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Spokane community colleges get extra $4.3 million boost from CARES Act

UPDATED: Thu., Sept. 10, 2020

Spokane Community College is seen on Monday, Dec. 11, 2017.  (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Spokane Community College is seen on Monday, Dec. 11, 2017. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Another $4.3 million in federal coronavirus assistance is going to the Community Colleges of Spokane to help offset increased operating costs and a 13% drop in enrollment that drastically reduced tuition revenue.

The district, which includes Spokane Community College and Spokane Falls Community College, announced Tuesday it is slated to receive the money from a fund allocated to the state from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act that Congress passed in March.

Gov. Jay Inslee dedicated $44 million of that money to Washington’s 34 community and technical colleges, and a state education board distributed it based on a formula that tracked enrollment declines and other factors. Inslee set aside about $10 million to be distributed to the state’s six public universities, according to a news release from CCS.

“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,” CCS Chancellor Christine Johnson said in the release.

Spokane’s two community colleges, which rely heavily on tuition revenue, together saw a 13% drop in enrollment between the last winter and spring quarters.

Additionally, the colleges saw increased operating costs when they stepped up cleaning regimens, bought personal protective equipment, shrank class sizes and provided laptops and other technology to students, faculty and staff.

SCC previously received about $4.2 million from the first round of CARES Act higher education assistance, while SFCC got about $3.5 million. Roughly half of that money went directly to students in the form of emergency grants.

CCS said the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges, which oversaw the new round of CARES Act disbursements, has directed schools to spend the money on regular operations as well as reducing inequities and supporting students of color impacted by the pandemic.

The state board has about $5 million in CARES Act assistance remaining. SCC plans to apply for some of that to support its commercial driver licensing program and one of its automotive programs, as well as apprenticeships.

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