Higher-education leaders are pressing Congress for more than $50 billion in emergency aid to help colleges, universities and students respond to the coronavirus crisis.

On Thursday, the American Council on Education, which represents college presidents, sent lawmakers a memorandum asking for billions of dollars in direct funding for students and schools that have taken unprecedented steps to shut down campuses this month amid the public health emergency. Under the proposal, students would be eligible for reimbursement of emergency expenses of up to $1,500 each, and institutions would be able to recover some of their immediate costs.

Ted Mitchell, president of the group, told The Washington Post those proposed funds would total $50 billion. In addition, higher-ed leaders are seeking interest-free loans from the federal government, to ease potential cash-flow problems, and $7.8 billion to help with the sudden transition to online and remote education.

“We know these funds will not be close to outweighing the damages” colleges are suffering, Mitchell said. He predicted emergency-response costs for schools would total in the hundreds of billions of dollars. “We want to start quickly, to get money into the hands of students and institutions now,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said leaders are asking the Senate to consider the proposal as it takes up broader coronavirus-relief legislation in coming days.