A tough financial time at Community Colleges of Spokane (CCS) got a boost this week when the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) approved giving it $4.3 million in one-time funds from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund.
“We are grateful to the Governor for his recognition of the important role community and technical colleges play in rebuilding our economy and serving our communities,” said CCS Chancellor Christine Johnson. “This money will help our colleges address increased expenses from operating during this pandemic and financial losses due to the unexpected enrollment declines last spring.”
The GEERS fund is a one-time discretionary pool of funds provided to governors through the federal CARES Act. Governor Jay Inslee dedicated $44 million of CARES Act funds to Washington’s 34 community and technical colleges. On Wednesday, the State Board for Washington’s Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) approved a plan to distribute the $44 million among the 34 colleges, using a formula that tracked enrollment declines and other factors.
SBCTC directed these funds to help the colleges continue their work to reduce equity gaps, fulfill their mission, and sustain operations during this critical time.
In addition to state appropriations, CCS relies heavily on student tuition. Student enrollment between winter and spring quarter dropped by about 13 percent combined at Spokane Falls Community College and Spokane Community Colleges, at the very same time operating costs significantly increased.
“Overnight at both colleges we provided computers and technology to our students, faculty and staff for remote operations and adapted to smaller in-person class sizes to meet 6-foot distancing requirements,” said SCC President Kevin Brockbank. “We also experienced much higher costs with increased custodial cleaning, purchase of personal protective gear and specialized equipment.”
The GEER funding distribution also targeted a portion of the funds toward continued college efforts to maintain student support for students of color.
“At SFCC and SCC we are dedicated to serving our students of color and addressing the very real equity gap,” said SFCC President Kimberlee Messina. “We were pleased to see this called out as a priority by Governor Inslee because we are increasing our peer tutoring, online tutoring and programming through our multicultural centers. Especially during this pandemic, we must work to ensure we are meeting the needs of all of our students.”
Based on the enactment of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Governor Inslee received $54 million from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund to provide emergency assistance to educational entities in Washington State. Governor Inslee elected to provide all of these funds to public institutions of higher education and $44 million (81 percent) to the community and technical college system specifically. Approximately $10 million also is being distributed among the six public four-year institutions for similar purposes.
The SBCTC has $5 million remaining in its GEER allocation, which will be available to restart professional technical programs through a grant process. Brockbank said that SCC would be applying for a portion of those funds for its Transportation, Distribution and Logistics (CDL), Hydraulics, Pneumatics, and Fluid Power programs, as well as for apprenticeships.
Community Colleges of Spokane is the second largest community college district in the state, serving six counties in a 12,000-square-mile area. Along with traditional college campuses, SCC and SFCC, it also delivers a variety of educational programs including rural outreach, business and community training, adult literacy services – and Spokane County Head Start/ECEAP/Early Head Start.