Audit of the Middlesex Community College Overview of Audited Entity

This section describes the makeup and responsibilities of the Middlesex Community College

Table of Contents

Overview

Middlesex Community College (MCC) is authorized by Section 5 of Chapter 15A of the Massachusetts General Laws and operates under the direction of a board of trustees, the members of which are appointed by the Governor. The president of MCC is the administrative head of the college and reports to the board of trustees. According to its website,

Middlesex Community College provides access to affordable education for a diverse community from all ethnic backgrounds and identities, preparing individuals for success and lifelong learning.

MCC is a member of the Massachusetts public higher education system, which consists of 15 community colleges, nine state universities, and five University of Massachusetts campuses. Founded in 1970, MCC opened its first campus in Bedford; it opened its Lowell campus in 1987. In fiscal year 2021, 11,936 students were enrolled at MCC. As of June 30, 2021, MCC offered more than 80 degree and certificate programs.

In fiscal year 2020, MCC had operating revenue of $40,327,636 and non-operating revenue (state appropriation, federal assistance, and investment income) of $38,237,062. In fiscal year 2021, MCC had operating revenue of $37,323,378 and non-operating revenue of $46,825,273.

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, enacted by Congress on March 27, 2020, provided $30.75 billion for an Education Stabilization Fund (ESF) to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the impact of the 2019 coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The ESF includes the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund, the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, and grants to state educational agencies and Governors’ offices. The ESF also allocated money for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) Program.

The United States Department of Education (US DOE) awarded grants to states under the GEER Fund to provide emergency assistance funding to local educational agencies, institutions of higher education (IHEs), and other education-related entities. States can use GEER funding to provide emergency support through allocations to IHEs that serve the students who have been most significantly affected by COVID-19. The Massachusetts Executive Office of Education received $50.8 million of GEER funding. The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education received approximately $20.5 million of GEER funding to support state IHEs.

According to the Frequently Asked Questions about the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER Fund) document distributed by US DOE, IHEs may use GEER funding to provide the following:

  • Staff, infrastructure and technology to support distance education, or remote learning;
  • Academic support for libraries, laboratories, and other academic facilities;
  • Institutional support for activities related to personnel, payroll, security, environmental health and safety, and administrative offices;
  • Student services that promote a student’s emotional and physical well-being outside the context of the formal instructional program; and
  • Student financial aid, such as IHE-sponsored grants and scholarships.

Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act provided funding for the HEERF I Program based on student enrollment. It required IHEs to spend at least 50% of the funding (referred to as the student portion) to provide students with emergency financial aid grants to help cover expenses related to the “disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus” and the remaining funding (the institutional portion) to cover institutional costs associated with “significant changes to the delivery of instruction due to the coronavirus.”

The student portion was to provide funding for items related to students’ cost of attendance, such as tuition, course materials, technology, food, housing, healthcare, and childcare. To be eligible for this funding, students must have completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and could not be enrolled in an online-only academic program on March 13, 2020, the date the President declared the national emergency due to COVID-19. According to Section E(19) of US DOE’s Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Rollup Document,

Institutions may provide emergency financial aid grants to students using checks, electronic transfer payments, debit cards, and payment apps that adhere to [US DOE’s] requirements for paying credit balances [i.e., money paid directly] to students.

IHEs were responsible for determining how to distribute the grants to students, calculating the amount of each student grant, and developing any guidance to provide to students about the grants. MCC developed award criteria for students receiving funding from CARES Act, Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA), and GEER funding. The criteria assign students priority levels from 1 to 3 based on factors such as whether they have completed FAFSAs, whether they have completed applications for additional funding, and what are their expected family contributions.3 The priority level determines the order in which students receive funding. MCC’s criteria also include award tiers, which are based on each student’s priority level and number of credit hours for the semester. Award tiers determine the amount of funding each student receives.

The institutional portion could be used to manage campus safety and operations (disinfecting, cleaning, and reconfiguring classrooms to promote social distancing), upgrade WiFi and technology, provide laptops to students, and train faculty members in online instruction. It could also be used to reimburse tuition and fees paid by students and to provide additional emergency financial aid grants to students. All expenses paid using this funding must have been incurred on or after March 13, 2020.

CRRSAA

The CRRSAA was signed into law December 27, 2020 to provide approximately $22.7 billion of additional funding to support IHEs affected by COVID-19.

Like the CARES Act, Section 314(a)(1) of the CRRSAA allocated funding to IHEs by providing both student and institutional funding. US DOE modified its guidance to allow more students to receive funding. Under the modified guidance, students were no longer required to have completed FAFSAs or to be enrolled in on-campus classes to receive emergency financial aid grants.

US DOE also modified the guidance for the institutional portion, allowing IHEs to use funding to defray expenses associated with lost revenue. This updated guidance could also be applied to any CARES Act funding that was not expended by the time an IHE received CRRSAA funding.

American Rescue Plan Act

On March 11, 2021, the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act was signed into law, providing additional funding of approximately $40 billion for the HEERF Program. The ARP Act required that at least half of each institution’s award be used to make emergency financial aid grants to students and that the rest be used for institutional purposes.

US DOE’s guidance document for ARP Act funding, Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund III Frequently Asked Questions, defined funding used for institutional purposes as follows:

[Funding used to] (a) implement evidence-based practices to monitor and suppress coronavirus in accordance with public health guidelines; and (b) conduct direct outreach to financial aid applicants about the opportunity to receive a financial aid adjustment due to the recent unemployment of a family member or independent student, or other circumstances.

Below is a summary of MCC’s financial activity related to federal COVID-19 funding during the audit period.

Grant Type

Award

Disbursements

CARES 18004(a)(1) Student

$    1,852,172

$  1,852,172

CARES 18004(a)(1) Institutional

      1,852,171

     1,852,171

CARES 18004(a)(2) Title III

            15,058

          15,058

GEER Student

         210,800

        210,800

GEER Institutional

         459,900

        459,900

CRRSAA 314(a)(1) Student

      1,852,172

     1,689,250

CRRSAA 314(a)(1) Institutional

      5,995,700

     5,302,803

CRRSAA 314(a)(2)

                      0

                     0

ARP 2003(a)(1) Institutional

      6,732,520

     2,052,959

Total

$ 18,970,493

$ 13,435,113

3.    Expected family contribution is a measure of a family’s financial strength, which takes into account income, assets, and family size. Colleges use it to determine student eligibility for financial aid.

Date published: May 31, 2022
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