Reporter’s notebook

The Lee College McNair Center houses programs that provide students with hands-on technical training to prepare for high-paying careers in the petrochemical and construction industries. (Photo: Lee College)

Summer discounts and more

A growing number of community colleges are offering discounts for summer courses, with one Texas college deciding to offer free tuition to many students for the summer term.

Several of the colleges are using their federal coronavirus relief funds to cover tuition, fees and other expenses for students this summer. In Baytown, Texas, Lee College will use part of its $2 million in relief funds to allow many students to enroll for free this summer. Its board of regents on Thursday agreed to waive tuition, e-books and fees for the summer term for all:

  • in-district residents
  • out-of-district residents who attended this spring
  • any person in the college’s service area who has been displaced or suffered a loss of income due to COVID-19
  • students who graduated from its area high schools in the 2019-2020 academic year

“You may not be able to go off to university and live in a dormitory, and you may not have as much income as you did before the pandemic, but you can afford to go to Lee College, and you can’t afford to postpone your college dreams,” President Lynda Villanueva said in a press release.

The cost for six credits for in-district students is $600. The cost for six credits for out-of-district students is $1,029. Lee College typically averages around 3,100 students for the summer session. The college estimates between 3,500 and 5,500 students could enroll this summer.

To qualify for the summer tuition waiver, students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The plan is part of a comprehensive plan, Lee Cares, to help meet the needs of the college’s students who have suffered financial hardship due to COVID-19. An additional $2 million of federal CARES Act funding is being used to pay for expenses related to the coronavirus outbreak, including materials and technology, food, housing and childcare.

Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) is using part of its federal funds to allow local graduating high school students and rising seniors to take two online courses this summer tuition-free. Through NOVA’s JumpStart program, eligible students can choose from a select group of courses, ranging from cloud computing and quantitative reasoning, to college composition and world civilization.

The courses not only fulfill NOVA degree requirements but also transfer to most colleges and universities, the college said.

“At a time when many members of our community are struggling with the COVID-19 fallout, NOVA has an obligation to ensure our future workforce is prepared for success,” President Anne Kress said in a press release. “The current downturn in our economy does not solve our region’s critical skills gap in information technology, healthcare and skilled trades. When our economy bounces back, our students must be ready.”

This year’s Jack Kent Cooke Foundation transfer scholars

Fifty high-achieving community college students will receive the prestigious Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. The highly competitive national scholarship provides selected students with up to $40,000 a year to complete their bachelor’s degrees.

“We know this is a very uncertain time for many students and their families,” said Seppy Basili, executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. “We remain deeply committed to supporting high-achieving community college students to ensure they have the resources to reach their full academic potential.”

In addition to financial support, the scholars will receive comprehensive educational advising from the foundation to help them transition to a four-year college and prepare for their careers. They also will receive opportunities for internships, study abroad and graduate school funding.

Nearly 1,500 students from 311 community colleges applied for the 2020 scholarship. The foundation evaluated each submission based on students’ academic ability and achievement, financial need, persistence, leadership and service to others.

Many of the students have endured personal challenges. Aljon Celis, a student at Wallace State Community College in Hanceville, Alabama, is a first-generation immigrant from the Philippines and a first-generation student. He was recently awarded the Sigma Kappa Delta National Prize for Short Fiction. In addition to his academic success, he has served as a peer tutor in the Wallace State Tutoring Lab, where he helps students with English, American literature and business calculus.

Celis has received acceptance to at least one Ivy League institution and is awaiting other offers as he decides where he will transfer.

“For first-generation students like me, we have to figure things out on our own when it comes to higher education because there was never anyone to ask for help,” Celis said. “But I got the help I needed from my professors, advisors, and other staff members once arriving at Wallace. They helped me flourish in my educational pursuits.”

Hamzeh Alturk survived the civil war in Syria, during which he had to study by candlelight. He was accepted in 2018 into the Honors Program at Miami Dade College in and later to its Bridge to the Baccalaureate program, a partnership with the University of Miami. As part of that program, Alturk conducted and presented research at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students.

He hopes to transfer to the University of Southern California.

Of the 50 scholarship recipients, 43 are members of Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society of two-year colleges.

About the Author

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