Colleges to Congresswoman Stefanik: we need funding

Updated: Aug. 3, 2020 at 3:02 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Representatives from four St. Lawrence County universities had a chance to speak with Congresswoman Elise Stefanik Monday.

They shared measures they're taking to ensure the safety of students coming back to campus this year - measures that will come at a cost.

For Stefanik, there was a clear message.

"The key takeaway for me, and I'm sure for our other elected officials, is the need for robust funding," said Stefanik (R. - 21st District).

It's a concern shared among north country colleges. The need for more federal dollars for their institutions.

SUNY Canton President Zvi Szafran says there are many costs to making his school safe for students.

"There's the cost of testing, of course, and reconfiguring the campus so that the classrooms are reconfigured so that we can offer our courses in the safest possible manner," he said.

And that doesn't include moving some courses online and increased cleaning costs.

SUNY Potsdam President Dr, Kristin Esterberg says there's one problem for public institutions - New York has less money to give.

"The loss of state tax revenue has meant that the state has less money to provide for the public institutions of higher education," she said.

Stefanik says the CARES Act provided more than $12 billion in federal funds for higher education institutions.

And the latest COVID-19 relief bills being discussed would add to that figure.

"The HEALS Act, which is the Senate Republican proposal, provides an additional $29 billion for that Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund," said Stefanik.

Clarkson University is also calling for more federal relief, but officials there are grateful for the help of local lawmakers.

"New York is very fortunate to have people like Congressman Stefanik, Senator Gillibrand, Senator Schumer. They are all working, I think, diligently to keep the best interest of higher education," said Kelly Chezum, Clarkson University.

Clarkson University has already had students from high risk states and abroad move in for their 14-day quarantine.

SUNY Canton, SUNY Potsdam, St. Lawrence University, and Clarkson University have worked togteher to list their reopening plans in one place at

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