San Juan College lands $10.6 million in federal emergency funding

Nearly $143 million allocated for 3rd District institutions

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • The American Rescue Plan is the $1.9 trillion economic stimulus plan adopted by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden in March.
  • San Juan College will receive $5 million in institutional support to help it recover revenue it lost because of the pandemic.
  • Another $5.6 million will be allocated for aid for students.

FARMINGTON —  Students at San Juan College can soon apply for grants from a $5.6 million pool of emergency cash assistance funds, while the school itself will receive $5 million in institutional support under the terms of a $10.6 million award it has drawn through the American Rescue Plan passed by Congress.

The award was announced May 11 in a press release from the office of U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez, who represents New Mexico's 3rd Congressional District, which includes San Juan County. Nearly $143 million in aid is headed toward colleges, universities and students throughout the district, with San Juan College receiving one of the larger awards.

The American Rescue Plan is the $1.9 trillion economic stimulus plan adopted by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden in March.

More:San Juan College employees will return to in-person work May 17

Ed DesPlas, executive vice president at the college, said college officials anticipated receiving some ARP funding, but they were unsure about what the sum would be.

"It was pretty much what I expected," he said, noting he was anticipating the college would receive between $10 million and $11 million. "But it was good to see the actual numbers."

Edward DesPlas

DesPlas described how the money would be almost evenly split between students and the college. He said the $5 million in institutional support will help San Juan College recover revenue it lost because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic severely impacted the amount of income the college normally would have received from tuition and fees, as well as from other entities on campus such as the book store, food service, child care and the Health and Human Performance Center.

DesPlas said this is the third round of COVID-19 relief funding San Juan College has received from the federal government. He said the latest amount would help make the college financially whole for the soon-to-conclude 2021 fiscal year and would provide it with some much-needed cash reserves headed into the new fiscal year.

"We'll be able to put some more money into our budget we'll be able to spend in the new fiscal year, so this is well timed for us," he said.

But DesPlas cautioned that the funding is not something San Juan College can get used to.

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San Juan College will receive $10.6 million in emergency federal funding to help offset revenue losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"As far as we know, it's one-time money," he said. "We have to be careful about our recurring costs."

DesPlas said the college would have been in a very tight position if the latest round of federal aid had not been awarded.

"We'd be hard pressed to continue the level of support for pandemic-affected students," he said, describing the level of new technological support the college has offered during the pandemic.

One major new expenditure has been the number of laptop computers the college has allowed students to borrow during the pandemic, DesPlas said. Many students did not have access to such equipment when the pandemic hit and the college was forced to adopt a remote learning model, he said. The college has had to supplement its fleet of laptop computers to meet that demand, he said, as well as increase the amount of money it spends to maintain that equipment.

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Many other students did not have home Internet service, and the college has purchased numerous mobile hotspot devices to meet that need, he said.

Even with San Juan College returning to in-person learning on a wider basis, DesPlas said the pandemic likely has resulted in a long-term shift in how many students approach their education, and that will require the institution to spend more money to accommodate their needs.

"As we build our on-site classes again, we will still have students who are going to be remote," he said.

That will require college officials to maintain subscriptions and licenses for software and services like Zoom that they weren't employing on a widespread basis before the pandemic. DesPlas said the ARP funding would help the college cover those new costs.

"It really puts us in a better position to get to students and faculty the tools they need," he said.

He said many San Juan College instructors have made such tools a regular part of their presentations for in-person learning as part of what he described as "an enriched technology-based environment." Such classroom additions reveal how quickly education has evolved since the pandemic began, he said.

"It's hard to describe how much change we've all gone through in the last year and a half," DesPlas said.

The amount received by San Juan College was the fourth-largest total received by the 14 colleges and universities in the 3rd District that received ARP funding. The University of New Mexico led the way with more than $54 million, while Central New Mexico Community College drew more than $37 million. Eastern New Mexico University received more than $11 million. Also included on the list of recipients was Navajo Technical University in Crownpoint, which drew more than $5.4 million.

DesPlas said he expected San Juan College to receive the funding by the end of May.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or Support local journalism with a digital subscription.