50 | COMMUNITY COLLEGE JOURNAL AACC.NCHE.EDU
Have you heard? It’s an election year. And while
most people are focusing on the presidential
candidates, there’s still work to do in Congress.
However, an election year generally means a
shorter legislative calendar, and that means less
time to get things done—111 days, to be precise.
More disheartening news: As the presidential
election draws closer, the partisan divide in
Congress grows even beyond where it normally is,
making it even harder to get legislation passed.
Despite this news, the American Association of
Community Colleges (AACC) continues to advocate for legislation that would benefit community
colleges and their 12. 5 million students. Here are
some of the issues, in addition to the annual funding legislation, AACC is focused on.
HIGHER EDUCATION ACT (HEA) REAUTHORIZATION:
There is so much at stake for community colleges
in the HEA, including reestablishing the year-round Pell Grant, reforming flawed graduation
rates, staving off any risk-sharing schemes that
would impose financial penalties on community
colleges and improving the loan programs to give
institutions more tools to combat over-borrowing.
It’s very unlikely that Congress will finish with
the HEA reauthorization this year. However, this
does not mean that important milestones won’t
occur. The Senate may introduce a comprehen-
sive reauthorization bill this year, and it could
even make it through committee markup. The
situation is less clear in the House, where repre-
sentatives may proceed as they have previously by
introducing smaller, focused bills rather than one
PERKINS ACT REAUTHORIZATION: The Perkins
Career and Technical Education Act also is up for
reauthorization. The act remains a vital source of
support for community colleges. The bill, overall, is far shorter and simpler than the HEA and
there does not seem to be an appetite on the Hill
and elsewhere to make fundamental changes to
the program. That means there’s a good possibility that Congress may make further progress, if
not finish, the Perkins reauthorization this year.
There has been a lot of activity in the Senate, less
so in the House.
AACC wants to see streamlined accountability measures, provisions focusing on how its
programs are serving the needs of business and
a new program to support community college
capacity along the lines of the U.S. Department of
Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community
College and Career Training ( TAACCCT) program.
AMERICA’S COLLEGE PROMISE: The $90 billion
price tag associated with the America’s College
Promise Act makes the fight to get it passed an
uphill battle in Congress. There may be some
room to do something on a smaller scale as a start.
AACC supports the bill and continues to work off
Capitol Hill to advance the free community college tuition concept at the state and local levels.
The College Promise Campaign, launched in
late 2015 by the White House, continues to bring
awareness of “promise” programs that already
exist across the country and encourage the
development of new programs to help qualified
students receive two years of community college
education at no cost.
NEW OVERTIME RULES: For years, employees earning less than $23,660 have been, in the eyes of the
government, hourly (non-exempt) employees and
eligible for overtime pay. The Labor Department
has proposed new rules that would increase that
salary floor to $50,400. This large increase may
have a significant impact on employers, including
community colleges. AACC has joined with other
organizations to call for a phased-in increase to a
lower salary threshold than called for in the proposed regulations. Final regulations are expected
later this year.
Join AACC’s government relations team at
a legislative update session during the AACC
Annual Convention, April 11, 3:00–4:00 p.m.
Jim Hermes is the associate vice president of government relations at the
American Association of Community Colleges.
TAKEA WA YS
What to expect
(and not expect) from
Congress in 2016
by Jim Hermes
Photo Credit: iStock/ uschools