Facing devastating budget cuts because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Governing Board of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District is calling on state and federal elected officials to advocate for additional funding for community colleges.
The board passed a resolution Tuesday night, “In support of federal advocacy to prioritize stable community college funding,” saying that additional funding is needed to deal with the impacts caused by the pandemic.
“COVID-19 presents an unprecedented challenge to our college district,” said Board President Linda Cartwright. “We need an additional stable source of funding so that Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges can continue to provide the highest quality of education in East County and play a valuable role in contributing to the state’s economic recovery.”
Community colleges are facing critical budget challenges with an expected 10% decrease in state funding as outlined in Governor Gavin Newsom’s proposed state budget announced last week. In addition, the proposed state budget significantly reduces funding for some programs that provide critical support services for students, and eliminates funding for community college food pantries, deferred maintenance projects, and liaisons to assist Dreamer students. However, funding is expected to continue to provide two years of free community college for first-time students attending full-time.
The district is taking numerous steps to address the anticipated spending cuts, including:
- Reducing the Grossmont and Cuyamaca College summer sessions by 75%
- Freezing or delaying hiring for all but a few essential positions
- Reducing or eliminating outside contracts
- Reducing the number of temporary workers
- Reducing districtwide expenses.
The college district and other higher education institutions have been financially hard hit by the impacts of the coronavirus epidemic. Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges had to scramble to provide entirely remote delivery of classes and support services when Gov. Gavin Newsom issued his stay at home order on March 19.
The district has already spent more than $2 million in costs related to impacts from the pandemic, including training, purchases of laptop computers and personal protective equipment, and reimbursement of student funds. Even higher costs are expected to be incurred this fall, when most classes will be offered online and the campuses begin preparing for the return of staff to their offices.
While the district is eligible to receive $10 million in federal funds from the CARES Act, with $5 million to be distributed as emergency grants to students, the funds are highly restrictive and cannot be used to offset many of the costs related to the closure of the district and move to remote delivery. The district supports a lawsuit by California Community Colleges against U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos regarding eligibility restrictions for the student funding that excludes DACA and international students.
On Friday, House lawmakers passed the $3 trillion HEROES Act, which would put about $37 billion more toward higher education. Most of that money would go to governors to distribute to public colleges, and about $10 billion would go to schools with pandemic-related needs. This bill would provide additional resources for higher education to offset some of the budget cuts. The bill is not expected to be passed by the Senate.