Monday, June 29, 2009

Obama Administration Community College Initiative Details

As noted in an earlier ACCT LAW E-alert, the Obama Administration is currently working on a new community college initiative, which is “part of a series of efforts to help community colleges reach more students and to link basic skills education to job training,” according to Inside Higher Ed.

ACCT is consulting with the Administration as it develops plans to support community college-based job training programs, details of which likely will be released soon.

The following article from Inside Higher Ed highlights some aspects of a new Obama Administration initiative to develop free online courses; however, it is unclear at this time whether this project will be included among the final pieces of the new community college initiative.

U.S. Push for Free Online Courses by Scott Jaschik:

ACCT will issue LAW E-Alerts are further details of the Administration’s community college initiative are released. Read more!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Obama Administration Announces Streamlined College Aid Application

The Obama Administration today announced a shorter, simpler, and more user friendly Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) that will make it easier to apply for college financial aid. The changes—some of which are already in place while others will be phased in over the next few months—are designed to increase postsecondary enrollment, particularly among low- and middle-income students.

"President Obama has challenged the nation to once again have the highest percentage of college graduates in the world," said Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education. "To do that, we need to make the college-going process easier and more convenient, and to send a clear message to young people as well as adults that college is within their reach. Simplifying the financial aid process is an important step toward reaching that goal."

At his first White House press corps briefing, Secretary Duncan outlined the Administration's plan for streamlining the FAFSA.

The simplified FAFSA is one of several recent steps taken by the Obama Administration to improve access to higher education and make it more affordable.

"Simplifying the FAFSA is another significant action in our quest to keep a college degree within the reach of every person who aspires to higher education," Duncan said.

In other news, on Friday, June 19, the Senate confirmed the appointments of Martha J. Kanter to serve as U.S. Under Secretary of Education and Jane Oates to serve as Assistant Labor Secretary, Employment and Training Commission. Kanter is Chancellor of Foothill-De Anza Community College District. Oates worked closely with the New Jersey community colleges and the NJ Council of Community Colleges to implement a statewide articulation agreement.

For highlights of the Obama Administration's Agenda for College Affordability, go to

More information on federal financial aid for college is available at Read more!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Congressional Committees Outline Funding Allocations

June 19, 2009—Yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its FY2010 302(b) allocations, which provide spending amounts that allow the Subcommittees to work on their respective funding bills. The Senate 302(b) allocation for Labor, HHS, and Education is $163.1 billion—almost $10 billion more than the FY2009 allocation.

Last week, the House Appropriations Committee passed by party-line vote, 34-21, its FY2010 302(b) allocations for Labor HHS, and Education is $160.1 billion—$7.5 billion more than FY2009.

The House Labor, HHS, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee is expected to introduce its bill in early July, while the Senate Subcommittee expects to introduce its bill in late July. Both Subcommittees intend to pass their respective bills prior to the Congressional August recess.

For more information about ACCT's advocacy services, visit Read more!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

White House to Make 'Major Announcement' on Community Colleges

June 18, 2009—Yesterday, during the Democratic Leadership Conference policy forum, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel announced that in the coming weeks President Obama will make a major announcement on community colleges. Mr. Emanuel said that there will be a "rewriting of all legislation related to job training and vocational education, but most importantly in the area of community colleges." He said that "a lot of people, when we talk about education, talk about universities. What has been forgotten is how important the community-college system is to our economy, our ability to compete in a global economy. It is literally the conveyor belt to allow people to upgrade their skills when they are going from X job to Y career.

"As a former member of Congress who had two community colleges in his district," said Mr. Emanuel, "I cannot tell you how important this is. It has not gotten the attention of the four-year institutions, but as a competitive advantage to the U.S., the community-college system is essential. We're going to be outlining a system that is going to fund the growth of the community-college system."Mr. Emanuel commented on the importance of community colleges, including referencing his experience as a member of Congress and the two community colleges in his former district.

Mr. Emanuel noted that the President's announcement will outline "changes on what we can do for community colleges so we can achieve the goal of getting five million more children, five million more workers through the community college system than are expected over the next ten years." He also stated that the community colleges system "will be having major resource infusion, but also reforms and [the system will be] goals-driven as part of an overall economic strategy in the upgrading of American worker/employee skills..."

He said the focus on community colleges is "part of an upgrading of the economic strategy and the upgrading of American workers' skills."The reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act is on the horizon and would serve as a likely vehicle for these changes. ACCT's LAW E-Alerts and Inside the Beltway blog ( will keep you informed of all developments related to President Obama's announcement as they happen. The audio of his speech can be found here:

In Congressional news, The House Republican Steering Committee selected Rep. John Kline (R-MN) to serve as the new Ranking Member on the House Education and Labor Committee.

The Education and Labor Committee will have the major task of dealing with the budget reconciliation, which allows for moving of the Pell Grant program to a mandatory program and merging of the Direct Lending program and Federal Family Education Loan program into a single program. Additionally, the committee will have to consider the reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act and the No Child Left Behind Act (Elementary and Secondary Education Act). Read more!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Changes to the House Education and Labor Committee

June 10, 2009 — Yesterday, the House Republican Steering Committee selected Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) as the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee. Rep. McKeon takes the spot of Rep. John McHugh who resigned last week because of his nomination to serve as Army Secretary.

Rep. McKeon had served as the ranking member of the Education and Labor Committee and chaired the committee during the 109th Congress. Rep. McKeon will continue to serve as the ranking member until a replacement is announced.

According to reports, a number of Republican members have indicated an interest in the ranking member post including Reps. Tom Petri (R-WI), Michael Castle (R-DE), Joe Wilson (R-SC) and Rep. John Kline (R-MN). The Steering Committee is expected to make a decision in the next week or so.

The Education and Labor Committee will have the major task of dealing with the budget reconciliation, which allows for moving of the Pell Grant program to a mandatory program and merging of the Direct Lending program and Federal Family Education Loan program into a single program. Additionally, the committee will have to consider the reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act and the No Child Left Behind Act (Elementary and Secondary Education Act). Read more!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Ed Secretary Duncan Announces Grant Competition, Cites Community Colleges as “Invaluable Resources” for Displaced Workers

Today, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited the Milwaukee Area Technical College today to announce a $7 million special competitive grant to establish innovative and sustainable community college programs that prepare displaced workers for second careers. This first-of-its-kind grant program will be used to develop national models that can be replicated across the country, especially in communities where autoworkers have lost their jobs.

Accompanied by Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, Milwaukee Area Technical College Acting President Vicki Martin and Manpower Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Joerres, Secretary Duncan called upon institutions of higher learning, private and public nonprofit organizations, and other agencies to propose model programs for training adults to pursue family-sustaining second careers. Secretary Duncan is one of several cabinet secretaries and other high-level officials from the Obama administration traveling across the Midwest this week to visit communities affected by layoffs in the automobile industry.

"Education is the catalyst for a strong economy and the means by which adults will reinvent themselves and rebuild the industrial cities that have been the foundation of our nation," Secretary Duncan said. "The Obama administration is committed to supporting auto communities and workers, who have been displaced from their jobs. Community colleges are invaluable resources for adults seeking to acquire new skills that are needed by employers."

The U.S. Department of Education launched its first special focus competition grant today from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) benefiting community colleges. The grant will provide seed funding for model programs in community colleges that help adults develop the skills they need to succeed in a new career.

The programs could provide services, such as tutoring, academic and career counseling, and help with the registration process. They also could remove financial constraints for adults returning to school, including child care, transportation, and textbooks. These innovative new programs must be sustainable beyond the three-year grant period.

The grant application will be announced online today, June 4, in the Federal Register, and published tomorrow, June 5. Applications will be due on Aug. 7. The Department of Education anticipates awarding approximately 28 grants by mid-September with projects beginning on or about Oct. 1. The estimated range of the grant awards is $300,000-$750,000 over a three-year period.

For more information about the FIPSE program, go to

The Federal Register can be accessed at: Read more!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Education Secretary Arne Duncan Testifies Before Senate and House Appropriations Subcommittees

June 3, 2009—Today, Education Secretary Arne Duncan testified before the Senate Labor, HHS and Education Appropriations Subcommittee and the House Labor, HHS, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee to address "The Administration's FY2010 Budget Request for the Department of Education."

Duncan told the Senate that "this budget makes important choices to continue and expand education for our children from cradle to career."

The Department of Education has submitted an FY2010 budget for an overall $46.7 billion of discretionary funding, an increase of $1.3 billion over FY2009. One of the goals of the budget, Duncan said, is to assure that students have the financial aid and student loans they need not just to enter college, but to complete their college educations.

"The Recovery Act made an important down payment in our effort to expand student aid," said Duncan. "In addition to more aid, we want to make sure that students are not just attending college, but graduating. The stimulus bill provided $17.1 billion so that we would increase the maximum Pell award from $4,850 to $5,350. In our fiscal year 2010 budget, we propose important and permanent changes to assure students have access to federal grants, aid, and loans. The first is to move the Pell program from discretionary to a mandatory appropriated entitlement. The second, we propose to link the grant increase in the maximum grant to the consumer price index, plus one percent every year, which will allow the maximum grant to grow at a rate higher than inflation so that students can keep up with the rising cost of college."

The Education Department would pay for this by improving and streamlining the federal student loan program. All loans would be moved over time from the Federal Family Education Loan Program to the direct-loan program. Duncan stressed that doing this would improve the loan program without creating a burden for tax payers.

Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) expressed concern over changing the Pell program from discretionary to mandatory, saying he doesn't "have a closed mind about it," but that the issue needs further discussion.

Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) expressed concern over the need for an improved system of matching practical and technical skills acquired during higher education with skills needed once students are working. She said she will soon be introducing legislation to bring together "all the players from the schools to the community to the community leaders, labor, business, workforce leaders to design programs for their own communities." She asked whether there is a place in the budget for these needs.

Duncan responded that "community colleges play a huge role in the trajectory of education continuum" and that community colleges "have been a highly under-utilized, undervalued resource." He mentioned the nomination of Martha Kanter, chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District in California, to the position of Undersecretary of Education as a "strategic" placement to include community colleges at the federal legislative level.

"It's so important," Duncan said, "to help shape the opportunities that our high school and community college students have. We can't do enough of that. We have to tie education to the real world."

View video of Secretary Duncan's testimony to the Senate. Read more!