CBC grant will help students

BEEVILLE – Half of the $2.1 million the federal government is giving Coastal Bend College will go directly to students.

This is part of a $68 million grant being awarded to colleges and universities in South Texas as part of an effort to ease the financial hardships associated with COVID-19.

Just how the student’s portion will be divvied up amongst those enrolled at the college was being discussed last week, said CBC President Dr. Justin Hoggard.

“No less than 50 percent must be allocated to provide relief for the students,” the president said. “The question becomes, now that we have the money, what are we going to do with it?”

Hoggard said there are several options they are discussing and had hoped to have a decision by Friday, April 24, of how to distribute the money and how much each student will receive.

“The whole point of this money, is this is money for these students right now,” Hoggard said. “We want our students taken care of.”

Limited guidance

This grant doesn’t have the strict guidelines which stipulates exactly how the money can be used.

“Unlike most grants, where you are dictated how you can distribute the money, we are having to figure this one out,” said Bernie Saenz, college spokesman.

The college, early on, did what it could to help the students.

First, the remaining money paid by students for meals in the college’s cafeteria was refunded while still offering them two meals a day.

While not as obvious as in some parts of the country, Bee County is still being affected by the closures aimed to prevent the rapid spread of COVID-19.

“We have had students who have lost work,” Hoggard said. These same students have children and families that need support.

“We know it has hit Beeville,” the college president said.

Many of the college students have countless bills — childcare, healthcare, food and rent — that still must be paid.

“This is direct relief,” Hoggard said. “This is additional money to help them.”

A rough calculation estimates that each student could receive between $200 and $400. “It may be a little more,” Hoggard said.

College portion

The second portion of the money is allocated by the U.S. Department of Education to help the college as it continues to provide services.

“We have nearly 100 acres to take care and all these employees, and we are seeing lost revenues,” Hoggard said.

Plus, there are still a couple of dozen students in dorms and apartments that had no way to go home when the college closed.

“I have some international students that did not make it onto a flight,” Hoggard said. “So we are keeping the college’s services going.”

Saenz adds, “We are still feeding them.”

Hoggard said, “We are providing them lunch and feeding them supper.

“We chose those because there is more activity with the students in the afternoons.”

Saenz said, “It doesn’t matter if there are 20 or 100, we don’t want to turn our back on them.”

The college, which only receives the money once they notify the Department of Education how it will be used, can use this money to recoup some of its losses this year.

The future of CBC

“We have no idea what the ramification will be in the fall,” Hoggard said. “We don’t want to put anybody in harm’s way.”

As of now, the first spring semester enrollment could be on par with last year, but it is a bit early to tell.

“We cannot put 30 students in a classroom,” he said.

Instead, some courses will be moved online, or courses will be divided up amongst several rooms, allowing students greater distance from each other.

“I know we are going to lose one component — those Summer 1 students who would be staying in the dorms,” Hoggard said.

First priority will be the career and technology students, such as those working on welding certificates and nursing credentials, who still need hours in the labs.

“It may be that we have to give some students a grade of incomplete,” the president adds. This allows the students additional time to complete any necessary work without affecting their grades.

Education, like that within the public school system is changing, and what is learned from this will help when the next pandemic, hurricane or natural disaster hits.

Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 361-343-5221, or at editor@mySouTex.com.