own. There are perspectives that I cannot fully understand without living them.

These stories remind me to not only be constantly vigilant against my own bias, but to look outward to hold my greater community accountable in anti-racism policies. Thus, when given the opportunity to write for Connections, I decided to interview three Saint Joseph’s University faculty who are helping to lead the way for our campus community.

Dr. Phyllis Anastasio is a social psychologist whose research focuses on how media shapes our perceptions and behaviors. At the start of the Spring 2020 semester, Dr. Anastasio asked me to join a research team examining racial bias in police shootings and how the media could play a role in perpetuating bias. Dr. Anastasio said, “It seemed like a natural research question: Do media reports of fatal police shootings treat victims differently according to their race?”

The research team began their work in September 2019 by utilizing the Washington Post’s Public Database of fatal police shootings. The team looked specifically at victims who were fleeing the scene, to investigate possible racial differences in shootings when the victim was not posing a threat to the officer.

The analyses showed that in proportion to White victims, more Black and Hispanic victims were fleeing when shot. Moreover, Black victims were twice as likely to be fleeing on foot when shot than White victims. These preliminary findings were presented in a student poster presentation at this year’s Eastern Psychological Association virtual conference.

After I joined the project in January, we started a content analysis by randomly sampling victims from the Washington Post’s Public Database. The main variables we looked at were the quantity of articles covering the victims, article length, victim’s race, type of photo (e.g. mug shot vs. other format) and mention of criminal record. Our research questions and methods are continuing to be modified, and our project is still in progress.

I recently had the opportunity to get Dr. Anastasio’s expert insights about this social psychology research project in an interview conducted by e-mail. I wanted to know how social psychology research intersected with anti-racism. She explained, “Social psychology examines how our external social world influences our thoughts, feelings and behaviors, as well as how we influence others. We categorize people into gender, racial and age-based categories automatically, unintentionally, effortlessly. Thus, the ways that all races/genders/age groups are portrayed in the media, and certainly the stereotypes that are passed along to us, are extremely influential in our understanding/misunderstanding of others.

“On a societal level, systems must change in order to level the playing fields: educational, vocational and professional opportunities have to be made equally available to all. Imagine educational differences between a well-funded public school and one that is strapped for teachers and supplies. That difference occurs quite early in a child’s life, and with every passing year, the gap becomes greater and greater.”

Dr. Anastasio’s research on how the media could contribute to racial bias is still in-process, but she did offer some possible implications for the study’s outcomes. She said, ”If we do find that the media treat non-White victims of fatal police shootings in a harsher manner than White victims, the logical conclusion is that this media coverage may help to perpetuate the ‘Just World Phenomenon,’ or ‘they deserved it’ type of thinking, further helping to perpetuate negative stereotypes, which help to perpetuate negative treatment, etc. You can see the vicious cycle that negative media coverage could and does have.”

Dr. Susan Clampet-Lundquist (photo via
Dr. Susan Clampet-Lundquist (photo via

My interview with Dr. Anastasio made me curious about what other academic anti-racism research is taking place at Saint Joseph’s. Dr. Susan Clampet-Lundquist studies urban sociology and examines the effects of public policy on families in low-income neighborhoods. She said, “Whether we are looking at housing policy, the criminal legal system, public education, or other social institutions, the thread of systemic racism is clear throughout. A necessary step in anti-racism advocacy is knowing your history and understanding one’s current socioeconomic context.”

Dr. Clampet-Lundquist asks her students to become more aware of racism by keeping a diary on what inequalities they notice in their daily lives, so that their social interactions highlight what they are learning in her course. She explained, “White people in the U.S. often live much of their lives in White spaces, and can have a deficit in understanding how to empathetically engage with people from backgrounds different from their own. If White people authentically want to be involved in anti-racism efforts, we need to be proximate to people from backgrounds other than ourselves.”

At Saint Joseph’s specifically, Dr. Clampet-Lundquist cited a new early-arrival program and a pilot addition to some First-Year Seminars as helping students to focus on inequality and racism. This integration of racial justice in the classroom leads us to Dr. Usha Rao, a graduate of St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai, India, and a faculty member at Saint Joseph’s, who is seeking ways to integrate racial justice into the curriculum in her role as Founding Director of the Office of Teaching and Learning. Dr. Usha Rao explained, “Our mission is to help all Saint Joseph’s faculty develop competency in teaching and learning interculturally.”

Faculty members have developed and offered many anti-racism initiatives to their peers through the Office of Teaching and Learning, including:

Dr. Usha Rao (photo via
Dr. Usha Rao (photo via

At Jesuit institutions, which are centered on the dignity of each human person and rooted in academic excellence, we have the perfect platform to conduct anti-racism research. All students and faculty members have the ability to utilize our specific disciplines in order to discern our role in eradicating racism. In the words of Dr. Rao, “While there is a lot of work still to be done, both at Saint Joseph’s and in the world at large, I believe that the University is taking important steps in the right direction.”

Andrea Mueller is a senior at Saint Joseph’s University, where she is majoring in psychology. She served as the Summer Intern at the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) from May through August 2020.

By Tom Stoelker, Senior Staff Writer and Visual Media Coordinator, Fordham University

First there was redlining, then there were the fires, and now, inevitably, there’s gentrification. But there was also bebop, salsa and hip-hop. And today, the borough serves up cuisine from Italy, Albania, the Caribbean and Ghana. The Bronx has seen it all. Yet too frequently, it’s been the fires and the poverty that have grabbed headlines, rather than the borough’s rich culture.

This summer, a group of Bronx high school students, mentored by four Fordham University undergraduates, sought to challenge negative stereotypes of their home borough through research, and showed their findings to the local community via Zoom as the culmination of the annual Bronx History Makers program: an immersive college-prep experience that began in 2005.

The program normally runs for six weeks, with the high school students (known as scholars) living on Fordham’s Rose Hill campus in the Bronx. But because of the coronavirus pandemic, it was conducted virtually this year, with two weeks of preparation for the undergraduate mentors and two weeks of research with the scholars.

Supported by an annual grant of $50,000 from the Teagle Foundation, Fordham’s Center for Community Engaged Learning (CCEL) worked in partnership with BronxWorks, a nonprofit community organization, to recruit the scholars and the Fordham undergraduate mentors. They also brought in faculty advisers and a group of experts on the borough, who provided academic and professional guidance.

Mentoring from a Place of Vulnerability
Lisa M. Ingravera, assistant director for administration and academic development at Fordham’s CCEL, said that while the primary focus of the program was to help the high school scholars acclimate to college life, the first two weeks were devoted to the mentors.

“We needed the mentors to speak to the teens in a way that made college feel manageable. That first week created a lot of teamwork because we explored what it’s like to be in high school. I told them, ‘I need you to go back in time and recall what that support looked like for you before going to college,’” said Ingravera, adding that the exercise became rather emotional for both the mentors and the scholars.

Mentor Fariha Fawziah, a sophomore at Fordham College at Rose Hill, said that the group’s vulnerabilities provided a foundation for the close relationships they built with each other. “In that first week, we were sharing our roots, our families and cultural values. Without that, we would not have had this connection,” said Fawziah.

Gabelli School of Business junior, Geraldo De La Cruz, said that he and his fellow mentors became each other’s “guardian angels.” He added that the first two weeks of getting acquainted with each other and the material were crucial to their bonding. “Any time that one of us needed an affirmation that they were doing a great job, we would do that for each other,” said De La Cruz.

Mentor Emily Romero, a Fordham College at Rose Hill junior, said that working as a team was key. “If I’m not an expert in one subject, someone else could be,” she explained, “and we just tried to combine all of that together for the scholars.”

Examining Entrenched Issues
The four groups of high school scholars examined past and present issues facing the Bronx, including redlining, racial inequities, community policing and gentrification. The mentors taught the scholars about the history of these topics and supported them as they conducted further research and learned how to perform a typical college assignment (e.g. reading dozens of articles and academic papers) in preparation for the presentation on July 23.

One of the four presentations was titled, “The Replacers,” and focused on gentrification. Although the scholars could make use of interviews, lectures, news articles and historic images in their research, the city-wide quarantine limited who the students could reach out to for more in-person information. So, many of them spoke to their family members instead.

Scholar Harley Lopez, a junior at Manhattan Hunter Science High School, interviewed her grandmother, a longtime New York City resident, who spoke emotionally about having to move from Brooklyn to the Bronx because of increased housing costs. The student scholars said that this particular interview helped them relate to how neighborhood bonds can be severed by rising rents.

Lopez explained that the research project—and the history she learned—made her understand the importance of local narratives and the disproportionate influence that the media can have on perceptions. “We live in the Bronx, we grew up here, but we have all of these outside influences that even affect how we see ourselves,” she said. “We deconstructed the phrase ‘Black-on-Black crime.’ This kind of phrase that is used in the media makes us think that we pose more of a danger to ourselves than the system does.”

The mentors—who are Bronxites themselves—said they were struck by how fluent the scholars were with the material. “They were so aware of current social issues, activism and protests,” said mentor Benita Campos, a Fordham College at Rose Hill senior. “They were so passionate to make change.”

This article is adapted from a story that originally appeared on Fordham University’s website in August 2020; click here to view it online.

By Jenny Smulson, Vice President of Government Relations, AJCU

This week, members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate are reconvening in Washington, D.C. Congress and the Administration have a small window to restart legislative efforts before returning to their states and districts in advance of the November elections. Waiting for them is a complicated agenda that centers on providing help to the American people.

With the nation still reeling from the coronavirus pandemic, individuals, organizations and industries are urging Congress and the Administration to provide supplemental funds to address their needs. Yet the differences in policy and cost between the U.S. House of Representatives’ HEROES bill and the U.S. Senate’s HEALS Act, will be a challenge to overcome.

In the April issue of Connections, we updated you on the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This bipartisan legislation provided more than $2 trillion in economic relief to individuals, communities and businesses, including $12.6 billion for colleges and universities to address losses related to the pandemic. Half of the money that an institution received was to be used for direct emergency grants to students, while the other half of the funds were to be used for costs associated with the transition to virtual instruction.

While these funds were critical, they did not match the losses suffered by institutions of higher education, nor did they help the growing needs of students whose parents or other family members lost their jobs. In partnership with other higher education associations, AJCU is seeking $46.6 billion in the next stimulus package for colleges and universities. Though this amount represents just a portion of the estimated losses and costs facing colleges and universities (estimates put that figure closer to $130 billion), we know that this will help institutions continue to operate and serve their students.

In both the House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans are on record in support of a fifth stimulus or supplemental bill, and funding for higher education (students and institutions) has been included in both proposals. The $3 trillion Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, which was introduced by the House Democrats in May and passed through the House nearly along party lines on May 15, provides $90 billion for K-12 and post-secondary education, with$7 billion reserved for nonprofit institutions of higher education (the reserved funds were distributed by formula and made available to students and universities to address needs, losses or new expenses related to COVID-19).

In July, the Senate responded by introducing a package of eight bills that together are referred to as the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection, and Schools (HEALS) Act. This legislation also provides support for higher education, by making $30 billion available for student and institutional needs, of which $24.7 billion would be distributed (per formula) to colleges and universities. The overall cost of the HEALS Act is $1 trillion.

While it is positive that both stimulus packages include funding for post-secondary students and institutions of higher education, there is a great deal that divides these bills beyond $2 trillion. Among the points of contention are the amount of enhanced unemployment insurance to be made available for workers who have lost their jobs, and specific dollar amounts to be included in stimulus checks for individuals and dependents. The two bills also include different proposals for federal student loan relief and have different perspectives on liability protections for colleges and universities. The policy differences related to the post-secondary education dollars are also vexing. The bills use different formulas to distribute federal dollars, which could have significant impacts on campuses and on students, depending on which formula is used.

There is much work to be done in a very short amount of time. In addition to resolving differences on the stimulus bills, Congress must also pass legislation to keep the government running before the end of the fiscal year on September 30. The House has passed their version of the regular appropriations bill, while the Senate has yet to act; none of the bills have been sent to the President for his signature. And other items on the agenda include policies related to racial justice and policing, the U.S. Postal Service, mail-in ballots, election security and more.

With high-stakes elections that could shift the balance of power in the Senate and the White House, lawmakers are anxious to be back in their states and districts, campaigning for votes. AJCU will be working overtime in these coming days to make sure that Congress understands the needs of our students and institutions. For updates on our advocacy, please visit the Policy Corner on the AJCU website.