Path to Recovery Update 6/25

Path to Recovery graphic

June 25, 2020 - 05:08 PM

The Mt. SAC Path to Recovery update provides a summary of large scale efforts from the college to navigate the COVID-19 crisis, including its related economic impact.

More Students Benefit from CARES Act Funding

Thanks to a new court ruling (temporary injunction), Mt. SAC has expanded the number of students who can be assisted by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act Emergency Grants for Students. The Financial Aid Office recently distributed more than $300,000 to Dreamers. Noncredit students who were previously ineligible for support are now being reviewed for these grants. Mt. SAC received $17.5-million in aid from the CARES Act. Half of the aid must be available to students in the form of emergency cash grants to help current students pay for housing, food, and other basic essentials. The other half is to help schools cover costs associated with altering instruction due to the outbreak.

Summer Classes Start Online

The six-week Summer Intersession started on Monday. Full Time Equivalent students have increased by 18 percent. Classes are currently all online. Public health officials have approved a small number of exemptions to train essential personnel in areas such as public safety and health-related professions.

‘EW’ Continues in the Summer

This term, Mt. SAC will continue to allow students to drop with an “EW”—Excused Withdrawal.  This is an acceptable mark and does not count against the student’s GPA, academic standing or ability to repeat the course. Due to Title IV requirements, the Financial Aid Office requires students to provide a written email explaining why the withdrawal was the result of the COVID-19 emergency. Allowable circumstances for the attestation include, but are not limited to: Illness of the student or family member; Need to become a caregiver or first responder; Loss of childcare; Economic hardship; Inability to access Wi-Fi due to closed facilities; or An increase in work hours as a result of the COVID-19 emergency.

Fall Classes Available for Search

Mt. SAC posted more than 3,200 classes for the Fall Semester. Registration begins on July 8. Any classes that can be taught online will be held online. A small number of classes will be taught on-campus in curricular areas that train essential personnel. A Return to Campus Taskforce is marshaling resources and developing processes to ensure all on-campus classes support social distancing and follow public health recommendations.

Board Reviews Budget Measures

At the Board of Trustees meeting, Mt. SAC presented details on the Revised 2019-2020 Budget and Tentative 2020-2021 Budget. The Board of Trustees approved a proposal related to the college’s Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) Trust, which is a fund to pay for retirees’ health benefits. To preserve cash flow to address deferrals, the college will delay contributions to the OPEB Trust this year and next year. In addition, because of stock market volatility, the college will pay approximately $2.9 million for retiree health benefits from the 2019-2020 unrestricted general fund rather than pulling money out of the trust during a decline.

This week, the Governor and state legislators are due to approve a budget for the new fiscal year that avoids major cuts to community colleges, but removes a cost of living adjustment, increases the use of budget deferrals, and assumes additional aid from Congress. Budget analysts caution that a more accurate budget picture will be available in late summer after state taxes are received. The state is anticipating the use of deferrals for both the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 fiscal years. Similar to providing an IOU, colleges will be able to use the promised budget, but the deferred funds will not be available until the subsequent year. Anticipated deferrals of $38-million will impact about 20 percent of the college’s unrestricted dollars.

In anticipation of budget reductions over the next two to three years, the Mt. SAC leadership team is developing strategies to safeguard the college, ensure quality education continues, and protect permanent positions. Initial planning includes a hiring frost, review of overtime and short-term hourly positions, the return of unspent new resource allocation reviews, as well as analysis of unspent budgets over the past four years.