Reporter’s notebook

Photo: Matthew Dembicki

  • Childcare gaps cost states billions
  • $17M for free textbook rentals
  • California college applies for student housing grant
  • Academic forgiveness due to pandemic
  • Partnering with Coast Rica for education services and training
  • Training facility for swift-water rescues

Childcare gaps cost states billions

State economies lost between $100 million and $10 billion this year because of childcare issues, according to a series of studies by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

The foundation on Tuesday released five new reports in its “Untapped Potential” series, examining the effect of childcare challenges on the state economies of Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Missouri and Texas. The studies show that addressing childcare breakdowns would bolster economic potential for states, employers and working parents.

The research finds that due to breakdowns in the childcare system, these states miss an estimated average of $2.7 billion annually for their economies. This number includes an average annual total of $528 million in lost tax revenue, and a combined average annual loss to employers of $2 billion from absences and employee turnover.

The studies also show education status changes due to childcare, such as dropping from a work training class or program or attending part-time instead of full-time. For example, 23% to 37% of respondents among the five states report having experienced disruption to their education due to childcare across income groups.

The findings indicate the issue is more than just affordability of care. Families report that investments in childcare should foster innovative solutions that give parents more flexibility to manage their schedule and choose childcare based on their unique needs and preferences, help providers remain open, and ensure qualified childcare workers are available in their communities, the foundation said.

$17M for free textbook rentals

The Alamo Colleges District in Texas on Wednesday will launch AlamoBOOKS+, which will offer free textbook rentals during the spring 2022 and summer 2022 semesters to both returning and new students.

Moving to this new course material model will eliminate the cost of books and ensure students will have all their needed textbooks and instructional materials, according to the district. It plans to invest up to $17 million of federal Covid relief funding to cover the costs.

California college applies for student housing grant

The Compton Community College District recently applied for a student housing grant with the California Department of Finance. The state legislature this fall passed a bill that establishes a program of one-time grants to construct student housing.

“Receiving this grant would be a dream come true by providing a crucial resource for Compton College students, many of whom face housing insecurity,” said Sonia Lopez, president of the district’s board of trustees. “The board has supported Compton College President/CEO Keith Curry’s ongoing vision of on-campus student housing. For the last several years, Dr. Curry has tirelessly advocated and lobbied at our state capital for assistance with basic needs for community college students.”

The 135,350-square-foot building, which would cost about $77 million, would include three or four floors of student living quarters with about half of the capacity set aside for low-income students. The long-term goal for the project includes 450 beds with about 120 double-room units, 80 double-suite units and 50 studio units. Students with dependents would live in a studio unit combined with shared rooms.

Academic forgiveness due to pandemic

The Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) recently extended an academic forgiveness program to include the months that include the Covid pandemic.

The Academic Fresh Start allows eligible students who faced academic hardships to make a new start when they return after an extended absence. TBR last month added a Covid exception to it.

Previously, students had to be separated from all collegiate institutions for at least four years (eight semesters) to qualify. Public community and technical colleges can now offer the forgiveness to students who attended from spring 2020 through summer 2021. Under the Covid Fresh Start, courses taken and previously failed will be excluded from the calculation of the GPA.

“This is a needed benefit for students who experience academic difficulties due to Covid, and we applaud the Tennessee Board of Regents for making this option available,” Charle Coffey, interim executive vice president for student success and academic affairs at Motlow State Community College, said in a press release.

Partnering with Coast Rica for education services and training

Hudson Valley Community College in New York has partnered with the government of Costa Rica to expand the college’s education and training initiatives there.

The new agreement with the Ministry of Public Education of the Republic of Costa Rica allows the college to provide specialized training for teachers and students involved in two of Costa Rica’s national education priorities: English as a foreign language and “Teach Her,” a project to provide opportunity and training in science, technology, engineering, arts and math education to young girls. Hudson Valley will provide train-the-trainer programs for educators teaching English as a foreign language in Costa Rican schools. The college will also offer distance learning classes for students in “Teach Her” programs.

Training facility for swift-water rescues

In North Carolina, Fayetteville Technical Community College (FTCC) plans to open an indoor swift-water rescue training facility at its Regional Fire and Rescue Training Center, which is now under construction.

Housed in an 8,400-square-foot building with an 80,000-gallon tank, the facility will allow emergency personnel to train year-round for a variety of dangerous swift-water and floodwater rescue situations. Vehicles and sections of buildings can be submerged in the tank for training scenarios, and with eight pumps that can blast water at up to 7 knots per hour to simulate flood situations.

Video footage of a similar training facility built by the company that would construct the facility at FTCC.

If approved by the state board, FTCC hopes to open the facility in a year to 18 months. The project costs about $3.5 million.

Certified swift-water rescue personnel are required to regularly retrain to maintain their credentials. There are more than 40 certified swift-water rescue teams in North Carolina, according to the college.

“Dangerous flood and swift-water situations can happen almost anywhere,” said FTCC President Larry Keen. “It is vitally important that emergency responders have specialized training in these instances. With this new facility, FTCC will be able to provide that training.”

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
Matthew Dembicki edits Community College Daily and serves as associate vice president of communications for the American Association of Community Colleges.