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Re: Potential Relief From CARES Act

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Jeremy Haefner

This letter was sent to Gov. Jared Polis on Mar. 31, 2020

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Dear Governor Polis, 

Please first allow me to thank you and each member of your administration for your leadership and the actions that the State of Colorado has taken to respond to the many emergencies and needs brought about by the global COVID-19 pandemic. You stand in a critical position as our state Governor and I—along with members of my cabinet, board members, faculty, staff, students, parents, alumni, and our surrounding neighbors—continue to look to you for guidance as we navigate this current and very challenging path. I remain optimistic that this moment will pass and that the University of Denver community, along with our state, national and world communities, will grow in strength and actively work to advance the greater good. I am most appreciative of your input and advocacy for the CARES Act, the Federal legislation passed last week that includes provisions for much-needed financial relief and support for a variety of critical services, including higher education. 

Now that the CARES Act has been signed into law, I am writing to personally urge you to prioritize private higher education institutions as you use your discretion to issue grant dollars appropriated by the Act. As you know, the CARES Act provides for $30.75 billion for grants to provide emergency support to local school systems and to higher education institutions to provide educational services to their students and to support ongoing services. The Act additionally provides $13.5 billion for formula grants to each state which, under your leadership, may distribute 90 percent of funds to local educational agencies, including private institutions to use for coronavirus-response activities, such as planning for, coordinating, and purchasing educational technology to support online learning during long-term university closure in support of students served by the institution. Because of the many financial challenges presented by COVID-19, the University of Denver is in dire need of financial relief and support aligned with the noted appropriations. 

At the University of Denver, we have responded to the critical health crisis by moving to online teaching for our entire spring term. This required that we hire additional instructional designers and that we create a peer network so faculty members with expertise could mentor others with less experience in this teaching modality. Early in the crisis, we took precautionary measures, such as bringing home our study abroad students, as well as providing housing, food, and other resources to students who continue to reside in campus residence halls because they cannot safely return to their homes in either the United States or abroad. We have provided reimbursements to families who had paid their spring quarter room and board, and have also refunded health and activity fees, resulting in millions of dollars in unanticipated lost revenue. 

The hardships our students are facing during this crisis will no doubt impact them for many years to come. At the University of Denver, 48 percent of our full-time first year students receive need-based grants, and many are first-generation college students. We expect that a number of these students and their families will face crippling financial hardships, including job loss, due to the economic instability caused by the COVID-19 disruptions. 

The University of Denver employs nearly 4,900 people, whose jobs we are trying to protect, for their good and for the good of the local economy. We are diligently working to keep our faculty, staff and students actively working either in on-campus “essential” roles or working effectively from home. 

Every financial decision we make is in service of the 150-year tradition of this great private University that is dedicated to the public good. We are struggling to absorb unexpected expenses as we diligently work to support our students, faculty and staff, and with the elimination of campus events including those hosted by the Newman Center and our Division I athletics program, we also are facing a significant revenue shortfall. 

On behalf of everyone here, I hope that you will recognize the University of Denver as you begin to develop and implement measures to ensure that CARES Act appropriations, specifically for education, are distributed fairly. 

Thank you for your continued support of the University of Denver and for the students and community we serve. I wish you and yours continued good health and would welcome any opportunity to personally share the importance of this urgent call-to-action with you. 


Jeremy Haefner
University of Denver 

Cc: Angie Paccione, Executive Director 
Colorado Department of Higher Education 

Federico Pena, Chair 
Colorado’s Emergency Council on Economic Development