LEGISLATIVE UPDATE ...
Setting the Political Agenda
Legislative priorities for community colleges in 111th Congress
BY KATHERINE CARTER AND JAMES HERMES
grants. While these funds fall short of
what was originally proposed, they are
instrumental in avoiding significant
future cuts to the maximum grant.
The bill also provides $2.55 billion
of additional funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities,
Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and other
Minority-Serving Institutions over the
next 10 years and continues funding
for the College Access Challenge Grants
originally authorized in the College Cost
Reduction and Affordability Act.
The House passed the reconciliation
package March 21. At press time, it was
awaiting consideration in the Senate,
where, because it is being considered
under special rules, it will need a simple
majority of 51 votes to pass. Debate is
expected to be contentious.
The second session of the 111th Congress, which began in January and was dominated by health care reform debate, saw partisanship and popular dissatisfaction with lawmakers reach new highs (or lows). Congress will have a lot on its plate as the dust from the health care fracas settles, including many community college priorities. It remains to be seen, however, what can realistically be done in the midst of a politically charged election year. Here is where community colleges
and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) stand on key issues:
Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA)/
American Graduation Initiative (AGI)
The AGI, the Obama administration’s proposal to infuse $12 billion into community colleges, and SAFRA, the legislation in which AGI was contained, became
enmeshed in the health care debate. In the end, the health care reconciliation bill
included SAFRA. But because Congress had less money than anticipated, the final
legislation excluded AGI and several other programs in the original legislation.
In a last-minute development, the reconciliation bill was amended to include
$2 billion in funding for the Community College and Career Training Grant
Program. The competitive grant initiative, first authorized in last year’s stimulus
bill but not funded, offers community college training programs and financial
support for dislocated workers.
The reconciliation bill also houses crucial funds for the federal Pell Grant
program, paving the way for future increases in the maximum award, provided
Congress appropriates at least the same level of funds it does now.
In addition, the legislation includes $13.6 billion to address current program
shortfalls, a product of enrollment increases and more students qualifying for
Congressional Democrats have thus far
managed to pass elements of their “Jobs
Agenda,” but these elements have been
fairly limited and have not included
crucial support for public education.
The House got off to a good start last
December when it passed the Jobs for
Main Street Act (H.R. 2847), a $154 billion measure that includes $23.1 billion
for an education jobs fund directed
toward K– 12 and public postsecondary
education. The bill also includes $1.25
billion for summer youth and job training programs.
Without a 60-vote majority and
because several moderate Democrats
are wary of additional spending, the
Senate took a more cautious approach.
Its version of H.R. 2847, redubbed the
Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act, totals $15 billion,
focuses on tax credits to spur hiring,
and does not include an education jobs
fund or any other resources to shore up
state budgets. Congress is expected to