Our coalition of community colleges, called Rebuilding America’s Middle Class, is made up of leading community college practitioners who have an acute understanding that policies set in Washington, DC can have a profound impact on our ability to serve students. We’re very pleased that one of our priorities – a resumption and expansion of summer Pell Grants – has begun to move on a positive route through Congress, where this program that is so crucial to expanding access and completion for community college students has wide, bipartisan support.
Just last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved funding for Summer Pell that will make it possible for more community college students, especially working adults who are studying part-time, to benefit from the program. While we applaud this preliminary action, we have other Washington priorities, too, one also involving Pell, and others having to do with risk sharing/accreditation, reverse transfer, America’s College Promise, and gainful employment. Please see below a summary of our summer 2016 priorities:
- Workforce Pell. Many students can obtain high wage employment through short term certifications whose costs are presently not covered by Pell. RAMC urges and expansion of Pell to include its use for short term certifications in employable fields. There are bills in Congress which do this now, including the bipartisan JOBS Act (S. 1900, H.R. 3985).
- Risk Sharing/Accreditation. RAMC members believe that community colleges, like all members of the higher education community, should be held accountable for results. However, proposals like risk sharing and accreditation reform won’t have the desired impact unless issues like data quality and differences in populations served by institutions of higher education are taken into account. Furthermore, in exchange for stronger accountability, colleges should be given discretion to determine student loan eligibility based upon factors like program of study and student progress.
- Reverse Transfer. RAMC Members are interested in encouraging reverse transfer – awarding Associates degrees to those who have attended community colleges and are now attending 4 year institutions. This ensures those students have a marketable degree and properly reflects the impact of community colleges on completion.
- America’s College Promise. RAMC members are educating our communities about this important proposal and emphasize community college affordability. We are also committed to working with Congress if and when this issue begins to move through the legislative process. In the meantime, we urge continued focus on funding summer Pell, while pursuing the complimentary America’s College Promise Agenda.
- Gainful Employment. Community Colleges have had difficulty complying with the reporting requirements of the Gainful Employment rule. This rule inadvertently lumped community colleges into efforts to police for-profit colleges. The criticisms of for-profit schools are not applicable to community colleges and this rule makes our schools collateral damage. Consideration should be given to exempting community colleges from gainful employment or dramatically altering their compliance requirements.
- Perkins Career and Technical Education. RAMC believes that career and technical education is a vital part of the education pipeline and that community colleges are in an ideal position to provide that education at a post-secondary level. We support further improvement of state and local career and technical education systems through the strengthening of key federal policies. RAMC supports career pathway programs that align adult education, post-secondary education and training, and workforce development services to improve education and training outcomes for program participants. While RAMC does not endorse a specific program or approach, the concept of career pathways should be built into the re-authorization of Perkins.