The novel coronavirus pandemic is stressing Florida colleges and students.
That’s the message the State Board of Education heard Wednesday from Jim Murdaugh, President of Tallahassee Community College and Chair of the Council of Presidents for the Florida College System.
Murdaugh says unlike university students, college students don’t live in dorms. They have to work and pay rent and buy food. Like some K-12 students, food insecurity is also an issue for some college students. So is mental health and housing.
“Our food pantry at our college, for example, is completely wiped out,” he said. “And if you think about the logistics of trying to get food to students who can’t come to campus anymore, then it becomes a real challenge for us all.”
Murdaugh says the Legislative Session did not position colleges well to meet the challenge posed by COVID-19. He says the state’s colleges received only $22.9 million from lawmakers to raise base funding.
“That’s not an insignificant number, but when you do the simple math to try to divide $22.9 million across 28 colleges, I think you can see that’s not much of an improvement,” he said.
Murdaugh says lawmakers also didn’t provide colleges with funding for PECO, public education capital outlay, projects. They requested $37.8 million for repairs and renovations and $28 million for priority projects.
Colleges also failed to receive $16.5 million for dual enrollment. The Last Mile Completion Program, a new program that would provide tuition assistance for students who are no longer enrolled in college and are within 12 or fewer credit hours from completing their first degree, didn’t get the $1.5 million from lawmakers colleges were asking for.
Murdaugh says instead colleges are on the hook for some bills. He says they asked for $18.6 million to replenish the risk management consortium because deductibles from hurricanes Irma, Michael and Matthew severely strained their budgets. He adds that they also owe $18.7 million to the Florida Retirement System.
The college president ended his presentation on a high note. April is community college month.