LUMBERTON — Robeson Community College, along with 10 more of the state’s 58 community colleges, is waiting to see if the final state budget will include money to make up losses in student enrollment dollars resulting from Hurricane Matthew.
College President Kimberly Gold told trustees on Monday that the 11 colleges are requesting a total of $4.2 million to be put into a reserve that will be allocated to cover enrollment declines because of the hurricane. For RCC, Gold said, that adds up to $867,631.
The state allocates community colleges money based on the number of full-time students who are enrolled. She said that during the aftermath of Matthew many displaced students were unable to attend classes. Some courses had to be cancelled, and because of loss of homes and businesses some students were unable to return for the spring semester or returned to take a reduced course load.
“A lot of continuing education courses here had to be cancelled,” said Gold. “As an example, a lot of our emergency first responders weren’t in class. They were out working.”
According to Gold, the $4.2 million is included in the state House budget, but not in the Senate budget. It will be up to conferees from both the House and Senate to determine if the funds are provided in the budget that is eventually sent to Gov. Roy Cooper to sign into law. Negotiations are scheduled for this week.
Gold said there is precedent that suggests reimbursement.
“After Hurricane Floyd, the General Assembly provided funds to offset enrollment declines caused by the storm,” she said.
Gold told the trustees that enrollment for RCC’s summer semester is running slightly above last summer’s enrollment, 590 to 575.
“These are not the final figures,” Gold said. “We have a second session when more students will enroll.”
The trustees on Monday also briefly discussed the success of Robeson County’s Early College. Located on RCC’s main campus in Lumberton, the Early College program provides high school students an opportunity to earn a two-year associate degree from RCC while at the same time working toward a high school diploma.
Sheila Gasque, principal of the Early College, said that 37 students graduated this year with 35 of them earning an associate’s degree along with their high school diploma. This coming school year, she said, Early College will have a freshman class of 56 students selected from 193 applications.
“I will miss the students and staff,” said Gasque, who is retiring from the Robeson County public schools system at the end of June. “It feels like a family there.”
Gasque has been the Early College principal for six years.
“I was impressed with the number that graduated high school and received an associate’s degree,” said Sammy Cox, chairman of the board of trustees.
In other business, the trustees on Monday:
— Approved a policy regulating the use of college facilities.
— Approved an interim budget for the upcoming 2017-18 fiscal year that begins July 1. Gold said the budget, based on last year’s figures, will be revised when the state releases its final appropriation figures.
— Recognized oah Woods, a former chairman and current member of the Robeson County Board of Commissioners, for his years of “extraordinary service” as a trustee to the college. Woods has served as a trustee since March 2001.
The county commissioners earlier this month appointed Commissioner Raymond Cummings to replace Woods, whose term expires on June 30. Cummings will serve a four-year term.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.