The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
More classes, additional student support and the development of programs to better meet student needs are getting the bulk of about $6 million in parcel tax funds heading to the San Mateo County Community College District.
In June, voters supported Measure G, a $34 annual parcel tax for four years, creating a new revenue stream for the district’s three campuses — Cañada College in Redwood City, the College of San Mateo and Skyline College in San Bruno. On Wednesday, the board approved plans presented by the three school presidents for allocating the funds. Most of the funds, $3.6 million, will restore classes while student services like counseling and new programs will also receive some cash.
Board President Richard Holober was pleased to see the schools didn’t use the money as a bailout to simply bring back cut programs. Some of the reductions, he noted, were programs that needed to be evaluated long ago.
“I hope the money is used for courses in high demand,” he said.
And his hope seems to be the presidents’ plan.
Skyline is receiving the largest amount, about $2.1 million, with $1.2 going to maintain classes. This will mean an 8 percent increases in classes this spring over last.
Skyline President Victoria Morrow noted the plan “reflects a very appropriate balance between first and foremost getting more sections out there, some triage to student services to meet the increase due to student demand, and taking advantage of this moment, this unique moment, … to focus a part of it on moving forward.”
Regina Stanback Stroud, who will become president of Skyline next month, explained the innovation piece as a particular interest for the college. For example, she said spending funds to earn certain accreditation for a business certificate could allow the school to solicit outside partnerships more successfully. In this instance, Skyline would be the only community college in the state with such a program.
At Cañada, $957,000 will go to adding classes, $577,000 will maintain academic counseling programs and other student services and $380,000 will preserve job training.
Cañada President Tom Mohr explained it is traditionally difficult to meet the high demand for science lab courses because of space requirements. Even with these additional funds, it may be difficult to add more courses, he said.
An interesting outcome of these funds is the development of a Friday/Saturday college with a hybrid format of in-class and online instruction, which should create greater student access to classes.
More employees are also being retained to help students with library, counseling, orientation, veterans, financial aid and tutoring services.
Districtwide, counseling has undergone changes. Mohr noted this money was helping provide mandatory up-front counseling sessions that introduce students to the school and what they should consider. Though the sessions are new, Mohr noted a decrease in one-on-one demands of counselors during the rest of the year as a result.
College of San Mateo President Michael Claire agreed. His campus was in a different situation. It previously operated with a deficit and was working to level off services offered.
About $1.5 million of the $1.86 million going to the College of San Mateo will go to increasing the number of classes, particularly in core subjects like science, English and math, as well as library services.
CSM lost 29 full-time positions this year, and plans to restore three for student and instructional program support. CSM is also earmarking $110,000 to create distance education opportunities.
Trustee Karen Schwarz focused on ensuring the schools were using the funds knowing it would only last four years.
“Our problem is going to be the exit strategy,” said Executive Vice Chancellor Jim Keller, who added everyone was aware of the temporary status of the funds.