Senator Collins Questions College, University Leaders on Safely Allowing Students to Return to Campus

Just this morning, Maine colleges and universities issued a framework for reopening their institutions.

Click HERE to watch Senator Collins Q&A on Testing Protocols.  Click HERE to download.

Click HERE to watch Senator Collins Q&A on TRIO.  Click HERE to download.


Washington, D.C. — At a U.S. Senate Education Committee hearing titled, “COVID-19: Going Back to College Safely,” U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a member of the Committee, questioned college presidents and a public health expert about their work to help students, faculty, and staff safely return to campus this fall.


Just this morning, Maine colleges and universities leaders issued a framework for reopening their institutions this fall.


During the hearing, Senator Collins discussed the economic impact colleges and universities have on their communities and states.


“Colleges and universities are economic engines for their communities and their states.  In addition to educating students, they employ thousands of people, from administrative staff and food service workers to custodians and student workers.  For example, the UMaine system employs nearly 4,800 employees,” said Senator Collins.  “Should there be different testing protocols for employees who are going back and forth between their communities and campus than for students who are living full time on campus?”


“That’s an excellent question, Senator.  Yes, we are.  It was observed that at many schools—and we are one—half of our students also live off campus,” said Mitch Daniels, President of Purdue University, in West Lafayette, Indiana.  “We’re going to be working very closely with their [students’] landlords and others to try to make certain that they’re following the same practices that we will in the housing that we administer… Our principal responsibility is to our students and to our university community, but we’re very conscious, as you said, that we are an economic driver on whom many other people in the community around us do rely.”


As the co-chair of the Congressional TRIO Caucus, Senator Collins has continually worked to support TRIO programs, which have been extremely beneficial to the large number of first-generation students in Maine.


“In Maine, more than 7,400 students are served by the TRIO programs.  If colleges do not reopen this fall, we could see an increase in the number of people who have some college experience, but no degree to show for their hard work and are left with student debt,” said Senator Collins.  “What do you think of expanding programs like TRIO to make sure that the support is there to encourage students to come back to school and to complete their degree or earn their credential if they’re attending a community college?”


“The TRIO program is a marvelous program, and I am fully in support of bringing our lowest income students and our first-gen students back to campus… it should be a national priority,” said Dr. Paxson, President of Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island.  “These students, if they don’t come back, if they defer, if they delay, they may never come back and they may not get their degrees…We need to keep a close eye on persistence in education and degree completion especially during this time.”


Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Senator Collins has continued to work to ensure that students and institutions of higher education (IHEs) have the support and resources they need to get through this uncertain time. 


Last month, Senator Collins announced nearly $3 million in additional funding for Maine colleges and universities, adding to the more than $41 million Maine IHEs were awarded in April, both through the CARES Act.  Additionally, Senators Collins led a bipartisan group of 40 Senators in pressing congressional leadership to include significant funding for the federal TRIO Programs in any upcoming coronavirus relief package.