By Annah Johnson
The Grand Rapids Community College Board of Trustees met Monday to approve a tuition freeze that will be in effect for the 2021-2022 academic year.
During the preceding work session, Lisa Freiburger, Vice President for Finance and Administration, reported to the board that the institution has experienced considerable financial stability because of grants, federal and state funding.
“At this point, we are recommending for the upcoming fiscal year, or ‘21-’22, to leave tuition flat,” Freiburger said. “That is a very unusual recommendation for us, the first that we have done certainly in my tenure here.”
Freiburger noted in the work session that the numerous stimulus packages and grants have created a wide enough safety net to allow for a confident freeze on tuition and universal fees for the upcoming fiscal year. The college has been making efforts to refrain from raising tuition above a 2% increase for the past few years, but the choice to have flat tuition in light of the effects of the pandemic on students is very significant.
“No change in any of our rates, nor our universal fees,” Freiburger said. “We also, in working with our Early Childhood Learning Lab team, elected at their request based on what they’re seeing in their market, to leave everything – including childcare – flat for one year.”
Along with the freeze, more financial assistance is available for GRCC students to aid in tuition costs. The Pell Grant Award received an increase of $150, to a maximum award amount of $6,495, and three last-dollar scholarship programs are available to GRCC students who qualify including Futures for Frontliners, Grand Rapids Promise Zone and Michigan ReConnect.
Chairperson David Koetje posed the question to Freiburger as to why flat tuition would be beneficial, as opposed to a slight increase, for those who are financially insecure and already receiving funding for their education.
“Students that are full Pell-eligible or get their tuition paid fully by scholarship dollars are still looking at costs related to books,” Freiburger said. “They’re still looking at costs related to transportation, to childcare in many instances, to other things that impact their ability to attend college and focus on college.”
This recommendation was approved unanimously by the board as their closing action for the Monday meeting.
The board meeting included approval for the conveyance of the Calkins Science Facility from partial state ownership and a property tax resolution in compliance with actions required by the Community College Act. Following these motions, Mansfield Matthewson presented the Supplier Inclusion Purchasing Report that details the college’s commitment to employ and collaborate with diverse companies on campus.
Student Body President Inayah Hakeem offered a glimpse into Student Alliance’s year of virtual outreach. Hakeem estimated a $40,000 allocation from their general fund throughout the year to the food pantry and emergency funds. Along with promoting equity through various events offered by the organization, Student Alliance increased its social media presence and implementation of virtual gatherings.
“It was kind of challenging to turn it completely virtual, but I think we did pretty well with that,” Hakeem said. “But it definitely created a sense of empathy, courage, and trust in all of the students…during these times of COVID, our theme at Student Alliance has been trying to act on as much empathy as we can.”
Executive Director of the GRCC Foundation Kathryn Mullins offered an update that the Foundation’s outreach efforts have been fruitful, as many donors are now looking to create endowed scholarships for GRCC students. Mullins informed board members that some fundraising efforts are still needed to fill the $600,000 gap for the Lakeshore $2.5 million capital campaign.
In regards to commencement season, the 2021 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient was announced to be Sekou Smith. With his passing in January due to complications with COVID-19, the award will be virtually presented to his family members after the graduation ceremony.
An update from GRCC President Bill Pink during the afternoon work session included the announcement of a $5 million project to convert The Heritage outdoor dining area into a multi-functional piazza. Plans for the project were halted upon the passing of Peter Secchia, from whom the funding was to be contributed. After his passing, the Secchia trust has once again connected with the college expressing interest in continuing the plans. Construction is expected to begin in the coming weeks, with more formal announcements to come.