One of the consequences of the recession for Berkshire Community College (BCC), as for nearly all public educational institutions across Massachusetts, is that state appropriations were reduced.
At BCC, that problem was compounded by the fact that at the same time, enrollment was increasing, dramatically. Fortunately, the stimulus program was enacted at just the right time to help this institution of higher learning continue to provide an education.
Recovery Act Impact: Berkshire Community College
"The stimulus funds have been critically important in maintaining services and staffing for our students," said Paul Raverta, President of BCC. "It allows us to accept the students and give them an education. I don't know what we would have done."
BCC received $2.7 million in stimulus funds through the state fiscal stabilization fund. In addition to maintaining services and staff, the college was able to maintain its dual college program that enables high school students to attend the college and invest in its science and technology program. "We did upgrading we hadn't done in years," said Raverta. "It was very exciting for the staff to see those investments."
Another exciting project the college was able to implement with its stimulus funding was an 1,800-panel roof mounted solar photovoltaic array on seven of the college's nine buildings -- the largest roof-mounted solar array on a public institution in the state. BCC used $1 million of its stimulus funding for project. The array came online in July and according to Scott Richards, BCC's Director of Facilities, it is expected to pay for 25 percent of the college's energy costs.
"We think of it as a critical investment in our future," said Raverta. "There is no one who doesn't think energy costs won't increase."
Richards said that the arrays will also be part of a state-run Energy Management System which will monitor via the Internet the buildings with the arrays and keep track of their energy usage. The impact of the arrays can also be viewed on a Website that keeps track of the solar array's impact on the energy costs at the college. "We couldn't determine how our usage was before," said Richards. "Now we can observe it all the time and the system can tell us what's happening."
To Raverta, it all helps the college fulfill its mission to its students. "We are creating the workforce for the future," he said. "Not being able to accommodate that would have been a disaster going forward. Stimulus really filled a gap."