Community College Leaders Applaud Increased Funding in Latest COVID Relief Package

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rebuilding America’s Middle Class (RAMC), a coalition of community colleges, applauded Congressional leaders for allocating additional federal funding support for their institutions and students, thanks to a critical change in the funding formula included in the December COVID relief package. Funds were distributed by the Department of Education today.

Previous federal funding allocations had been calculated based on full-time equivalency, putting community colleges at a distinct disadvantage because the majority of their students attend classes part-time.

RAMC Board President and Chancellor of Dallas College Joe May said, “Community colleges serve roughly half of the nation’s college-going population with the goal of making higher education more accessible and affordable for all. Many of our students have jobs or family responsibilities that limit the amount of time they can dedicate to school, but these students are just as committed to earning a postsecondary degree or credential and should receive the same federal support as traditional higher education students.”

RAMC members previously submitted a letter to Congress requesting lawmakers reconsider how federal COVID relief aid is distributed to postsecondary institutions, urging a move away from a formula based on full-time equivalency and instead advocating for a formula based on student headcount. Read the letter here.

The COVID relief package approved by Congress in December 2020 provided approximately $22 billion in funding for institutions of higher education to address institutional and student needs related to COVID-19. Unlike previous legislation that distributed aid to institutions based entirely on student enrollment status, these funds were allocated through a formula that was at least 50% based on the total count of students at an institution, regardless of whether they attend classes full-time or part-time. This change will ensure greater parity for community colleges that could greatly benefit from an infusion of additional federal dollars.

As RAMC board member Morna Foy, who serves as president of the Wisconsin Technical College System, explained on a previous episode of Inside Higher Ed’s The Key podcast, students at community colleges have the same needs as full-time students at traditional four-year institutions – all students need reliable Broadband access, laptops, textbooks, course materials, and other external supports provided by institutions.

“The first CARES Act was distributed based on full-time equivalence – that’s where we count up credits and divide by what makes for a full-time student and we get a number. That’s been historically a very common way to measure higher education outcomes and resource needs, but it doesn’t work in this setting because the kind of support and assistance that we have to provide students is based on them as individuals – not on the number of credits they’re taking,” Foy said.

May concluded, “We are enormously grateful that Congress has recognized the critical role that community colleges play in supporting students and responding to our nation’s changing education and workforce demands, and we appreciate their action to increase funding for our institutions.”