Lancaster County colleges and adult education programs will receive $1.4 million in coronavirus relief grants to help resume operations this fall, according to numbers Gov. Tom Wolf's administration released Monday.
While that’s welcome news for local college officials, they say more is needed to help recoup costs from the pandemic.
The financial support - $28 million for postsecondary institutions statewide - comes from the coronavirus relief act, which authorizes governors to distribute money for education through the use of Governor's Emergency Education Relief Funds. It’s in addition to the nearly $23.5 million in relief county colleges and universities were already expected to receive.
“Students attending postsecondary institutions and participating in adult education programs are eager to return to class, and institutions have been planning for months for a safe return to instruction,” Wolf said in a statement. “This funding will help these institutions, whether they choose to continue to provide remote instruction, return to in-person instruction, or employ a hybrid approach to meet the instructional needs of their students.”
Institutions can use the funding for personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer, cleaning products, technology for online learning and other virus-related expenses.
For Millersville University, which will get about $257,000 from the governor, this additional piece of funding will help soften the blow absorbed since the university closed in March, leading to millions in unforeseen refunds for student housing, dining and other fees.
“The extra money will definitely help with the expenses Millersville University has had due to COVID-19,” said Guilbert Brown, Millersville’s vice president of finance and administration.
However, he said, there’s still $1.3 million unaccounted for “that we need to identify other funding sources to cover.”
Last week, Millersville announced it was joining nine other state-owned universities in considering faculty cuts through a process known as retrenchment as a way to reduce expenses.
Barbara Altmann, president of Franklin & Marshall College, recently told PA Post that the college lost more than $2 million from room and board refunds after it closed in the spring, and it recouped less than half of that from the coronavirus relief act.
She conceded that F&M, which will receive nearly $79,000 from the governor, faces increased pressure to reopen to students because of the financial hit, but that hasn’t driven the college’s decision.