Reporter’s notebook

Stimulus bill would provide emergency grants to students

Congress on Sunday afternoon released revised CARES Act stimulus legislation that would provide $20 billion for education programming, suspend student loan payments for six months and significantly reduce Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ authority to waive federal education laws, according to higher education advocates.

The bill would allocate funding to colleges and universities based on the proportion of students who are Pell Grant eligible, with most of the funding that colleges receive going to emergency grants for students, according to advocates familiar with the legislation.

At our press time, a cloture vote on the legislation failed in the Senate by a 47-to-47 vote along party lines, with Democrats arguing the bill has too many shortcomings. Still, leaders on both sides of the aisle say they plan to keep working toward a compromise bill.

Meanwhile, higher education organizations, including the American Association of Community Colleges, have partnered in sending lawmakers a list of what they would like to see in legislation to help colleges and students. It includes: emergency relief for institutions and students (emergency grants of up to $1,500 to qualifying students), access to low-cost capital, administrative relief, long-term tax relief for students and colleges, and a $7.8 billion technology fund.

It’s remote, not online

Educators want to make clear the distinction between online education and remote learning, which is for many the preferred term as colleges transition from in-person classes to alternative ways to complete classes.

Lamar Community College in Colorado is among many public two-year colleges that are making the adjustment. President Linda Lujan noted, however, that instructors are not designing new online programs but rather using various formats of learning to help students complete their courses, which may include videos, some online instruction and even allowing students to take certain class equipment home to finish their work.

The key to developing a successful transition plan is innovation and creativity, said Lujan, noting that input from students is important.

“If you give it to them, they will figure it out,” she said.

Parking fees waived

In light of moving its in-person classes into a remote format, Northern Virginia Community College plans to refund students’ spring parking fees.

“Thank you for persisting in your studies and sticking with us!” President Anne Kress said in making the announcement on Twitter.

Wifi in parking lots

A growing number of community colleges are reminding students that they can access wifi through the college. Institutions such as Dabney S. Lancaster Community College in rural Clifton Forge, Virginia, and Forsyth Technical Community College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, are telling students that although the schools’ buildings are closed, students can drive to their parking lots to access wifi from the buildings.

It’s time to invest in colleges

In Kentucky, several community college presidents took to social media to advocate for state funding, reminding lawmakers that public two-year colleges will play a critical role in the workforce and economic recovery after the pandemic.

On Twitter, several college leaders told their state representatives: “As you continue to work on the budget during these very difficult times, please remember the thousands of KCTCS (Kentucky Community and Technical College System) students and the importance of adequate funding as our colleges eventually begin to recover from this alarming crisis.”

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
is editor of Community College Daily and serves as publications director for the American Association of Community Colleges.