These are unprecedented times. Each one of us is impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Restaurants have shifted to take-out and delivery, our K-12 educators are teaching online, many in our community are suffering hardship. These are uncharted waters. However, as is always the case, Tillamook County residents rise up in support of one another to ensure the safety and well-being of our community and to take care of those who need additional help during this time. It has been humbling to engage in and witness all this.
Your community college is expanding to meet your needs as well. We are running spring term classes all online; we know it is important to help students continue to progress toward a degree or certificate. We are providing 180 high school students with free college courses this term to help them and the local school districts ensure our juniors and seniors have the support they need to stay on track for graduation. We have added more short-term skill building certificates and online community and continuing education courses to support those who have been displaced from their job and those who are feeling isolated.
We added a Wi-Fi hot spot to our parking lot for students who do not have internet connectivity at home. We are checking out laptops to students and our library is open with computers to use. We have moved our student food pantry to the lobby where it can be accessed Monday - Friday from 9 am – 5 pm. And very soon, we will be providing current spring term students with support funds from the Federal Government’s Cares Act - Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. We are working to develop a plan to distribute these emergency funds to those that qualify. Students will be informed as soon as the plan is ready to implement.
We know Tillamook Bay Community College students are in need and the pandemic has only increased it. Many TBCC students work full-time (or more than full-time with multiple jobs), have families to raise and support, and struggle to make ends meet each month even before the pandemic struck. Earlier this year, TBCC students participated in a national survey conducted by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice called #RealCollege. The survey was taken by approximately 30% of TBCC students.
Results showed that 53% of the respondents experienced food insecurity in the prior 30 days. This is defined as the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe food, or the ability to acquire such food in a socially acceptable manner. Sixty percent of respondents experienced housing insecurity in the previous year. This includes a broad set of challenges such as the inability to pay rent or utilities, or the need to move frequently. Finally, 27% of respondents experienced homelessness in the previous year. This means that a person does not have a stable place to live. For all three of these categories, results for TBCC students were significantly higher than the rates of all survey respondents at two-year colleges nationwide.
It was painful to learn.
TBCC is working incredibly hard to support our students and our community. We appreciate and value everyone who continues to contribute to scholarships and emergency funds to support students during these uncertain times. We are working diligently to understand student need and develop ways to get resources in their hands. And we will continue to listen to the needs of the community and adapt to meet new and evolving ways to deliver educational opportunities. We are in this together and we are here for you.