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Twelve community college systems call on Congress to modernize the Higher Education Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Ayobami Olugbemiga, Press Secretary
AyobamiO@nationalskillscoalition.org
August 8, 2019

Washington, D.C. — Education leaders from 12 community and technical college systems across the country – Arkansas, Connecticut, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington – sent a letter to Senate HELP Committee and House Education and Labor Committee leadership, calling for the adoption of a job-driven “Community College Compact.” This represents a set of four postsecondary policy proposals developed by National Skills Coalition, vetted by a range of stakeholders – including academic institutions, employers, community-based organizations and workforce development boards – and supported by voters and business leaders.

The letter urges Congress to adopt the following four policy solutions to modernize the Higher Education Act:

1. Eliminate the bias against working students in need of federal financial aid

In today’s economy, approximately 80 percent of all jobs require some form of education or training, and more than 50 percent of jobs can be classified as “middle-skill”  meaning they require more than a high school diploma but not a four-year degree. Community and technical college leaders urge lawmakers to consider the Jumpstarting our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act (S. 839; H.R. 3497) led by Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) and Representatives Cedric Richmond (D-LA-02), Andy Levin (D-MI-09), Steven Horsford (D-NV-04), Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH-16), Jaime Herrera-Beutler (R-WA-03) and John Katko (R-NY-24). This legislation would expand Pell grant eligibility to students enrolled in high-quality education and training programs that are at least 150 clock hours of instruction over 8 weeks.

2. Make higher education and workforce outcomes data comprehensive and transparent

Every student deserves access to secure, transparent, and easily accessible data that lets them know exactly what education institutions and training programs will give them the best return on investment. However, as community and technical college leaders note in their letter, existing legal restrictions on the collection of student-level data continue to hinder the accessibility of this important information.

To help provide consumers with better data and relieve institutions of duplicative reporting requirements, community and technical college administrators call for action on the College Transparency Act (S.800; H.R. 1766). Introduced by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Tim Scott (R-SC), and Representatives Paul Mitchell (R-MI-10), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL-08), Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21) and Josh Harder (D-CA-10), this bipartisan bill would establish a secure, privacy-protected postsecondary student level data network administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Colleges would be able to safely and easily report their data, which would then be available as a decision-making tool for current and prospective students.

3. Strengthen support services for students

Due to the diversity of the student populations they serve, community and technical college leaders recognize the growing importance of support services such as child care, career counseling, and transportation assistance. While states and higher education administrators across the country are working to implement career pathway models that provide nontraditional students with the services they need to succeed in the postsecondary education system, their efforts receive little support at the federal level.

To address this issue, community and technical college leaders are calling for the consideration of the Gateway to Careers Act (S. 1117), which was introduced by Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Todd Young (R-IN), Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO). This bipartisan bill would make federal funding available on a competitive basis to institutions that are working in partnership to serve students experiencing barriers to postsecondary access and completion.

4. Provide targeted funding for valuable partnerships between community colleges and businesses

Community and technical college leaders work with industry stakeholders every day to provide high-quality training and academic instruction to future workers through sector partnerships. However, Congress has not invested in these partnerships at a scale that would sustain economic competitiveness since the expiration of the Trade Adjustment Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program in FY 2014. The purpose of the TAAACT grant program, which allocated $2 billion in funding to states from FY 2011-2014, was to increase the capacity of community colleges to address the challenges of today’s workforce through job training for adults and other nontraditional students.

Due to the proven impact of community college-business partnerships, community and technical college leaders are calling for legislation that would expand and support these partnerships, an example of which is the Community College to Career Fund in Higher Education Act (S. 1612; H.R. 2920). Introduced by Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Tina Smith (D-MN), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Representative Robin Kelly (D-IL-02), this legislation would provide academic institutions and businesses with competitive grant funding so that they can continue to work together to deliver valuable educational or career training programs to students and workers.

Read the full letter here 

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For more information contact Ayobami Olugbemiga, press secretary, at AyobamiO@nationalskillscoalition.org