Mt. SAC Distributes Almost $7 Million to Students

The board of trustees announced the college’s distribution of funds from the CARES Act to students struggling amidst the pandemic


Photo Illustration: Leni Santos/SAC.Media.

The Mt. SAC Board of Trustees virtually met for their regularly scheduled meeting on May 14 and announced they had distributed almost $7 million to support Mt. SAC students in response to the COVID-19 pandemic per the CARES Act.

The CARES Act, which stands for Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, refers to a federal law meant to address the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. It is a $2 trillion economic relief package that was passed by Congress to provide economic assistance to individuals and businesses.

The CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund-IHE/Student Aid provides funds to institutions for emergency financial aid grants to students whose lives have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, many of whom face financial challenges and have struggled to make ends meet.

The $7 million was distributed to around 10,400 students who qualified for Title IV federal aid. The funds were dispersed on Friday, May 8, and the money arrived in students’ accounts the following Monday. Students were given the choice to receive a debit card with the funds or get it directly deposited into their accounts. The money can be used just like cash to best help students’ school and personal needs.

While not every student is eligible for the funding, the board reported other means of funds will be procured to promote a stable financial situation for those students. A fund of $389,300 will be issued to 526 undocumented students.

President of Academic Senate Chisato Uyeki said, “It is important that we continue to support our students who may not be eligible for CARES funds, but that we enable the use of other funding to support those students or undocumented students, our international students, our dual enrollment students, and many of our non-credit students.”

Additional money will be awarded to students as they qualify for financial aid. Students will also get a chance to apply for additional grants in the future.

Also covered was the ongoing faculty healthcare situation.

Mt. SAC English professor Gary Enke and art history department chair Sandra Esslinger submitted a letter for public comment on behalf of the faculty.

Enke and Esslinger said that faculty members were not in attendance because of the extraordinary circumstances that faculty has been presented with.

“The faculty are not silent…They’re actively working under duress to serve the Mt. SAC student body. That is why they are not here speaking with you,” Enke and Esslinger said. “And with all this, they work steadfastly at home without equitable healthcare allowances.”

“They are struggling to pay the bills because a partner has lost medical insurance and they must now provide what the district refuses to offer faculty,” they added.

Joan Sholars, who is a professor in the mathematics and computer science department and serves as the Faculty Association president, also provided her input on the situation during her Faculty Association report.

“Faculty feel strongly that the district has put their health and safety at risk due to the insistence on change from CalPERS to SISC for reasons that the faculty cannot understand,” Sholars said.

The fight for faculty healthcare first began in 2018 when faculty members gathered and protested at several board of trustees meetings to keep California Public Employees’ Retirement System, known as CalPERS, as their medical carrier. While the district planned to shift employees to Self-Insured Schools of California, known as SISC, faculty members fought to keep CalPERS because it would guarantee them lifetime health benefits even after they retire, as outlined in their contracts.

The board also voted unanimously to increase the salaries of some employees.

By a unanimous vote from the board, Mt. SAC employees of the management employee group, the confidential employee group and CSEA, Chapter 651 will receive a cost-of-living adjustment increase of 3.26%. There was also an agreement reached on year one-of-three re-opener agreement between the Faculty Association and the Mt. SAC district. They will also receive a 3.26% increase. The board approved a proposal to initiate faculty negotiations for the year two-of-three re-opener agreement.

Bill Lambert from the Mt. SAC Foundation and Alumni Association announced news to the board regarding the nursing program.

Lambert said, “The foundation for California Community Colleges has a first response healthcare student support fund that they established, they reached out to us and gave us almost $5,000 that we’re going to distribute among nursing students at Mt. SAC that have the greatest need.”

Richard Mahon, Mt. SAC’s vice president of instruction, also clarified that nursing students who are close to graduating will be allowed to return to their clinical sites, but will not return to campus.

Nursing programs throughout California mandate current and potential students to complete program requirements in medical centers. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, nursing students who were ready to complete their training were placed on hold.

The board of trustees also adopted and passed the temporary closure of the Child Development Center in response to the novel Coronavirus. This closure includes the preschool program, which has about 200 infants and toddlers enrolled. The center provided food and formula for children as part of the Child and Adult Care Food Program, also known as CACFP.

“This is just absolutely heartbreaking. And I know it’s going to have a domino effect and cause hardship. But we have to do what we have to do to make sure people don’t get sick,” trustee Laura Santos said.

While some resources are being temporarily halted for the safety of Mt. SAC students, others are remaining available to provide aid. Student trustee Maricela Vasquez recognized the basic needs committee for their commitment to providing Mt. SAC students with a drive-thru food pantry. The next one to come will be on May 28, 2020.

The Mt. SAC health center is also still open through online scheduled appointments for TeleHealth medical visits with physicians, nurse practitioners and TeleMentalHealth counseling visits with therapists.

Also discussed at the meeting was the successful shift to online courses for dual enrollment students. Director of Dual Enrollment Joel Monroy and Assistant Director of Dual Enrollment Marlyn Lanuza presented their report, which detailed the program’s success in transitioning to a temporary online platform due to COVID-19.

Dual enrollment refers to a program created to benefit high school students and encourage them as early as ninth grade to enroll in college classes while in high school.

Mt. SAC anticipated a 55% to 60% growth for dual enrollment courses in 2021. There will be two additional school districts and six new partnering high schools added to the dual enrollment program for the 2020-2021 school year.

“We’re partnering with pretty much all of the Pomona Unified schools, and we’re actually introducing one private school in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles,” Monroy and Lanuza said. “So we’re really excited for that.”

The board also established that the Mt. SAC District denounces discrimination, xenophobia and micro-aggressions against Asian-Pacific Islanders and does not the support the rhetoric and racist remarks of some national leaders regarding the COVID-19 global pandemic. In fall 2019, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders made up about 18% of the student population.

The Mt. SAC Board of Trustees will meet again for their regularly scheduled meeting on June 24.