Health and Sciences building at Grossmont College. Image from Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District website.

Facing what it called “devastating” budget cuts because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District board wants state and federal elected officials to seek more funding for community colleges.

“COVID-19 presents an unprecedented challenge to our college district,” said board President Linda Cartwright after a resolution passed 5-0 Tuesday night. “We need an additional stable source of funding so that Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges can continue to provide the highest quality of education in East County and play a valuable role in contributing to the state’s economic recovery.”

The district is taking steps to address possible spending cuts, including:

  • Reducing the Grossmont and Cuyamaca College summer sessions by 75%
  • Freezing or delaying hiring for all but a few essential positions
  • Reducing or eliminating outside contracts
  • Reducing the number of temporary workers
  • And reducing districtwide expenses

Community colleges face an expected 10% decrease in state funding as outlined in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed state budget announced last week.

In addition, the proposed state budget significantly reduces funding for some programs that provide critical support services for students, and eliminates funding for community college food pantries, deferred maintenance projects, and liaisons to assist Dreamer students, the district said.

However, funding is expected to continue to provide two years of free community college for first-time students attending full-time.

The district says it has already spent more than $2 million in costs related to impacts from the pandemic, including training, purchases of laptop computers and personal protective equipment, and reimbursement of student funds.

Higher costs are expected to be incurred this fall, when most classes will be offered online and the campuses begin preparing for the return of staff to their offices.

While the district is eligible to receive $10 million in federal funds from the CARES Act, with $5 million to be distributed as emergency grants to students, the funds are highly restrictive and cannot be used to offset many of the costs related to the closure of the district and move to remote delivery, the district said.

The 27,000-student district supports a lawsuit by California Community Colleges against U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos regarding eligibility restrictions for the student funding that excludes DACA and international students.

On Friday, House lawmakers passed the $3 trillion HEROES Act, which would put about $37 billion more toward higher education.  The bill is not expected to be passed by the Senate.

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