Sunday, October 16, 2011

2011 ACCT Congress: Incoming ACCT Chair Emphasizes Student Success, K-12 Collaboration

As the 2011 ACCT Congress drew to a close, incoming ACCT Chair Roberto Uranga stressed the importance of continuing to build on the commitment made to student success and working more closely with K-12 schools.

“Last year, we planted a seed,” said said Uranga, a trustee at Long Beach City College in California. “[This year’s] symposium and lively town hall meeting represented the sprouting root of that seed. I look forward to working with ACCT’s visionary board and talented staff to make that sprout grow and blossom as we keep moving forward with our goal of increased student success in 2012.”

The first Hispanic trustee to serve as ACCT Chair, Uranga cited the association's success in growing membership and expanding the state, province, and territory coordinators network over the past year. Uranga stressed the importance of community college boards working with K-12 school systems and their boards, saying his top priority as ACCT Chair will be to develop a toolkit to help foster and promote school board and college board collaboration.

“We need to do it together,” he said.

The final Congress keynote speaker, Philip “Uri” Treisman, urged trustees to seek ways to share information about what works on their campuses, particularly in the critical area of developmental education. “Good ideas from good people do not spread in our sector of higher education,” said Treisman, professor of mathematics and public affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. “One of our roles in governance is creating structures... for making that happen.”

Uranga closed the 2011 Congress on a note of change. “The changes taking place will continue to challenge our boards,” Uranga said. “But I know we’ll be rewarded in the short- and long-run. ACCT has never been positioned so well to make a difference.”

(See previous 2011 ACCT Leadership Congress coverage here). Read more!

Friday, October 14, 2011

2011 ACCT Congress: Education Department Official Details Progress, Partnerships

U.S. Education Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Colleges Frank Chong reassured 2011 ACCT Leadership Congress attendees that community colleges remain “a bipartisan issue” for lawmakers and highlighted the administration’s work in helping raise their profile.

“It’s rarely that the President speaks that he doesn’t mention community colleges,” said Chong, former president of Laney College in California. “That’s intentional. He gets the role they play in the economic vitality of our communities.”

Chong noted that the first-ever White House Summit on Community Colleges, held last fall, helped kickstart important collaborations such as the $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, which announced its 10 finalist institutions in September; Skills for America’s Future, an industry collaboration aimed at addressing skills gaps in high-demand areas such as healthcare, IT, and advanced manufacturing; and a series of regional summits that brought together community college leaders, local employers, and philanthropic organizations.

"Oftentimes... a summit is a photo op,” Chong said. “I’m proud to say we followed up on the promises we put forward.”

Chong also stressed the importance of continuing to advocate for the $2 billion Community College and Career Training Grant (CCCTG) program, which will provide $500 million annually in grants to colleges and consortia over four years.

“It’s one of the few new [sources] of funding for community colleges,” he said. “Don’t take it for granted.”

Chong reiterated the administration’s commitment to access in the form of continuing support for Pell Grants, and said the Education Department is planning to find new ways to help community colleges share best practices online. Reducing time to degree through more seamless transitions, prior learning assessment, and improved apprenticeship programs are among other priorities, he said.

“It’s a very challenging time in Washington, D.C.,” said Chong. “We’re going to have to pivot... and push the envelope on how important community colleges are.” Read more!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

2011 ACCT Congress: Update on Federal Legislative Priorities

An overview of community college federal legislative priorities held during the 2011 ACCT Leadership Congress had its share of good news for two key community college programs -- Pell Grants and the $2 billion Community College and Career Training Grant program. However, public policy experts from ACCT and AACC warned trustees that it is no time to become complacent.

“The most important thing to come away with is that the Budget Control Act... is going to mean that Congress is going to have less money to send overall on our programs in the coming years,” said David Baime, AACC senior vice president for government relations and research. “It’s going to mean some belt-tightening for our institutions, regardless of what happens.”

With the Pell Grant maximum maintained at $5550 as part of a $17 billion agreement, Pell Grants were the only federal program to receive added funding as lawmakers deliberated this year. But as a bipartisan supercommittee prepares to identify at least $1.2 trillion in savings through 2021, Pell will be on the table with all other federal programs. “No matter what you’ve heard regarding Pell Grants being protected, basically the supercommittee can make cuts to anything,” said Jennifer Stiddard, ACCT senior public policy associate. “We need to be diligent.” Congress may also consider addressing the unprecedented growth in the program, which now provides $11.3 billion in aid to 3.5 million community college students, by changing the eligibility criteria in ways that impact community colleges, Baime warned.

The $2 billion Community College and Career Training Grant (CCCTG) program has also survived budget cuts thus far, and 32 states and consortia received awards in September, said Jim Hermes, AACC director of government relations. Overall, community colleges and their partners submitted more than $3 billion in proposals for the $500 million earmarked for first-year funding, making it critical that community college advocates fight to maintain funding for the remaining three years of the program. “We’ve already fended off two semi-serious threats to finding for this program, and we anticipate there will be more,” Hermes said. “There’s incredible demand for these programs, and ... continued vigilance will be required for all of us.”

President Obama’s $447 billion American Jobs Act includes $5 billion for modernizing community college infrastructure -- double the amount proposed in the American Graduation Initiative. While the bill has stalled, Congressional leaders may consider individual pieces of the bill in the coming months, said ACCT Director of Public Policy Jee Hang Lee. “Hopefully, modernization will be part of the puzzle,” he said.

As Congress and the supercommittee look to broader deficit reduction measures, budget deliberations have been firewalled between defense and non-defense discretionary spending -- “which is very good for our institutions, because in the past we’ve seen education dollars raided in these situations,” said Stiddard. However, it is not clear what cuts the supercommittee may wind up proposing, and if any deficit-reduction plan it proposes fails to pass Congress later this year, automatic across-the-board-cuts of 7.8 percent on all non-defense federal programs will take place.

While all education spending represents only 3 percent of the overall federal budget, “those cuts represent a huge impact on us,” Stiddard said. “We in the education community really need to push that the impact of this is that we [may] not survive those cuts.” Read more!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

2011 ACCT Congress: Symposium on Student Success Focuses on Advancing Board Goals

Held immediately before the 42nd Annual ACCT Leadership Congress, the Symposium on Student Success brought together more than 80 trustees, 14 college presidents, and representatives from 10 state associations and 22 national organizations to discuss how trustees can advance the completion agenda on their own campuses.

Sponsored by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the symposium’s attendees spent much of the two days developing model policy goals that governing boards can use to “consider how well they are helping guide their colleges towards an even stronger commitment to student success,” ACCT President and CEO J. Noah Brown said at the Congress opening session.

The policy goals, which will be further refined during a Thursday town hall meeting, focus on a range of issues, including effective partnerships, ways to foster an institutional focus on student success, and the importance of balancing student success with community colleges’ commitment to access and equity. “We are very proud of this work and our ability to engage in it,” Brown told symposium attendees. “You cannot underestimate the importance of putting the right people in a room for a set amount of time. That’s how you move the needle.”

Dr. Anne Bryant, executive director of the National School Boards Association, told symposium attendees that community colleges and the K-12 systems her boards represent must work together to address the challenges of a time when expectations are higher and the needs are greater than ever before. “We can get this right by working together," she said. "How we align ourselves to serve the neediest students is absolutely critical.”

Dr. Linda Baer, senior program officer with The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, stressed that trustee leadership is critical in sustaining a momentum shift at their institutions. “We can’t invest in anything more important than the leadership of the trustees for the important work to be done—building and sustaining community colleges to optimize student success,” she said, urging attendees to focus on narrowing a looming skills gap that has already left jobs unfilled at a time of high unemployment.

Symposium speakers reiterated that proven practices have emerged from the growing body of research on student completion issues, including simplifying choices for students, providing clearer pathways, engaging students through programs such as orientations, advisories, and supplemental instruction, and tracking student progress from their first days on campus. But they also urged trustees to focus on ensuring that their colleges weave completion into their overall mission and strategic goals. “Sometimes I think we’ve studied things to death,” Baer said. “It’s time to take action.”

“The hardest work is not changing practice, but changing cultures,” added Dr. Kay McClenney, director of the Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin. “The board plays an extremely important role in... shifting to an understanding that access without success in 21st century America is an empty promise... and [that] we’re not talking about itty-bitty changes around the edges.”

“If you owned your power with respect to the issue of student success, the conversation on the campuses you govern could be very different,” agreed Dr. John N. Gardner, president of the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education. “I hope you will own this power and focus on this issue in new ways.”

McClenney told trustees it was critical to “frame the way you think about what you need to think about. It’s not your role to decide what the curriculum and interventions are going to be,” she says. “But it surely is your role to ask questions about what the college is doing and monitor the data to see if these actions are closing achievement gaps.”

Completion by Design, the five-year initiative funded by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is now in the planning phase on 21 campuses in four states. Emphasizing programs that “start with scale” and reach broad swaths of students, Completion by Design has also led to a change in mindset among its four managing partners. “We had seen incremental process,” said Dr. Richard Carpenter, chancellor of Lone Star College, whose Completion by Design efforts will reach one-third of all community college students in Texas. “What intrigued us was the capability to be transformational.”

With its focus on developing model policy goals, the symposium confirmed the critical role trustees play in that transformation. “Effective governance has never been more important,” Carpenter said. “Boards really need to be bold.” Read more!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Understanding Continuing Resolutions: A Staple of Congressional Procedure

This week, Congress once again faced the task of making a last-minute deal to avert a government shutdown. Over the past nine months, this had happened several times, and the American people have become more familiar with the term “continuing resolution.”

Congressional budget and appropriations are complex topics even when everything goes as designed, which is quite rare. We are frequently left with the likes of the omnibus, minibus, unanimous consent agreements, cloture, and, of course, the continuing resolution.

As the rules of the House and Senate are written, the fiscal year runs from October 1st – September 30th. Starting on Saturday, October 1st, we began fiscal year 2012. The House and Senate are supposed to each pass budget resolutions by April 15th to determine spending caps for the appropriators. Once those caps are set, it is up to the House and Senate to determine how the money is distributed within those caps. They must pass 12 appropriations bills before September 30th to fund the upcoming fiscal year. This process involves several steps: the House and Senate write their own bills; the relevant appropriations subcommittee and appropriations full committee mark up (a process where the legislation is debated and amended) and discharge each bill; bills are considered, debated, and passed on the House and Senate floors; a conference committee works out the differences between the House and Senate bills; the House and Senate vote on an identical compromise bill; and the President signs it into law.

Has Congress ever completed the process under this timeframe? Well, since the current budgetary deadline of April 15th was set in 1985, Congress has met the target four times: 1993, 1999, 2000, and 2003. On the appropriations front, since 1977, all bills have passed before September 30th three times: 1989, 1995, and 1997. Note that none of these years correspond. Is it inefficiency? Is the process to vet these bills too cumbersome? Or is this simply part of our democratic government structure? One thing for certain is that barring an overwhelming single-party control of Congress and the presidency, it’s highly unlikely that all target deadlines will ever be met in a single year.

Hence we are left with the omnibus, minibus, unanimous consent agreements, cloture, and continuing resolution. CR’s, as they are commonly referred to inside the beltway, can provide level fund, specific cuts, across-the-board cuts, certain increases, or even new authorizations. They can fund one day or a whole year. In general, they lack the specificity you’d find in an individual appropriations bill or even an omnibus that combines several appropriations bills into one. Usually they pass without much notice or controversy. In fact, Congress passed around 150 CRs between 1977 and 2010. Yes, there were times when the last-minute deal averted shutdown, or the government in fact did shut down. However, over the past nine months, the standoffs over the CR have risen as a symbol of the current political infighting in Washington.

For community colleges, many of the discretionary programs important to our institutions have faced targeted or across-the-board cuts under continuing resolutions. Spending reductions may be necessary, but for the most part, these cuts are not vetted or examined based on need. Passing individual appropriations bills allows for greater debate, scrutiny, and compromise. The good news is that we may be moving toward that direction. All indications are that Congress will at least attempt to pass an omnibus bill before winter. This allows ACCT the opportunity to better organize and advocate priorities to members of Congress.

While the process may be frustrating and at times confusing, ACCT public policy staff is available to answer any questions. We rely on your engagement and efforts as we continue to advocate in Washington, DC. Read more!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

DREAM Act Reintroduced, Job Training Hearing, Negotiated Rulemaking

Today, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) re-introduced the DREAM Act with 32 other Senate co-sponsors. The DREAM Act would allow students to obtain permanent legal residence if they came to the U.S. as children (15 or under), have had continuous physical presence in the country for at least five years, graduated from high school or obtained a GED, and completed two years of college or military service in good standing. A video of Senator Durbin’s press conference and further information on the DREAM Act can be found at:

Also, the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development held a hearing today chaired by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) to examine the efficiency of federal job training programs. A March 2011 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) identified 44 out of 47 federal job training programs that overlap with another program, and it stated that only five have conducted an impact study since 2004 to examine outcomes. The subcommittee examined state and local efforts to consolidate and improve workforce training initiatives and questioned witnesses about the potential for consolidating programs within the context of reauthorizing the Workforce Investment Act (WIA).

Negotiations over both the FY 2012 budget and an extension of the debt limit are ongoing. The Senate Budget Committee may mark up an FY 2012 budget resolution next week. Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad’s (D-ND) resolution is likely to include some of the recommendations of the President’s fiscal commission, which would cut the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years through a 50/50 combination of spending cuts and revenue increases by eliminating tax expenditures and letting the Bush-era tax cuts on income above $1 million expire.

White House-led talks with Congressional leaders continue to seek an agreement on a debt reduction package to move in conjunction with an increase the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling. Rather than negotiate a comprehensive agreement on taxes and entitlements, the emerging expectation is that any agreement will include some substantial spending cuts along with some form of budget controls to reduce future deficits. Battles over the larger tax reform and specific entitlement cuts may be tabled until a later date.

Finally, tomorrow the Department of Education begins another round of negotiated rulemaking to craft regulations under the Higher Education Act of 1965. Hearings will begin in Nashville, TN and also be held in Tacoma, WA; Chicago, IL; and Charleston, SC. To see a schedule of the hearings and information about public participation, visit:

Read more!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Senate Fails to Advance FY 2011 Spending Measures; 2nd Comm. College Summit Convenes

The Senate voted on two competing measures today to fund the federal government for the remainder of FY 2011 (through September 30), and both failed to garner the 60 votes necessary to advance the legislation. The House-passed continuing resolution (CR), H.R. 1, which would cut $66 billion from current spending levels, failed in the Senate by a vote of 44 to 56, with all Democrats and three Republicans opposed. The Senate Democratic alternative CR, which would cut $8.7 billion from current levels, failed by a vote of 42 to 58, with all Republicans and ten Democrats opposed. The Senate Democratic alternative would have maintained the $5,550 Pell Grant maximum for the upcoming academic year, but it also would have rescinded the $125 million in funding for the Career Pathways Innovation Fund (CPIF) and the $561 million in funding for the Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG).

Senate leaders did not expect either measure to pass; they intend to use the votes to create pressure for a bipartisan compromise. It remains unclear at what funding level the House and Senate will come to an agreement. The current bill funding government operations ends on March 18th. It is unlikely that a compromise will be reached and passed by that time, so another short-term funding measure will need to be enacted to prevent a government shutdown.

In other news today, the U.S. Department of Education kicked off the second in a series of four regional community college summits. Held at Lone Star College System in Houston, TX, today’s summit focuses on “Successful Transfer Programs.” More information is available at:

Also, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified before the House Education & Workforce Committee today on the Department of Education’s budget and policy proposals. Sec. Duncan discussed the reauthorization of Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and stressed the need to maintain investments in education, including federal student aid. Sec. Duncan also requested legislation to enact the Presidents FY 2012 proposals for the Pell Grant, including the elimination of “summer Pell” and the in-school interest subsidy for graduate student loans, which would save $20 billion in FY 2012. Sec. Duncan will testify on the Department of Education’s FY 2012 budget proposal again tomorrow before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.

Finally, videos of the 2011 Community College National Legislative Summit are now available at

Read more!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Ed. Dept. Community College Summit Today in Philadelphia

ACCT public policy staff are in Philadelphia today to participate in the first U.S. Department of Education Community College Summit in Philadelphia.

We will report live from Philadelphia later today. In the meantime, here is more information from the Department of Education...

ED is holding a regional community college summit in Philadelphia on February 28.

Secretary Duncan and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis will participate in the summit, which is the first of four regional meetings being held as follow-up events to the White House Summit on Community Colleges in October 2010.

The Philadelphia summit — “Challenges, Solutions, and Commitments” — will bring together 150 participants from 15 surrounding states, representing community colleges, business, industry, philanthropy, labor, state and local governments, as well as students. The summit focus is “Transitioning Adult Learners to Community Colleges and the Workforce.”

The morning session will be streamed live (from 9:00 am – 12:15 pm ET).

The remaining three regional meetings will be held around the country during the spring. The purpose of the meetings is to identify promising practices for increasing completion at community colleges.

Duncan has described community colleges as the linchpin for meeting the President’s national goal of once again leading the world in college completion by 2020.

While they’re in Philadelphia, Duncan and Solis will tour the 1199C Training and Upgrading Fund’s Learning Center, a joint labor-management partnership that provides job skills training in the health fields to over 2,000 adult students every year.

Read more!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

2011 National Legislative Summit: House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy Predicts Financial Challenges Will Lead to Consensus

As the 2011 Community College National Legislative Summit drew to a close Wednesday, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), predicted that the divisiveness that has characterized Washington politics in recent years will be supplanted by the common need to address pressing financial challenges.

“The mindset on both sides of the aisle is knowing that the crunch is about to hit us,” McCarthy, the majority whip in the U.S. House of Representatives, told summit attendees during Wednesday's general session. Arguing that the federal budget deficit is no longer sustainable, he urged attendees to watch closely the deliberations over funding the current FY11 budget, as Congress works to avert a potential early March shutdown of the federal government. “The next two weeks is going to tell us whether we can work together and put politics aside to put the country first,” McCarthy said. “What happens... will determine how the debate on other things will go.”

Asserting that “structure dictates behavior,” McCarthy pointed to both changes within Congress and external factors as signals that the rancor of recent years may change. As majority whip, McCarthy said he regularly has lunch with his counterpart on the other side of the aisle to seek common ground. Other structural changes to meeting and voting schedules will also help improve debate, he said, pointing to the hundreds of amendments already attached to the continuing resolution for FY11. “We’re going through a detox right now,” said McCarthy, whose political career began in 2000 when he was elected a trustee of the Kern Community College District. “In the long term, it will be so much better for us when we can have a debate where the best ideas can rise up and win.”

Beyond Capitol Hill, the need to put Americans back to work will play an even bigger factor in driving progress, McCarthy predicted. “Commonality is going to happen around jobs,” he said. “If we don’t get America working again, we’re never going to get anywhere... and if we don’t find a solution, no one’s going to be reelected. So I believe we have the opportunity to do something.”

Acknowledging that the current deliberations by both Congress and the Obama Administration have centered on the 14-16 percent of the budget allocated to discretionary non-defense spending, McCarthy predicted that will change as the focus shifts to the 2012 presidential elections. “Everything needs to be on the table,” he said. “If we go and debate things this year, they may not pass, but they will go into play in the presidential campaign. That will be healthy.”

As the NLS drew to a close following three days of Hill visits by trustees and community college presidents, ACCT officials reminded attendees of the importance of making advocacy a year-round effort. “Our work does not end today,” said ACCT Chair Peter E. Sercer, Sr., a trustee at Midlands Technical College in South Carolina.
Read more!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

2011 National Legislative Summit: Second Lady Jill Biden, Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis Emphasize Administration Support for Community Colleges

The Obama Administration was represented at the 2011 Community College National Legislative Summit Tuesday by U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis and Second Lady Jill Biden, both of whom acknowledged the financial challenges ahead while reiterating the President’s ongoing commitment to community colleges.

“President Obama is committed to community colleges because he knows, as we all do, that community colleges are critical to getting the economy back on track,” Biden told NLS attendees Tuesday evening. “They are the key to the President’s goal of having the most competitive workforce in the world.”

Earlier in the day, Solis told attendees that her experience as a community college trustee helped prepare her for the financial decisions the Administration now faces. “One thing I learned is that you have to be adaptable and flexible in hard times,” she said. “And now is no different from then in many respects. We are faced with some very tough decisions and economic challenges.”

With 14 million people out of work -- and more than half of those unemployed for six months or more -- community colleges must mirror the Administration’s focus on putting people back to work, Solis said. “You must be able to to provide training that is transferable to a job,” she said. “The criteria isn’t a certificate anymore, but to cultivate your relationships with businesses to [ensure] a smooth transition. Most of you in this room have those relationships. Now it’s about moving a little further and thinking about the opportunities in 15 or 20 years.” As the economy improves, Solis urged community college leaders to help meet the workforce needs of employers who are “coming back online,” as the automotive industry has already begun to do.

Solis also touted the $2 billion Community College and Career Training Grant Program (CCCTG), which recently began soliciting applications for $500 million in grants in its first year. “This money will help you in terms of building capacity,” she said, urging community college leaders to collaborate with businesses, non-profits, and each other to maximize the reach of the program -- and to emphasize results in conversations with lawmakers. “The money is there for a short time -- and money doesn't last for a long time here in Washington," she said. "I can tell you we have to make the case that your programs work and can provide the best training for employers.”

Administration officials are also following up on ideas generated during the White House Summit on Community Colleges last October, according to Biden, who stressed that the Administration will continue to advocate for education needs as lawmakers turn their attention to financial issues. “We know we will face some tough choices in the future, but we are working hard to build consensus about what we must do to provide a world-class education, both for K-12 and higher education,” Biden said. “Every American should have the opportunity to take advantage of a community college education.”
Read more!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Focus on Budget Proposals, Pell Grants as 2011 National Legislative Summit Kicks Off

The 2011 Community College National Legislative Summit kicked off the same morning that President Barack Obama unveiled his proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year, an irony not lost on speakers, who cautioned a near-record turnout of community college leaders convening in Washington that the legislative focus has changed.

““It’s all about the budget,” former education policymaker and consultant Vic Klatt of the Penn Hill Group told NLS attendees during a Monday afternoon session. “Everybody is claiming to be reducing spending—the president, Congress, everyone.”

With lawmakers focusing exclusively on the 16 percent of the federal budget that excludes entitlements and military spending, making the case for community college programs playing critical roles in revitalizing local economies will be challenging, speakers cautioned. “My sense is that it’s going to be very difficult in this climate to have a thorough and logical discussion that starts with the needs of the people in your communities,” Meet the Press moderator David Gregory of NBC told attendees during a Monday general session. “It’s not just a debate about numbers and policy. It’s a debate about leadership in Washington.”

For now, the battle over the FY12 budget is taking a back seat to coming to an agreement over funding for the current fiscal year, with House Republicans proposing significant cuts to a range of programs as the potential of a government shutdown looms as soon as next month. “You couldn’t be here at a better time,” ACCT President & CEO J. Noah Brown told attendees. “What you do over the next few days will have a profound impact on securing scarce resources for your community.”

In outlining the 2011 Community College Federal Legislative Priorities (Word document), officials from ACCT and the American Association of Community Colleges cited potential reductions to the Pell Grant program and the possible use of funds intended for the $2 billion Community College and Career Training Grant Program (CCCTG) to offset existing Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) programs as two of the most significant legislative issues facing community colleges.

With the number of Pell Grant recipients having grown by 64 percent at the same time as the maximum award grew to $5,550, overall funding for the program has doubled over the past four years, making it a highly visible target for reductions in the current climate. “Part of it has to do with the economy, part of it has to do with the fact that community colleges are becoming first responders,” ACCT Director of Public Policy Jee Hang Lee said of the increase.

The Pell program has “grown bigger than most state budgets,” added David Baime, AACC senior vice president for government relations and research. “As the economy has tanked and students have come to our doors in record numbers, the program has come under immense financial strain.”

The most recent budget proposal for the current fiscal year offered by House Republicans would reduce the Pell Grant maximum by 15 percent. President Obama’s budget proposal for FY12 would leave the maximum untouched, but place limitations on year-round grants. Further qualifications based on metrics involving college costs and completion are also possible, Robert L. Moran, director of federal relations and policy analysis for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, said during an afternoon session. “We have dueling proposals from a Democratic president and a Republican House majority to see which one can cut Pell Grants more,” Wall Street Journal bureau chief David Wessel told attendees. “If you need any other reminder of the stakes you face, I can’t think of one.”

Other legislative priorities include grants, institutional aid, workforce development programs, funding for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) provided through a National Science Foundation initiative, and making the American Opportunity Tax Credit, extended for two years as part of the extension of the Bush tax cuts, permanent. Reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act, TAA authorization, improvements to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, reconsideration of the DREAM Act and programs to help community colleges serve veteran students round out the priorities. Making the case for these existing programs is especially important this year because no earmarks are expected for at least the next two years, AACC legislative associate Laurie Quarles told attendees. “Without your help this year, we’re going to see some pretty draconian cuts,” she said. “These programs... are where the money is -- and where it will be disappearing from if you don’t make the case for community colleges.”

Speakers urged community college leaders to focus on results in their discussions with lawmakers. “You don’t need rhetoric, you need money, and you need to convince people you’re doing something that makes sense,” said Wessel, encouraging community college leaders to emphasize the returns on investment yielded by retraining and remedial and developmental education, while not losing sight of their mission to help lift the underserved out of poverty. “If you close that door, you don’t deserve to exist,” he said to applause from the audience.

Despite the many challenges, NLS speakers remained upbeat about the future. “Our number one priority is getting people back to work, and community colleges are positioned to help us do just that,” said Penny Pritzker, chair of Skills for America’s Future, which aims to foster partnerships between businesses and community colleges by sharing best practices, identifying sources of funding, and “playing matchmaker” for prospective partners. “Putting our resources into training and development is one of the best investments we can make as a country,” she said. “It could not be clearer that community colleges are in the right place at the right time. The country has never needed you more.”

“We are entering a period of big, big challenges,” ACCT’s Brown said. “But I would submit to you we have big, big opportunities. I am confident today that we’re up to the task of meeting these big opportunities. Without you and the nation’s community colleges, this nation will not be the nation is has been up until this point in history. It’s up to you.”
Read more!

Monday, February 7, 2011

House Considers TAA Reauth, Cut to CCCTGP

Tomorrow, the House will consider a bill to reauthorize the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program under a fast-tracked procedure known as “suspension of the rules.” The TAA program extends assistance to workers who lose their jobs as a result of foreign trade, and it is the law that governs the Community College Career Training Grant Program (CCCTGP). Most TAA programs are set to expire this Saturday, February 12.

The bill would extend authorization for the ‘TAA for Communities’ program and Sector Partnership Grants until June 30, 2011. Included in the budgetary offsets (pay-for’s) in the bill is a $238 million cut to the CCCTGP in FY 2014. Instead of receiving $500 million in FY 2014, CCCTGP would be allotted only $262 million. Despite the fact that this cut in funding would come several years down the road, the CCCTGP is a critical investment in the long-term competitiveness and innovative capacity of community colleges. Under “suspension of the rules,” the bill will require a 2/3 vote for passage. It is unclear how the Senate will proceed with the bill as written.

Finally, the House is still expected to act next week on a funding measure that makes $12.33 billion in combined cuts to the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (7.3% of current funding) through the end of FY 2011. Specific programmatic cuts are not yet known but should be announced this week.

The President’s budget request will be released on Monday, February 14. Read more!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Senate to Abandon Earmarks for 2 Years

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI) said Tuesday that he would not accept requests for earmarks during the next two years. This comes after President Obama said in his State of the Union address last week that he would veto any bills with earmarks. House Republican leaders have already agreed that they will not support earmarks during the 112th Congress. Inouye reiterated that he supports members directing funding back to their states as a constitutional prerogative of Congress, and he indicated that a review of Congressionally directed spending options may occur sometime in 2012.

The House is not in session this week, but the House Appropriations Committee is expected to begin considering a funding resolution next week after House Budget Committee Chairman Ryan (R-WI) sets new funding allocations. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has pledged to bring this funding measure to the floor on the week of February 14, since the current continuing resolution expires on March 4. According to media reports, House Republican leaders are tentatively planning to propose an aggregate cut of around $50 billion from current funding (FY 2010) levels, but they will allow conservatives to offer amendments on the floor to increase the cuts up to $100 billion. Expected programmatic cuts are not yet known.

The President will release his budget on Monday, February 14. Read more!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Congress Finalizes Committee Assignments

Yesterday, Senate Democratic and Republican leaders agreed to new committee assignments, completing the 112th Congress’ committee assignments for both the House & Senate. You can find a PDF of the committee assignments here.

Additionally, the Senate reached and adopted a bipartisan compromise last night on changes to the chamber’s rules to speed up the legislative process. Although some Senators had advocated for direct limits to the use of the filibuster, lawmakers instead agreed upon less-controversial reforms to secret holds, confirmations, and the reading of amendments. Under the compromise, secret holds on legislation and nominees will be eliminated, the number of executive branch nominations subject to confirmation will be reduced by about a third, and Senators will no longer be allowed to force chamber clerks to read aloud amendments if those amendments have been posted online for at least 72 hours. Additionally, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) entered into a “gentlemen’s agreement” to reduce the frequency of filibusters of motions to begin consideration of legislation, but this part of the compromise is not backed by any official rule change.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

DOL Announces Grant Application for Community College and Career Training Grant Program

Today, the solicitation for grant applications for the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program (TAA CCTG) was announced by Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Applications will be accepted from both individual community colleges and eligible institutions, as well as consortia of two or more eligible institutions across a community, region, state, or industry sector. The Department of Labor intends to fund grants ranging from $2.5 million to $5 million for individual applicants and from $2.5 million to $20 million for consortium applicants. The TAA CCTG Program is authorized for $500 million for each of four years, fiscal years 2011 through 2014, to support educational and career-training programs focused on dislocated and unemployed workers. Each state will be guaranteed a minimum of 0.5% of the total funding, or $2.5 million per state per year.

Funds are provided to expand and improve education and career training programs that can be completed in two years or less, are suited for workers who are eligible for training under the Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers program, and prepare program participants for employment in high-wage, high-skill occupations. The targeted population of this program is workers who have lost their jobs or are threatened with job loss as a result of foreign trade. The deadline for applications is April 21, 2011.

To see the official solicitation for grant applications, please visit

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