Page 18 - BusinessWest December 7, 2020
P. 18

The Sternest of Tests Community Colleges Bear the Brunt
of the Pandemic
YBy George O’Brien
ves Salomon-Fernández says the region’s com- munity colleges were facing some pretty severe headwinds before the COVID-19 pandemic reached Western Mass. in March.
Indeed, these institutions, like all colleges and universities, have been seriously impacted by demographic trends — specifically, a decade or more of consistently smaller high-school graduating classes, said Salomon-Fernández, president of Greenfield Community College (GCC).
But they’ve also been adversely impacted by what was the nation’s longest economic expan-
 “For us and for the other community colleges, this is a conversation about equity.”
sion and historically low unemployment rates, in a continu- ation of a trend that has become quite familiar to those in the community-col- lege realm — when times are good, enrollment suffers, she noted; when times are bad, like during the Great Recession, people
       go back to school and enrollment climbs. But while the pandemic has created some of the worst times this region has seen in the
past 90 years or so and put thousands on the unemployment rolls, that development hasn’t benefited the community colleges in the manner it has in the past, said Salomon- Fernández and others we
spoke with. There are a
number of reasons for that,
many of which have to do
with the ongoing health
crisis itself.
Listing some, Christina Royal, president of Holyoke Community College (HCC)
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