Trustees vote to waive summer e-books, tuition, fees

Baytown, TX — The Lee College Board of Regents approved a plan Thursday (April 23) to utilize more than $2 million in funding from the federal stimulus to pay for students’ tuition. Lee College is waiving tuition, e-books, and fees for the Summer 2020 semester for all in-district residents, out-of-district residents who attended Lee College in Spring 2020, any person in the Lee College service area who has been displaced or suffered a loss of income due to COVID-19, and students who graduated from our service area high schools in the 2019-2020 academic year.

“You may not be able to go off to university and live in a dormitory, and you may not have as much income as you did before the pandemic, but you can afford to go to Lee College, and you can’t afford to postpone your college dreams,” President Lynda Villanueva said.

The free tuition proposal is part of a comprehensive plan, Lee Cares, designed to meet the needs of Lee College students who have suffered financial hardship due to the impacts of COVID-19. An additional $2 million of CARES Act stimulus funding is being used to pay for expenses related to the coronavirus outbreak, including materials and technology, food, housing, and childcare.

“When many members of our community are struggling with the COVID-19 fallout, Lee College is committed to ensuring that education will always be the foundation upon wihc the success of our community is built,” Villanueva said. “I am determined to make it easier for our students to get the education they need to improve the quality of their lives, and that means removing financial and technological barriers for students in our community.”

Lee College continues to respond to the coronavirus pandemic by implementing measures to help students navigate these extraordinary circumstances. Here are some steps the College has taken in recent days:

• Lee Cares Emergency Fund—Assists students by providing emergency financial assistance to students who are unable to meet immediate essential expenses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
• Credit/No Credit – Because of the disruption caused by the transition to distance learning education, students will have the option to convert any or all of the letter grades they earn in their Spring 2020 classes to Credit/No Credit grading.
• Laptop/Chromebooks/Hotspots — The college has purchased new laptops and tablets for students who need them to participate in distance learning. If you are a student in need of a device, go to www.lee.edu/leecaresemergencyfund.
• Donations — Lee College Nursing Department donated several medical supplies to the Houston Methodist Baytown Hospital to help with the nationwide shortage of medical supplies.
• SBDC—Offering virtual SBA loan application consultations for local businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lee to receive $4 million from Federal CARES Act

Lee College will receive a little more than $4 million from the federal Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund as part of the $14 billion in support for colleges and universities and their students under the recently passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Of the more than $4 million, half of the money — or approximately $2 million — will be earmarked for emergency financial aid grants for Lee College students.

From its share of the funding, Lee College will award cash grants to students to pay for expenses related to the COVID-19 outbreak, including materials and technology, food, housing, and childcare. Lee College President, Dr. Lynda Villanueva, has appointed a task force to develop a plan for distributing the money to students. The group, which is working on a tight deadline, plan to begin disbursements as soon as possible. Details on how students can apply for the emergency aid will be shared broadly as soon as they are available.

These federal dollars will supplement Lee College’s ongoing efforts to provide financial relief for students in need of assistance. Since the pandemic began, Lee College has provided aid to more than 150 students who suffered expenses related to COVID-19 disruptions, including Chromebook computers and food.

The Department of Education plans to announce guidance for the second half of the funds allocated to post-secondary institutions — in Lee College’s case, approximately $2 million — in the next two weeks. This funding is intended for direct institutional use to cover costs associated with changes to educational delivery and campus operations as a result of coronavirus disruptions. Lee College wants to use these federal stimulus funds to pay for student tuition and lessen the impacts of the pandemic on the college’s student body.

The CARES Act provides $31 billion overall for education aid at all levels, including $14 billion in funding to institutions of higher education and students. The Department of Education based college awards on two factors: the share of recipients of federal Pell Grants, and overall undergraduate enrollment numbers.