Lincoln County has been hammered by the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. The county has suffered the highest unemployment rate in the state for much of this challenging time, and the pandemic’s profound effects on the tourism and service industries have been particularly damaging to the economy. Oregon Coast Community College students, a number of whom work in these industries, have suffered along with their neighbors. In addition to loss or reduction of work hours, throughout the spring and summer terms, many students have found themselves caring for young children as schools and childcare facilities have closed. OCCC students have faced mounting pressures of academic studies and deadlines, coupled with financial stress and added childcare responsibilities.
On Tuesday, July 14, the Oregon Legislature’s Emergency Board allocated $320,000 in Federal CARES Act funds to Oregon Coast Community College. Thanks to this funding, eligible students (per federal guidelines) will receive much-needed support to at least partially offset some of these challenges and stressors. The funding will also help cover some of the added costs the college has borne related to Covid response.
The CARES Act provided funding for community colleges to support the institutions hard-hit by the Covid crisis, and the students also affected. Earlier this spring, community colleges received allocations based on headcount, but smaller schools like OCCC were meant to receive no less than $500,000.
However, the database the Department of Education used to allocate funds to community colleges still showed OCCC as accredited through Portland Community College (PCC). Now in its 33rd year, OCCC has, up to this year, been accredited through larger institutions. On Feb. 3, 2020, after a six-year-long effort, the College secured its independent accreditation.
Because the Department of Education didn’t account for the fact it was already an independent institution, OCCC was essentially penalized $320,000, as the College was allocated funds based only on headcount as a fraction of PCC’s (much larger) headcount total, and not considered eligible for the $500K minimum. OCCC’s total amount of CARES Act funds via PCC was close to $180,000. Again, no other community college in Oregon received less than $500,000.
“That’s the wrong that Rep. David Gomberg and the E-Board were trying to help us right – using federal CARES Act funds invested around the state by the E-Board,” said Birgitte Ryslinge, OCCC President. “The funding championed by Rep. Gomberg will help OCCC provide critical, direct support to OCCC students impacted by the current situation,” she said. “Many of our students have lost work, many have found themselves caring for young children as schools and childcare facilities closed across the county. These funds can make the difference for some of our students when it comes to offsetting some costs of attending college. The students and staff of Oregon Coast Community College thank David Gomberg, Sen. Arnie Roblan, and the rest of the E-Board for their support in helping us correct this funding oversight.”
“OCCC deserved to be treated just as well as any other accredited college in Oregon,” said Rep. Gomberg, who led the effort to get the college funding included in the E-Board’s agenda for its July 14 meeting. “Our students needed and deserved that support. But because our accreditation is new, we got overlooked. It took a lot of conference calls and Zoom meetings, but I’m very pleased to say we got it fixed.”
Registration is open now for the Fall Term at Oregon Coast Community College. For personal assistance, call OCCC at 541-867-8501.