Reps. Eshoo, Matsui, Butterfield, Castro, Fudge, Blunt Rochester, Adams, and Sen. Klobuchar Introduce Legislation to Support Broadband Connectivity for College Students in Need

May 13, 2020
Press Release
Legislation provides $1 billion for distance learning connectivity for college students in need, prioritizing funding for minority-serving institutions

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representatives Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18), Doris Matsui (CA-6), G.K. Butterfield (NC-01), Joaquin Castro (TX-20),  Marcia Fudge (OH-11), Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE-At-Large), and Alma S. Adams (NC-12) 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).

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”

“We need to ensure that all students can fully participate in virtual learning. Many students at Minority Serving Institutions are the first in their family to attend college and pursuing a better future not only for themselves but their entire family. Those dreams should not be stopped due to COVID-19,” said Congressman Castro. “In my district, 25-percent of folks do not have immediate access to broadband internet. It’s never been more critical that we provide schools with additional resources so that they can support students with the tools they need to learn from the safety of their home. Investing in our student’s education is a critical down payment on our nation’s future, and this legislation does just that.”

“College students without adequate technology or access to internet are at risk of falling behind as their classrooms go virtual due to the pandemic,” said Rep. Fudge.  “This is especially true at HBCUs and other minority serving institutions, which play a critical role in unlocking higher education opportunities for millions of students of color.  I’m proud to join Congresswoman Eshoo in introducing legislation to ensure underrepresented and minority students do not fall through the cracks during this and future crises.” 

“As the COVID-19 pandemic has unfolded, we’ve seen the true challenges of distance learning. The situation has exacerbated already existing inequities and created unique challenges for low-income college students,” said Rep. Blunt Rochester. “I’m proud to join with Congresswoman Eshoo and my colleagues to introduce a bill that would help bridge that gap, while prioritizing funding for HBCU’s like Delaware State University.”

“You can’t have equity in education without eliminating the digital divide,” said Congresswoman Adams. “Today’s students have to have a reliable internet connection and up-to-date technology if they want to succeed. Especially in the shadow of COVID-19, the Supporting Connectivity for Higher Education Students in Need Act targets the institutions with the greatest need, including HBCUs and MSIs, and closes the technology gap for the students who are most likely to fall behind.”

“As we continue to confront the coronavirus pandemic, ensuring college and university students have access to high-speed internet is critical,” Klobuchar said. “The Supporting Connectivity for Higher Education Students in Need Act would help ensure that college and university students with the greatest financial need can access high-speed internet and essential equipment, such as laptops and tablets, to help them stay connected to their schools and communities during this public health crisis.”

"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.