ICYMI: WTCS President Morna Foy Discusses COVID Barriers Facing Community College Students on Inside Higher Ed’s The Key Podcast

On a recent episode of Inside Higher Ed’s podcast, The Key, Rebuilding America’s Middle Class (RAMC) board member Morna Foy, who serves as president of the Wisconsin Technical College System, spoke with contributing editor Paul Fain about the need for greater federal support for community college students.

“It’s actually a very hard time for most of our students,” Foy said. “Community colleges around the country, just like the Wisconsin Technical College System, serve a lot of the most vulnerable higher education population – working adults, parents, students of color, students of low economic status – and the vast majority of our students are working and they’re also working in the jobs that have been most hard-hit in the pandemic.”

Listen to the episode here.

While Foy notes RAMC member institutions are not experiencing the level of enrollment declines recently reported by the National Student Clearing House, community college leaders remain concerned about the national trends that indicate fewer students are enrolling in community college around the country. Read a recent RAMC statement on community college enrollments.

“We are still experiencing declines and that is because the pandemic actually has affected all of the structures that exist in a normal economic downturn that allow students to [continue going] to school,” Foy said, describing scenarios in which community college students with children can no longer access daycare services, may be struggling with new financial challenges, or cannot access in-person resources on campus due to pandemic-related closures.

When asked how federal leaders can better support community college students, Foy said, “We really appreciate the efforts in Congress to revisit how any kind of COVID response or assistance funding is distributed in the higher education sector. The first CARES Act was distributed based on full-time equivalence – that’s where we count up credits and divide by what makes for a full-time student and we get a number. That’s been historically a very common way to measure higher education outcomes and resource needs, but it doesn’t work in this setting because the kind of support and assistance that we have to provide students is based on them as individuals – not on the number of credits they’re taking.”

Foy added, “We’re really hopeful that future pandemic-related support from the federal government will rely on a headcount distribution formula, just taking into consideration the costs that we’re experiencing right now related to human beings that we have to help, and not how many classes they’re taking.”

Listen to the episode here.