The 2020-2021 budget for Grand Rapids Community College, totaling $112.9 million, was approved by the Board of Trustees Monday afternoon during a virtual meeting. The budget reflects a net revenue of $16,290, down by over a million dollars from the 2019-20 fiscal year.
The college is waiving course fees associated with online classes, saving students $16 per contact hour or approximately $50 for a three-credit class. The usual fees will apply for in-person classes.
Lisa Freiburger, Vice President for Finance and Administration, estimates a 15% cut in state aid, though the percentage from the state has not yet been finalized. The college received $6.8 million in funding through the CARES Act, half of which has been or will be distributed to students and the other will be utilized by the institution to offset costs incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A survey sent out to eligible students to receive the emergency funding indicated a need in financial assistance for food, housing, technology, healthcare, child care, and course materials.
The GRCC CARES Act task force created a two-phase dispersal process for students. Those who already received $500 as part of Phase I may be receiving additional funding in the future. The team is finalizing the details on the distribution of the remaining money that the federal government has allocated specifically for students.
Daniel Williams Receives Board Appointment
Following the death of Trustee Deb Bailey the board received 11 applications to fulfill her term that expires at the end of the year. After conducting interviews with each candidate, they appointed Daniel Williams, president and CEO of West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology (WMCAT) and former principal of Grand Rapids University Preparatory Academy (UPrep), to the board.
All but one board member, Kathleen Bruinsma, recommended that Williams receive the vacant position; Bruinsma suggested Brandy Lovelady Mitchell. Though she, along with the other five trustees, voted in favor of Williams’ appointment.
“I was hoping to find someone with experience working with Kent County students and schools,” Trustee Kenyatta Brame said while recommending Williams to the board. “Someone who understands the educational needs and requirements for the current and future GRCC students, understands the barriers that prevent students from continuing their education, and who can help the college break down those barriers… I feel that Dr. Daniel Williams is the best candidate.”
Trustee Sheryl Siegel echoed Brame’s sentiments and believes Williams has a “sincere caring” for students and staff.
“Danial posed questions to the board that most challenged the board’s assumptions, demonstrating that he has the greatest potential to enhance the board’s effectiveness,” Siegel said to fellow trustees.
Update from Faculty Association President
The GRCC faculty association president and psychology professor, Frank Connor, expressed sentiments to the board, saying that the unprecedented circumstance regarding the immediate shift to online learning and the various challenges that accompanied that are taking a toll.
“I didn’t realize there would be so much on the agenda today,” Connor said as he was the last guest to speak during the meeting that lasted nearly two hours. “As a faculty member I assume if I’m on the agenda I’m sort of the primary thing but I guess you have other issues to take care of.”
Connor went on to say, “What was frustrating to faculty is they wanted to make certain students receive the education they deserved, the education they paid for, the education that this community wanted. It wasn’t always easy in an online environment but, frankly, I heard very few faculty complain about the extra effort. It was always about ‘How can I adapt what is essentially a hands-on activity to something meaningful in a virtual or distant environment?’”
He encouraged the board to remain steadfast in the values of the college and maintain open lines of communication. Noting the two crises the country is in – the COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest – Connor suggested that the following items be evaluated.
“I challenge GRCC to address questions similar to the following: What makes individuals decide and act in a way that is counter to experts and professionals in a field? How do we teach a community to think and act in a way that is in its best interest? How do we build systems with a community that can recognize their own biases? How do we create sectors that can learn and adjust quickly from the actions and input from all people?”
While stating that he does not have the answers to said questions, Connor believes that the college should be assessing these points as they are “individual and cultural learning opportunities.”
Renaming of Two Campus Buildings
Construction on the Mable Engle and Lettinga Houses is still underway but the completed renovations will also reveal new names for both historic Heritage Hill homes.
The Mable Engle House, which will house Student Life, will be renamed Steven C. Ender Hall after former GRCC President Steven Ender.
“Know that so much of what we are encountering today in this COVID-19 pandemic and this new world that we’re living in, we would not be coping with it as well as we would have if Dr. Ender hadn’t been our president,” said Kathryn Mullins, vice president for College Advancement and the executive director of the GRCC Foundation. “I am so grateful to him for his leadership and so excited to see we are naming Mable Engle after him.”
The former president joined the Zoom call and was visibly emotional as he expressed his ”gratitude and humility” for receiving the honor.
“GRCC was the capstone of my career and I am proud of what we accomplished and prouder yet of the leadership that’s in place,” Enders said.
The Lettinga House, home of the GRCC Foundation, will be named The Custer Alumni House after Dave Custer, community leader, philanthropist and Grand Rapids Junior College alum.
Custer was unable to join the meeting, but Chairperson David Koetje reflected on his success.
“When I think of Dave Custer, it’s a reminder to me how ordinary people can do really extra ordinary things and his story will be that,” Koetje said. “Here this ordinary guy… started a business and through that business turned into a philanthropist and never lost his love for the institution that helped shape who he is today.”