Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College still has about $9.3 million in COVID relief money available to help it offset any financial shortfalls caused by the coronavirus.
“We still have some of that federal money available for us this current year,” OCtech Vice President of Financial Affairs Kim Huff told Area Commission members last week.
“That is something that makes you feel good about this current year for the fall and spring semester,” he said.
The college has about $3.5 million for student needs, $5.3 million for institutional needs, $394,515 for minority services and $123,313 in Governor’s Emergency Education Relief money.
The money comes from the federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act; the American Rescue Plan; and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
The college has already distributed the first round of student funds and will disburse other money for students in the coming weeks.
“There is a lot of funding there that served as a safety net for us when we fell short of our tuition because of enrollment,” Huff said. “There was money in there for all kinds of things that really helped our budget. Last year was really good for our operating budget.”
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Huff said the college also has some contingency funds, such as for travel, that it could tap into.
“Right now we still are not doing a lot of travel,” Huff said. “There is lots of money around within the budget that we could use if we needed to.”
Huff said the federal assistance is scheduled to end in May 2022.
“There is a possibility of an extension of that, but we don't know what that will look like and whether we will be able to do that,” Huff said.
The loss of the federal assistance could pose additional challenges, he said.
“We are hoping when next year rolls around, we either have that safety net continue or we have our enrollment back up where it needs to be,” he said.
In the meantime, the college is also in the middle of a large information technology upgrade on campus, Huff said.
Upgrades will be made to switches, access points, cabling and classrooms. Huff said upgrades will continue for the next six to eight months. The goal is to have it completed by April 2022.
The college also has other projects ongoing.
• Renovations to Building K on campus. The project is in the first phase.
The goal is to have cost estimates in the next month with plans to present costs by the November meeting.
Work could begin in January 2023 and be completed in the fall of 2023.
• The relocation of the college's Machine II program to Building T. The process is expected to be done in the next six to eight months.
“The biggest slowdown there will be all the equipment we are buying new with the money we received from the state,” Huff said. “We think some of the lead time on that equipment could be six to eight months. The procurement process for the state is sometimes lengthy and so it may push out some of the equipment out to a year.”
• Improving the college's current cafeteria space to provide a more usable space for students to study and gather in.
OCtech President Dr. Walt Tobin said the college continues to promote its Early College program by engaging Orangeburg and Calhoun county students early about the importance of attending college.
The college had plans to meet with every fifth-grade class in both counties as part of the outreach effort. In the spring, students will take a tour of the campus.
He also said the college has received three educational grants recently totaling about $3.2 million.
About $1 million will go toward increasing the number of students taking dual-credit courses at the college.
About $582,000 of a Predominantly Black Institutions grant will go toward the development of programs that aim to enhance opportunities for low- and middle-income Black American students.
The other $1.78 million will be distributed among Denmark Technical College and Williamsburg Technical College. How much OCtech will receive of the $1.78 million is still to be discussed.
Tobin said the college is also putting together a quality enhancement plan to improve student outcomes.
Goals include continuing the career readiness certificate program, continuing the employability skills force program and enhancing problem-based professional development.
OCtech Vice President of Academic Affairs Williette Berry informed commissioners there are about 621 students enrolled in the Early College program.
The college currently has 15 apprenticeship opportunities available for students with a number of employers, including the City of Orangeburg, the Orangeburg Department of Public Utilities, Gibbes Ford, Husqvarna, Nephron Pharmaceuticals, Orangeburg County School District, OCtech and the Regional Medical Center.
Berry said the college still has some faculty vacancies, including a biology instructor and an EMT instructor and program coordinator.
The college also has two nursing instructor positions open, as well as grant project manager and administrative assistant to the vice president of academic affairs positions.
In other business:
• OCtech will host a COVID vaccine clinic on Oct. 5 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
• It was announced the college will serve as a free drive-thru COVID testing site. The tests will be conducted at the rear of the campus. Testing will be done daily on a temporary basis.
• Tobin said the OCtech Foundation is discussing if it will hold the Fine Wine and Food event it hosts in the fall. More information will be provided if an event is held.
• Fall commencement ceremonies will be held Tuesday, Dec. 14. The times of the ceremonies will be released at a future date.
• The commission unanimously approved two policies related to the college's policy and procedure system and standards of ethical practice. There were no changes to the policies, but the college is required to review and update policies periodically.
• The commission entered into closed session to discuss a personnel matter. No vote was taken on the matter.
• The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 19.