Integral to RAMC’s mission is the creation of a stronger, more competitive workforce, as we believe that is the best way to rebuild America’s middle class. We also believe the most impactful way to jumpstart that rebuilding process is by increasing access to and success in higher education. So as the new Administration and Congress begin to refine a higher education policy agenda, RAMC members are pleased to provide the following “access and success” focused recommendations, all of which are based on our first-hand work in the field and our experience in dealing with current laws and regulations:
Restoration of Summer Pell for part-time and full-time students. Summer Pell is crucial to expanding access to and completion for community college students, and we are pleased that this proposal appears to enjoy wide, bipartisan support in Congress as we move into 2017. We are concerned, however, that the Summer Pell proposals often focus solely on consecutively enrolled full-time students. Continuing such a narrow focus would render the majority of community college students, often working adults who are most in need of our support, ineligible for this new program. That’s why RAMC recommends expanding access to Summer Pell for full- and part-time students.
Workforce Pell. Many students can obtain high-demand employment through short-term certifications whose costs are presently not covered by Pell Grants. RAMC urges an expansion of Pell to include its use for short-term certifications in employable fields.
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 such as risk sharing and accreditation reform will not have the desired impact unless issues such as 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 such as program of study and student progress.
Reverse Transfer. RAMC members believe that success in higher education can be improved through better reverse transfer policies aimed at better enabling the awarding of associate degrees to those who have attended community colleges and are now attending or have attended four-year institutions. Frictionless reverse transfer policies would not only help to ensure that those students have a degree that makes them more competitive in the workforce, they would also properly reflect the impact of community colleges on completion. RAMC believes that participation in reverse transfer programs should be mandated in Federal legislation.
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 widespread criticisms of for-profit schools are generally not applicable to community colleges and this rule negatively impacts our schools. Consideration should be given to exempting community colleges from gainful employment requirements or dramatically altering their compliance requirements.
State Authorization. Community colleges have also had difficulty complying with the requirements of the state authorization rule adopted by the Obama Administration several years ago. For public community colleges, this rule has placed requirements on colleges that have added little to the oversight already conducted by states of those institutions. Consideration should also be given to exempting public community colleges from this regulation or dramatically altering compliance requirements.
Career and Technical Education. Career and technical education is a vital part of the education pipeline, and community colleges are in an ideal position to provide that education at a postsecondary level. RAMC supports the further improvement of State and local career and technical education systems through the strengthening of key Federal policies, such as the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.