Bristol Community College Board of Trustees approve a provisional 2020-2021 budget
The Bristol Community College Board of Trustees has approved a provisional operating budget of approximately $76 million for the fiscal year 2020-2021 at their monthly meeting on Thursday, April 16, 2020. The budget approval included several cost savings initiatives, investment strategies and an increase in student fees of $8 per credit, or about 4 percent.
The current cost for one year at Bristol, including tuition and fees, is $4,944, comparatively less than other public and private higher education institutions in the region that range from $8,000 to $39,000 a year. The fee increase will go into effect for the Fall 2020 semester, increasing the cost of attendance by $192 per year for a full-time student not receiving financial aid.
Through the Trustees’ efforts, the college cost remains near the bottom of all the community colleges. Bristol will remain in the bottom third of the 15 community colleges for fees and the college receives less state appropriation per student than all but one of the Massachusetts community colleges.
The Board made note of the fact that we are in unprecedented times and it is a challenge to project the complete impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the college’s budget. This is the reason for approving a provisional budget. We expect to approve a final budget for fiscal year 2021 in August 2020. Last week the Department of Education (DOE) announced that Bristol will receive $4.6 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This is part of $14 billion in federal funding awarded to institutions of higher education across the country.
According to the DOE guidance provided so far, 50 percent of the CARES Act funds will go directly to Bristol students through the college’s financial aid department. Bristol is thrilled that $2.3 million will go directly to the college’s students whose lives have been disrupted, many of whom are facing financial challenges and are struggling to make ends meet. This funding is expected to arrive late in the week of April 13, 2020.
The DOE guidance states that these funds are to be used for providing emergency financial aid grants to students, for their expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus, such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care and child-care expenses. Bristol has up to one year to expend the funding, although the college’s goal is to get as much of these funds to our students as quickly as possible.
The college is still waiting for specific guidelines for the second half of the CARES Act’s funding of $2.3 million. Still unknown is the timing of when the college will receive the second half, and what guidelines will be accompanying the funding. The college is hopeful that these funds will help Bristol recover some of the costs associated with the coronavirus pandemic.
Those costs include the cleaning work already performed and planned cleaning work, before the college’s return to face-to-face learning and work. The college has also experienced additional costs for the rapid transition to remote learning and work that included training, technology upgrades and additional equipment. Bristol is also aware that there will be costs to complete up to 50 course sections that the college was not able to complete during this Spring semester.
We cannot predict the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on summer and fall enrollment, and therefore we must prepare for worst-case scenarios. Also, the college’s investment account used to support operations has experienced a loss in value as a result of recent market volatility. The college has also lost a great deal of commission income from its auxiliary services, as well as the absence of facility rental income.
The college’s Board of Trustees and Administration are actively preparing for many other costs associated with the coronavirus pandemic that will arise as we navigate continuing to provide innovative, life-changing education to our students, during this unprecedented time.