College of Marin in California is offering an incentive worth $2,000 to persuade low-income students who stopped amid the COVID-19 pandemic to enroll again for the fall semester.
The institution will use $2 million of the more than $3 million in government COVID-19 relief to finance the initiative. As many as 1,500 students who take credit or noncredit courses will qualify for the grant.
According to Marin Assistant Superintendent Jonathan Eldridge, the incentive program will alleviate students’ financial burdens to continue pursuing their education.
“This is a way for us to say, ‘We want you back,’” he told Inside Higher Ed. “We also want to encourage students who maybe didn’t think college right now is affordable. And we want to help those students who are enrolled for the fall who are really tenuous in terms of their financial situation.”
The school said it would prioritize students eligible for Pell Grants and those with little to no expected family contribution to help pay their tuition. The grant will be distributed in September and October.
Addressing Enrolment Woes
Aside from persuading students to return to college this fall, the program could also encourage first-time students with connections to those currently enrolled to apply to Marin.
Eldridge explained that the number of students taking credit-bearing courses at the college declined by 8.5 percent during the pandemic, with only 4,224 degree-seeking students enrolled in 2020.
Once qualified, students can utilize the grant for educational expenses, including rent, food, medical care, car repairs, and other college-related costs.
‘A Great Launchpad’
Community colleges in the country have been offering incentives to get students to return to school next semester. Some institutions are even offering free summer courses, laptops, and textbooks to win back students.
“The institutions often know what’s right for their students, and the same thing isn’t necessarily going to work at every single institution of higher education,” an official at College Campaign for Opportunity, Audrey Dow, remarked. “Institutions are making a lot of big decisions about what their students need and what they need to do to help their students succeed.”
Dow is hoping that the initiatives launched by Marin and other schools will encourage California lawmakers to allocate more funding to community colleges.