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As a way to help buoy the local economy, the Colorado Mountain College Board of Trustees voted in a special virtual meeting April 6 to pass along federal and state support and internal savings to students, local businesses and local workers.

The college will use the funds to waive tuition, books and fees for three categories of students during the summer 2020 academic term, and to put into place other initiatives to help individuals and small businesses that have been impacted by measures related to COVID-19.

College leadership has developed a multi-pronged approach to help the college’s local communities, in a program called CMC Responds: Today, Tomorrow, Together. For the first time ever, for the summer 2020 semester the college will waive tuition, books and fees for students taking credit, ESL (English as a Second Language), and GED courses who qualify as in-district; in-state students who took credit courses in spring 2020; and displaced workers who live in the CMC district.

Trustees were required to vote on this measure because it represents a change from the 2020-21 tuition and discounts they approved in January 2020.

“Over the past three weeks, the nation’s economy has been turned on its head due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser, president and CEO of the college. “Nearly every business across our mountain resort communities, including the region’s largest employers, have been shuttered. The impacts of this upheaval will be detrimental to our local businesses and residents, without whom CMC would not exist. So, we consider this a reinvestment into our local communities with the hope it will contribute to a speedier recovery.”

Trustees heard that in addition to tuition waivers for the distance-only summer semester, the CMC Responds initiative includes:

  • Extending (starting in fall 2020) the President’s Scholarship to students who have graduated from local high schools since 2017 and extending the deadline for current high school seniors to July 31
  • Donating all available personal protective equipment (PPE) to local hospitals and clinics
  • Making CMC facilities available where they might be needed during this health crisis
  • Activating the No Barriers Fund in the CMC Foundation to support students facing financial hardship that prevents them from staying in school
  • Making tutoring services available to help local parents with home schooling
  • Distributing donated laptops to students who need them
  • Providing internet service to students and families without broadband access
  • Offering complimentary business consulting/training for local businesses affected by the pandemic.

“CMC is investing in the communities that have supported us since we started nearly 55 years ago,” said Patty Theobald, president of the CMC Board of Trustees. “Our board and college leadership want to do this by passing along nearly $2 million in federal funds and internal savings, to directly help our economy get back on its feet. As educators and supporters of our local businesses, we know that education is a powerful economic driver that can help us today and tomorrow, working together to bounce back.”

The internal savings include those from hiring freezes, canceled commencement ceremonies, reductions in energy usage, and revenues realized by exercising 7D, the 2018 ballot measure overwhelmingly approved by local voters authorizing CMC to recoup financial losses triggered by the Gallagher Amendment.

Trustees also heard that additional sources of financial aid can cover living expenses for students. This includes assistance from the CMC Foundation, which recently earmarked $100,000 for its No Barriers Fund and is distributing $1.2 million in donor-supported scholarships for the 2020-21 academic year. Fund Sueños remains available for individuals who don’t qualify for federal financial aid. And for those with limited access to computers or internet service, CMC will assist here too. The CMC Foundation is raising funds for student laptops; to help, please go to: cmcfoundation.org/give.

Forms and more information will be available on www.coloradomtn.edu/CMCResponds. More details about these and forthcoming initiatives will be shared with the community over the coming weeks.

In the virtual meeting April 6 trustees also voted to appoint David Armstrong as Salida and Poncha Springs liaison to the CMC Board of Trustees.

Following the November addition of Salida School District R32J to the Colorado Mountain College district, CMC trustees decided to seek an advisory board member from the new district.

Armstrong is the founder and vice president – operations for First Crop, Inc. Previously he was vice president – commercial development for Ashland Inc., a $10 billion specialty chemical, distribution and consumer products company. He has experience serving on the boards of Pinto Barn, Inc., and First Crop, Inc., as well as Rotary, Chaffee County Soccer Club, and the R32-J district accountability committee. He chaired the local campaign to bring Salida and Poncha Springs into the CMC district during the fall of 2019, a ballot measure that passed with overwhelming support.

Armstrong will represent Salida and Poncha Springs in support of official representation that is already provided by the elected trustee currently representing Lake County and Salida, Bob Hartzell. Armstrong will serve through December 2021, and may apply for a second term (January 2022-December 2023).