Hudson County Community College is going the extra step during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to provide students with support services and financial assistance as they adapt to the reality of learning remotely, according to school President Dr. Christopher Reber.
By Marc Bussanich/Hudson County View
For starters, the school will be receiving just over $4.2 million in CARES Act (as part of the $2.2 trillion stimulus package passed by Congress) funding.
“We have wide flexibility in how we award it, but it can be used for a wide spectrum of things from tuition assistance to personal expenses,” Reber said.
The college is also making financial assistance available via the Community College Opportunity Grant, a New Jersey grant for students enrolled in at least six credits and who have an adjusted gross income of up to $65,000.
In fact, according to Dr. Reber, HCCC has the highest number of students out of the state’s 18 community colleges receiving the grant funding.
Furthermore, the college is redirecting money it saves from cancelled events towards the purchasing of 650 laptops to loan to students who don’t have them, as well as towards financial assistance for those who need car repairs, utility bills paid and child care.
In addition to the financial assistance, the school also created a Coronavirus Task Force consisting of students, faculty and staff, partly to help everyone adjust to the challenges of remote learning.
“It’s been a real challenge to move everything online and then ensure that students who aren’t familiar with online learning and faculty that haven’t taught online have all the support they need to make that work,” Reber added.
During the question and answer portion of the media call, HCV asked what kind of feedback the school is getting from both students and faculty about the remote learning experience.
“There are a whole number of wrinkles that we expected and are hearing about, issues of students having trouble managing the technology and concerns about being able to fulfill course requirements,” Reber admitted.
“A particular challenge is associated with offering lab courses, nursing courses and culinary courses online because of the hands-on component of those.”
Despite these wrinkles, he sounded confident that faculty have proven to be creative.
“Our culinary faculty are cooking at home and producing a video of that and using that as a substitution for being together in our culinary conference center.”
To ease student’s concerns about their performance with online learning, the college will be offering students the option of finishing their classes with a pass/fail grade, rather than a traditional letter grade.
“We are deeply committed to supporting our students, and to doing all we can to assist them in achieving academic success, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic. We understand that staying isolated, caring for families, and working from home may be stressful enough,” explained Reber.
“We know online studies may take some adapting, and we want to alleviate as much tension about grades as possible.”