Over the past several weeks, senior AACC staff members and I have been in communication with officials within the Administration and on Capitol Hill, and we expect that President Obama will be announcing a major and unprecedented federal community college initiative soon, possibly as early as next Tuesday. AACC, in coordination with ACCT, has worked to ensure that any proposals advanced by the Executive Branch reflect the needs of our institutions and students. Although we do not have definitive information about either the proposals or their release date, we have been encouraged by the discussions.
The Administration is holding information close to the vest, but we expect that the components will be similar to what Scott Jaschik reported on June 29 in Inside Higher Ed.
The basic components of the plan at this point are:
Funding for improving programs at community colleges, with an emphasis on those that are connected to employers and high demand jobs. The total funding may be as much as $9 billion over 10 years. It has not been decided yet whether this will be formula-funded or funded by a competitive grant process (or a combination). The amounts per year are still being decided.
A renovation/construction fund. This could be as much as $10 billion. Whether this will be a grant program or a loan program or a combination is still being decided. Apparently, there may be a K-12 component as well as a community college component.
A National Skills College. This is a proposed program to provide federal funding to community colleges or consortia of community colleges to develop open source, on-line courses for high school and community college students. The amount of funding could be as much as $50 million annually.
The timetable for Congressional action on the President’s proposals is not set, but it is possible that the House Education and Labor Committee could consider them by the end of July, likely in the context of broader budget "reconciliation" legislation. The Senate is not likely to act until September. This gives us some time to advocate for what we see as most valuable to our colleges and our students.
After President Obama announces the proposal, you can expect contact from your local press about the potential impact of this initiative and about your community college. I am sending you this communication now to give you a heads-up about this pending announcement and to ensure that you can get prepared to speak about the general thrust of the proposal, as well as your workforce programs and links to employers, facilities needs, links to K-12 educational institutions, on-line education programs, and other relevant activities.