Two grant programs funded by Governor Mark Gordon with CARES Act dollars have led to increases in student enrollment at the University of Wyoming and community colleges around the state, meeting the goals of the programs.
Announced in August, the Governor’s CARES Adult Grant and CARES Wyoming College Grant Programs provided post-secondary education funding to individuals who had been financially impacted by COVID-19. In early July, all of the state’s institutions of higher learning had lower enrollment numbers compared to the same date in prior years. Statewide the decrease was around 20% with some colleges experiencing as much as a 29% enrollment drop. After the introduction of the Governor’s CARES grants, this enrollment drop closed to 8% statewide, with some community colleges showing as much as a 21% increase. The University of Wyoming saw a 23% increase in enrollment over what is typically seen for the time period. Nationwide, the drop in college enrollment is 22.7%.
“These grants have been effective in helping Wyoming residents obtain new skills, advance their careers and continue pursuing their education goals. COVID-19 threatened our citizens’ ability to meet these goals, but working with UW, the community colleges and private colleges we saw more people continue on their educational journeys,” Governor Gordon said. “Sustaining and growing our state’s workforce is essential to our economic future.”
The CARES Adult Grant was designed for Wyomingites in the workforce who had lost their jobs or had reduced hours, and could benefit from learning new skills. The CARES Wyoming College Grant was intended for students whose families were impacted financially by the pandemic, and might otherwise not be able to continue their education. Qualifying full-time students at UW, one of Wyoming’s community colleges, or any private or technical college located in the state received the amount set for room and board at each institution for the fall semester. Part-time students received a prorated funding amount according to the number of enrolled credit hours.
The Governor initially allocated $50 million to the CARES Wyoming College Grant Program and $7.5 million to the Adult Education Grant Program. A total of $37 million from the College grant program and $4.5 million from the Adult grant program was utilized. The remaining funds are being used by colleges and UW to respond to COVID-19 in other ways.