CMC to offer free summer tuition for many students, as economic impacts of pandemic hit
Colorado Mountain College plans to use its $1.6 million in federal public health emergency stimulus dollars to give most students and unemployed workers a break this summer.
The CMC Board of Trustees, meeting via Webex teleconference on Monday, voted 7-0 to waive tuition, as well as books and other fees, for three categories of students during the summer 2020 term.
Several other initiatives were also put into place to try to help individuals and small businesses impacted by the economic downturn brought on by the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“Nearly every business across our mountain resort communities, including the region’s largest employers, have been shuttered,” CMC President and CEO Carrie Besnette Hauser said in a prepared statement issued following the trustees’ decision.
“The impacts of this upheaval will be detrimental to our local businesses and residents, without whom CMC would not exist,” she said. “So, we consider this a reinvestment into our local communities with the hope it will contribute to a speedier recovery.”
Summer courses will be offered online, continuing with the current arrangement to close out the spring semester.
Per the board’s decision Monday, tuition is to be waived for students taking credit, English as a Second Language and GED courses who qualify as in-district; in-state students who took credit courses in spring 2020; and displaced workers who live in the CMC district.
During the Monday meeting, Matt Gianneschi, chief operating officer for the college district, said college enrollment tends to increase during times of economic crisis when unemployment increases.
“Enrollment sometimes grows very dramatically, especially as many workers who don’t have the opportunity to return to the workforce right away look for opportunities to continue their educations,” he said.
In addition to the expected stimulus money, Gianneschi said the college can utilize savings brought on by the public health emergency to support the summer tuition waivers. That savings related to hiring freezes, canceled commencement ceremonies and reductions in energy usage.
In response to the COVID-19 outbreak in Colorado, CMC suspended in-person classes following spring break. Student coursework has been done online since March 23.
The college can also use revenues realized by the trustees’ recent decision to exercise a voter-authorized provision to recoup financial losses triggered by the state’s Gallagher Amendment, according to a press release issued by CMC after the Monday board decision.
A tuition break could also help employer-sponsored students, often out-of-state seasonal workers, who are taking courses in the hospitality or tourism trades, Gianneschi advised trustees during the Monday meeting.
“The hope there is to be able to provide some support during the recovery to keep some of those employees here in Colorado for when they are able to go back to work,” he said.
CMC Board President Patty Theobald said in the news release, “As educators and supporters of our local businesses, we know that education is a powerful economic driver that can help us today and tomorrow, working together to bounce back.”
The college district itself also expects to take a financial hit as a result of the economic downturn, but likely not until the 2021-22 academic/fiscal year. The college is in a good position to plan for that likelihood ahead of time, Gianneschi said.
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Several Carbondale businesses are scrambling to relocate and others are just plain calling it quits following plans for one of the town’s oldest strip malls to be redeveloped.