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COVID-19 Could Be a Community College Budget-Buster

Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo, IA has an enrollment of 3,500 students. President Todd Holcomb recently warned the Board of Trustees that the COVID-19 virus could generate losses for the college of $1M or more. According to Holcomb, the biggest losses could come from the cancellation of corporate training, non-credit programs and events.

Holcomb also faces another challenge: keeping employees on the payroll. Before closing the campus, Holcomb committed to paying all employees through the end of FY20. Beyond that, however, he has made no promises.

The $1M losses Holcomb referred to constitute 1.6% of Hawkeye Community College’s annual $61M budget. Clearly, non-credit classes don’t sustain the college’s 350 employees. But Holcomb apparently understands the virus’s potential to impact things that do – like next year’s student enrollment.

As a group, coronaviruses tend to appear and surge during the winter and spring. They can remain active all year long. Currently, there are no vaccines for human coronaviruses. Until recently, human coronaviruses were little more than nuisances to most people. Without a vaccine and with a highly contagious virus, it’s at least possible that we’ll be dealing with COVID-19 all summer. We could see a resurgence of the virus during the winter months.

In little more than three weeks, we’ve seen the deadly potential of this virus. We have also gotten a small taste of the financial havoc it can wreak. While the researchers work on unlocking effective vaccines and treatments, and the health care system works on nursing affected patients through the virus, we need the Trustees to make very good, very rational policy and financial decisions on behalf of WCC’s students, faculty and the taxpayers they were elected to represent.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Cutrer , via Flickr