Community colleges throughout the United States are struggling with the effects of COVID-19. Many don’t know whether they’ll re-open their campuses. Others don’t know what their fall enrollment will be like. Some predict that fall enrollment will increase substantially. Others (like Los Angeles City College) have seen large numbers of students withdraw. So some community colleges are implementing strategies to address student needs.
Cerritos College builds housing to address homeless student needs
Cerritos College serves the southeast section of Los Angeles County. Its institutional data showed that more than half of its students were either homeless or struggled to provide housing. So, Cerritos College built a student housing complex specifically for homeless students. The complex isn’t large, but the school has partnered with a local non-profit to manage the facility. The school’s rationale for building housing was that its students could complete a college degree faster if they weren’t worried about housing.
I looked at Cerritos College’s master facilities plan , which the college published last year. The master facilities plan did not mention building housing facilities to address student needs for shelter. Yet, the college opened the complex in June, and paid for it out of the school’s budget. They built the facility on land they’d recently purchased. Cerritos College could certainly have built a hotel instead or focused on how much profit they could make by renting out student housing. Instead, the Trustees there focused on student needs. As a result, most of the students who qualify for housing won’t even pay rent while they complete their studies.
Mississippi Community Colleges and SNAP focus on addressing student needs
Mississippi community colleges will partner with the Mississippi Department of Human Services to provide educational assistance to individuals who qualify for the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The partnership identifies prospective students who receive SNAP benefits, and offers Adult Basic Education opportunities, Career/Technical education or Workforce Skills training programs. SNAP Education and Training (SNAP E&T) offers educational opportunities under the program, including Certified Nursing Assistant, Pharmacy Technology, Phlebotomy, Medical Coding, Manufacturing Skills Basic, Welding, Commercial Driver’s License and Welding.
Other community colleges are working hard to meet student needs. Connecticut community colleges are using reserve funds to offer free college to Connecticut students. Initially, the State of Connecticut authorized the program, but the COVID-19 pandemic struck before the state could fund it. So the colleges are funding it themselves for the first year, using about $3M in reserves to get the program implemented.
Some community colleges in California are operating food pantries for their students, many of whom are food-insecure. Others are providing students with the tools they need to continue their studies.
Fortunately, their students attend institutions where the Board of Trustees and the administrations fully focus on meeting student needs, rather than dreaming up plans for hotels or spending community resources on health clubs. Or how to pay for another Vice President.
Photo Credit: CSU Monterey Bay , via Flickr