This April, Cabrillo announced its gain of four million dollars from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the CARES Act). I recently spoke with President Matt Wetstein to discuss the expenditure of this fund.
Cabrillo has already received two of the four million-dollars and is quickly devising a plan to expend it. As with all federal funding, of course there’s a catch, but this one should be happily followed. According to Wetstein, at least half of the four million dollars must go directly to students experiencing financial need. In order to fulfill that requirement, Wetstein has devised a four-part plan. He summarized, “For first wave of funding, our students with the most financial needs (according to their financial need forms) have received an automatic 500 dollars, if they are enrolled in three or more units.” This was disbursed through their financial aid bank account to 2,000 students, for ultimately one quarter of the fund.
The secondary part of the plan, which is currently being enacted, is to “create an application form for students with unexpected needs, like food, housing, and lost incomes. These applicants will be put into a pool and awarded through a lottery system.” The school will give away another million using this process, in their second wave of grants. After that, Cabrillo will begin the third part of its plan, “covering institutional expenses caused by the COVID-19 crisis.” Wetstein detailed the funds used to make the shift to virtual learning for his students, “We’ve spent about 400,000 dollars in bulk costs for online instruction. We’ve needed to provide computers, web cameras, and internet hotspots for both staff and students, that can no longer use our campus resources. That’s a lot of expenditures.” Cabrillo will also use the funds to “pay for the professional development of our faculty, with a stipend for online certification of virtual teaching credentials.” Finally, the rest of the funds will be held for future use, as President Wetstein is “certain that more student, faculty, and institutional needs will surface overtime.”
President Wetstein was also eager to share to major predictions for the future of Cabrillo. “It’s going to be an interesting period, beginning with the economic downturn from this crisis. Every local government and community college will be operating with smaller budgets. When the economy goes down, we lose funding, but enrollment grows. Enrollment is really strong for summer term. We’ll probably see a jump for the fall semester as well, which will create budgetary concerns.” Moreover, Wetstein is curious about how continued virtual education will affect Cabrillo. “How many institutions are going to persist with an increasing percentage of course load online? A lot of students are residential, they want the convenience of online classes, so we may see more community colleges offering their courses online. Many now face the uncertainty of a virtual semester at expensive private colleges and are now less inclined to do so, so we’ll have to serve more for less.”
While Wetstein can’t be entirely sure in his speculations, we can be sure that education system will look different as we emerge from this crisis, and he is sure to have extra resources to help adapt.