Cabrillo College
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
Higher Ed

Cabrillo College to receive $8.8M in federal relief, more than doubling its first round of stimulus

“We know they are struggling to pay rent and meet their monthly obligations, so this will provide an immediate lifeline of support to stay in school and refocus on their studies.”

Cabrillo College is receiving $8.8 million in federal relief, the college learned Thursday — more than twice its level of support from the first round of stimulus.

At least $2 million is earmarked for direct grants to students. College officials confirmed plans to give out grants of at least $500 to students this spring based on financial need, aid that students can spend not just on tuition but also toward other essential costs such as rent, food and health care.

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“Our students have lost jobs and hours of employment,” said
Amy Lehman, the college’s vice president of student services. “We know they are struggling to pay rent and meet their monthly obligations, so this will provide an immediate lifeline of support to stay in school and refocus on their studies. The added benefit is that these dollars will circulate in our local economy,”

College officials said they hope to disburse the grants as soon as February.

“The immediate impact is for students,” said Cabrillo College President Matt Wetstein, adding that college officials would consider the feasibility of increasing the grant amount in coming days.

The $8.8 million allotment, announced Thursday by the U.S. Department of Education, more than doubles the $4 million Cabrillo received from the April stimulus. And it exceeds Wetstein’s prediction from earlier this month.

“The ability to have the windfall — a little bit more than we were expecting — is going to give us some cushion to think about some projects, getting facilities ready for the return to face to face,” Wetstein said.

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Relief funds will likely be used to renovate college server rooms, upgrade heating, ventilation and air-conditioning, and for professional development, according to college officials.

The funds come via the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, the $900 billon federal stimulus package signed into law by President Donald Trump on Dec. 27.

Though a smaller economic injection than the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, the December stimulus carved out more funds to support higher ed — $22.7 billion, instead of $14.2 billion.

The second stimulus also updated its funding formula, after lobbying from community colleges, giving more weight to students learning part-time and online only.

Community colleges have borne the brunt of enrollment impacts from the pandemic, with enrollment down nationally more than 9% in the fall.

Facing the twin crises of pandemic and the CZU fire, Cabrillo College was hit harder than most. Its fall enrollment dropped 18%, falling below 10,000 for the first time in decades.