California community colleges should prepare to continue remote instruction through spring 2021, according to California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Oakley.
In a conference held over ConferZoom with student media representatives on April 14, Oakley stated that colleges have been informed to prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic to extend into the following fall and spring semesters. As a result, the chancellor’s office has advised colleges to prepare to maintain social distancing procedures in classes and have more hybrid and online courses, even if campuses will be partially open.
“Your guess is as good as mine about what’s going to happen in the fall,” Oakley said. “My guess, and what we’ve informed the colleges, is to be prepared to educate under some type of social distancing protocol.”
Marty Alvarado, executive vice chancellor, also said that colleges have been communicating with local county health departments to understand when colleges may be able to resume in-person instruction.
“Even if we are able to come back to campus, it won’t be in the same way that we’re used to,” Oakley added. “We won’t be able to have large lecture halls. We may have to permanently, at least temporarily, move high-student courses to continue to have some sort of remote format or hybrid format.”
Oakley clarified that none of the California community colleges will close offerings or enrollment.
Community college athletics may also be affected by the widespread college closures. Athletics are managed by the California Community College Athletic Association, which is separate from the chancellor’s office. Despite this, Oakley said that they have communicated with and given guidance to the Athletics Association, and sporting events with attendees are not expected.
The fate of athletic competitions, however, has not yet been decided.
Oakley later pointed out the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, known as the CARES Act. The CARES Act is a federal relief bill signed by President Trump on March 27 that would distribute $2.2 trillion in aid to those who have been impacted by the pandemic. The federal government will decide how $300 million of that funding is allocated to the California community colleges based on full-time enrollment, and colleges were given guidance to use the funding as aid for low-income students.
The funds from the CARES Act would give colleges flexibility in how aid is distributed for expenses such as food, housing, childcare and healthcare. The chancellor’s office has not placed restrictions on who the aid goes to and has asked colleges to prioritize students, meaning that undocumented students would be eligible for aid, despite the CARES Act being from the federal level. Individual colleges are responsible for deciding how the funds they receive are distributed.
According to the facts and figures reported on Mt. SAC’s website, 75% of Mt. SAC students receive financial aid.
The aid from the CARES Act is expected to come to colleges by Thursday, Oakley said.
Along with funding from the CARES Act, the chancellor also said that additional funding will go towards tutoring and supplemental instruction, and the state has been developing an unemployment insurance program for students.
“Many of our students rely on the jobs that they had to be able to afford college,” Oakley said. California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that at least 1.6 million people in California have filed for unemployment since March 13.
As the pandemic impacts more and more Californians financially, Oakley expressed concern about the number of college students who do not participate in the U.S. Census, as it can impact the funds California community colleges receive.
The amount of people counted in the U.S. Census helps determine how much federal funding is allocated for states, which, as a result, also helps determine how much funding goes to education.
“College students are at risk of being undercounted in California,” he said. “This effort is essential to get a complete count of every member of the community so that students are fairly represented by our congressional leadership and that our colleges get their fair share of federal resources for many years to come.”