Texas colleges struggle to award $47 million in covid relief re-enrollment initiative

More than 6,000 adults in the state of Texas have taken advantage of a program to support re-enrollment in college courses as a part of covid-relief workforce development initiatives. The number is far short of the 30,000 students that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s envisioned with his $47 million investment in the program since 2020.

But in the year since that money was first distributed, the 64 colleges and universities that received grants have awarded money to only one-third of the 18,000 students that they collectively told the state they could help reenroll, much lower than they predicted and far from the state’s vision to provide 30,000 students with this funding.

While a few colleges have enrolled hundreds of students, most schools have helped a fraction of the number of students they claimed they could, according to a Texas Tribune analysis of reports submitted by each school to the state. At the end of 2021, four schools that received money had yet to award it to a single student.

Multiple college leaders blame the slow ramp-up on extremely strict requirements initially handed down by the state that limited exactly who qualified for a grant and when the money could be used. It made it nearly impossible to distribute funds to potential students.

Kate McGee – Texas Tribune

The money was designated as part of a massive initiative to reskill workers as the pandemic reshaped industry and work culture throughout 2021. The biggest culprit for the struggle – lack of institutional capacity to find and award students.

Larger schools like Dallas College and El Paso Community College said they could help at least 1,000 students. They received $1.5 million during that first round of funding. Smaller schools like Panola College in East Texas and Texas Southmost College in Brownsville said they could help at least 75 students. Those schools each got $112,500.

But from the start, some school leaders said they realized quickly it would be a struggle to find those students.

“We knew what we were getting into when we applied for it just because it certainly was a challenging set of requirements,” said Jay Corwin, chief student success officer at Collin College, which banded together with a group of North Texas schools to launch a joint program called Project Complete. “But, you know, once you found a student that was eligible, it was really exciting.”

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