November 20, 2020
I hope you and your family are staying safe and managing the many challenges that COVID-19 has presented. So much is happening in the world around us. We stand witness as new leadership prepares to guide our country through the deep ramifications of a world-wide pandemic and the resulting economic turmoil while we grapple with the rawness revealed in our country’s racial and social unrest. We face difficult days with optimism and hope. Today, I will update you with how we are tackling the many challenges impacting our institution.
Last week you received a message from Chancellor Matos Rodríguez outlining the challenges CUNY is facing.
- The City’s recently adopted FY21 budget reduced CUNY funding by $46.3 million, or about 9 percent of the total operating budget of all of our community colleges.
- CUNY spent almost $75 million on unplanned emergency costs related to the pandemic, expenses that included the purchase of laptops and iPads for students, the cost for deep cleaning buildings, overtime costs for public safety and facilities personnel, the purchase of PPEs, cleaning products, signage and other costs associated with the transitioning to distance learning across the system.
- The State is temporarily withholding 20 percent of senior college aid, community college FTE (full-time equivalent) aid, and TAP. If there is no additional assistance from the federal government for New York State, we are facing a real risk of a permanent cut.
- CUNY’s 5.1 percent decline in University-wide enrollment seen so far will result in a $52 million loss of revenue for the University this year.
- CUNY lost $32 million in revenue for the Spring 2020 semester due to a reduction in tuition and other revenue collections.
As you know, these significant cuts to the CUNY system will intensify our budget challenges. I assure you that I, along with our leadership teams, are rigorously looking for ways to reduce our budget gap and minimize the disruption to our important work in supporting our students.
Understanding Challenges Facing Students
Even prior to the onset of the COVID 19 Pandemic, which has spurred an economic disaster, health crisis, and exacerbation of existing gaps between white and minority communities, many BMCC students were facing harsh realities. According to the work of Raj Chetty, BMCC students are consistently among the most economically disadvantaged in the country. More than 70% of our students come from families making $30,000 or less per year which has led to the following results highlighted in the Hope Center’s #RealCollege survey:
- Approximately 50% were housing insecure
- Approximately 50% were food insecure
- Approximately 20% experienced homelessness
- Seventy percent experienced some combination of the three
Please note, these statistics were Pre-COVID. Based on a recent CUNY study as well as our transition study, we know the following:
- Twenty-six percent of students were concerned they would not have enough food in the next 30 days
- Thirty-three percent of students were concerned they would not be able to afford housing in the next 30 days
- Forty-nine percent indicated their need for food increased after COVID-19
- Thirty-seven percent indicated their need for housing support increased after COVID-19
- Forty-five percent indicated their need for utilities support increased after COVID-19
- Fifty-nine percent indicated their need for general living expenses support increased after COVID-19
We know these issues have forced many students to stop out or delay starting college. In addition to basic need issues, there are numerous other issues that have led students to choose postponing college until the pandemic has run its course. These choices, while expected and understandable, nevertheless, have resulted in lower new student projections for the spring. While we continue to reach out to new students through virtual open houses and other approaches, our primary focus is on reenrolling our current students and working to improve retention rates by expanding support efforts. We are expanding our winter schedule to provide students with more opportunities to graduate or continue their studies in the spring.
Last week the college was awarded $250,000 from the Petrie Foundation that will provide tuition waivers for the winter session. These class tuition waivers will help reduce student debt and accelerate their progress to graduation.
Addressing Students Financial Issues
While resources are limited, we have focused on reducing the financial burden to our students. In October, the College finished disbursing $13.2 million dollars of CARES Act funding earmarked for direct financial support to students. Despite the CARES Act funding, however, many students still need additional help.
Intense efforts are underway to assist the thousands of students with balances and financial holds. Many of these students are in good academic standing and are well on their way to graduation. We will soon be releasing a plan to lift holds for 40% of the impacted students. For the remaining students we will continue to look at each student’s financial situation and map out a plan that will allow them to continue.
Rapid Response Enrollment Management Task Force
As many of you know, I have convened a Rapid Response Enrollment Management Task Force Team that is focusing on how to assist students with the many challenges they are facing. Here is a summary of the initiatives we are currently working on:
- Re-engaging the 4,200 applicants and continuing students that were advised in Fall 2020 but were not able to enroll
- Continued evaluation of our enrollment processes so students can move through enrollment steps with fewer burdens
- Connecting with the near completer students with 45 plus credits with help on how to get to the finish line
- Encouraging stop-outs with 45 plus credits or more to return and complete their degree
- Creating a stronger connection between faculty and our Learning Resources Center so students have the support they need to have a successful semester
- Increasing the number of winter courses so more students can take advantage of opportunities to complete their degree in a timely manner
- Designing a new eight-week term that will allow students to have more access to flexible learning options
The impact of this pandemic will continue to challenge us in unimaginable ways. Be assured that our commitment and resolve to help our students has not wavered. I offer my sincere gratitude for all you are doing to support our students during this troubling time. Until we are able to be together on campus, be well and be safe as we continue to journey to a heathier place.
Anthony E. Munroe
President of BMCC