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The Lookout | October 30, 2020

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COVID-19’s impact on public education

COVID-19’s impact on public education
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By Shauna Stocken
Editor in Chief

As many colleges throughout the country plan for remote online learning during the summer and fall 2020 semesters, planning for a financial hit should also be anticipated.

Due to the likelihood of decreased college enrollment, the U.S. Department of Education issued a coronavirus stimulus package for institutions forced to close campuses, move instructions online and close dormitories.

According to LCC Executive Vice President Dr. Lisa Webb Sharpe during her May 5 presidential candidate open forum, LCC is scheduled to receive $5.9 million from the federal government as a part of the CARES Act coronavirus stimulus.

“Fifty percent of the funds that are for institutions are to cover COVID-related expenses,” Webb Sharpe said in a separate interview May 7. “The guidelines and regulations have not been issued yet in respect to that money,” Webb Sharpe said.

“We are still reviewing the guidance … it’s for expenses students may have incurred as a result of our moving to a remote environment during the pandemic.”

Once the guidelines and regulations are issued specifying which students qualify for the COVID financial relief, Webb Sharpe said sharing that information with students is one of the college’s top priorities.

“We’re almost done with our communication plan, then we are going to begin reaching out to students,” Webb Sharpe said. “We’re going to communicate by email, we’re going to communicate by text message and we’re going to use phone calls.

“We’re going to use all kinds of methods to make sure that students are aware of the opportunities that are available. So that way we can get money into their hands, because we know there are students that are seriously impacted and they need the support.”

Currently, the only stipulation Webb Sharpe said she is aware of from the Department of Public Education is that students be Title IV eligible to receive CARES act funding.

In addition to the current funding, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer proposed free college tuition for essential workers April 29.

The proposed bill would allow front line workers in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic to attend free college classes or earn a technical certification.

“From what I understand of the proposal, if it passes it would be great for students to come to LCC,” Webb Sharpe said. “As we are all becoming familiar with again, public health is really important.

‘We (LCC) teach a lot of components of public health, and so from that perspective those essential workers who have been out keeping us all safe, we’d love to have them come to LCC and be students.”

As the CARES act guidelines are finalized and the future of the frontline program is uncertain, new students are still enrolling in higher education at LCC.  

“For the most part we still have students trying to enroll for summer semester,” said Taylor Vaught, a testing specialist in the LCC Testing Center. “We’re administering placement testing via online appointments with a proctor on a one-on-one basis.”

While all physical locations on LCC’s campus are closed to the public, testing services are available via Webex for students needing to complete a placement test.

“Students can call and we will follow up with information,” Vaught said. “We try to see if we can waive the placement test. If placement testing is necessary, then we have students request one of our forms via online on our placement testing web page, where they can request a time to take a placement test with us.”

According to Vaught, the change in how LCC conducts placement tests has had little effect on students or their testing performance.  

“I haven’t seen any issues where anybody was worried about someone there (during testing),” Vaught said. “Also, it’s kind of nice because it is a one-on-one experience where, if you have a question real quick, we’re right there to ask.”

LCC students interested in future grants and stimulus should check their emails for additional information. For questions about placement testing contact Testing Services at (517) 267-5500. 

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