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Don't want the hassles of Black Friday - consider a refurbished gift this year; day after Thanksgiving travel could be messy - and supporters regroup for recreational marijuana in South Dakota.


Big retailers predict an historic holiday shopping season, but small businesses are not sharing that optimism, and economists weigh in on what s behind the nation's labor shortages.


South Dakota foster kids find homes with Native families; a conservative group wants oil and gas reform; rural Pennsylvania residents object to planes flying above tree tops; and poetry debuts to celebrate the land.

Community Colleges Lure Students Back with Financial Incentives


Thursday, November 11, 2021   

MODESTO, Calif. -- Community colleges across California are using COVID-19 relief funds to lower costs for students and lure them back to campus.

This fall, enrollment at California community colleges dropped almost 15%, dipping below 2 million for the first time in 30 years.

Santanu Bandyopadhyay, president of Modesto Junior College, said MJC is offering free tuition and canceling student debt.

"We thought that since we have the COVID dollars, rather than using those for institutional improvement, we thought why not directly invest in the students," Bandyopadhyay explained.

As soon as the "MJC is free for me" campaign launched, enrollment shot up. The school is also offering free lunch on Wednesdays and a voucher to buy books once students submit a vaccination card.

Many schools have used the funding to stock campus food pantries, distribute free laptops and Wi-Fi cards, and make emergency grants to cover rent.

A recent survey of students at San Jose Community college found 52% were food insecure in the prior 30 days, 68% were housing insecure in the prior year and 25% had been homeless at some time during the previous year.

Bandyopadhyay pointed out school counselors across the state stand ready to connect students to the help they need.

"We need to spread the word and let students take advantage," Bandyopadhyay urged. "We look at this as our investment in the community."

Federal funding for various programs came from legislation such as the American Rescue Plan, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), and the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.

Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.

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