California has seen 3 million new unemployment claims filed in recent months, and the state proposed a $740 million budget cut to its community college system. But California's two year colleges are drawing from lessons learned during the last recession to cope with mounting challenges amid the pandemic.

Eloy Ortiz Oakley, chancellor of the system, which enrolls more than 2 million students across 115 campuses, talked with us about how the colleges are preparing for the fall. He described how the system has become more flexible for students, and why its leaders aren't counting on a federal bailout.

To help broaden Oakley's perspective to the rest of the nation's community colleges, we also spoke with Karen Stout, president and CEO of Achieving the Dream, and the former president of Montgomery County Community College.

This episode is sponsored by the ECMC Foundation, which supports building a postsecondary education system that works for all learners through its grant making focus areas of College Success and Career Readiness.

 

Episode 7 Transcript

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The University of Alaska, Anchorage, in recent years has experienced its share of tight budgets and other crises, including an earthquake and merger proposals.

The California State University system announced on May 12 that its fall term would be mostly online. The system was the first major U.S. university to make this move, and the announcement set off a flurry of news media coverage and debate among policy makers and college leaders.

Earlier this year, most of higher education moved its instruction online in a matter of days or weeks. After making this unprecedented shift, and amid great uncertainty, faculty members and college leaders are scrambling to prepare and improve online learning options for the fall.

Southern New Hampshire University recently turned heads with a broad reboot of its campus-based programs, including slashed tuition and allowing students to choose hybrid online and other modalities.

The disruption and uncertainty caused by the pandemic pose challenges for all colleges and universities. But community colleges typically had tight budgets before the crisis, and serve the largest share of the nation's most vulnerable students.

Many colleges moved to pass/fail grading amid the pandemic. While that change was designed to help students, it can cause disruptions as community college students transfer to four-year institutions, or as students seek admission to graduate or medical school.

As Washington begins negotiating a federal jobs bill, we hear from two experts about lessons learned from the last recession, and how such a bill can help displaced workers and college students without creating more hurdles for them.

Colleges and are scrambling to distribute roughly $6.3 billion from the federal government for emergency aid aimed at students whose lives and educations have been disrupted by the pandemic.

 

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