Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Senate to Vote on DREAM Act!

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has announced that the U.S. Senate will consider the DREAM Act as an amendment to the FY 2011 Department of Defense (DOD) authorization act. The DREAM Act, one of AACC’s top legislative priorities since 2001, provides a path to legal status for undocumented students that were brought into the country as children and lets states decide their own policies on in-state tuition for undocumented students. Key votes requiring the support of 60 senators to pass could begin as early as Tuesday, September 21. Please contact your senators ASAP and urge them to vote for adding the DREAM Act onto the DOD authorization bill. More information will follow shortly.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Check the AACC Website for the Latest on the Community College and Career Training Program

The Department of Labor is expected to release its Solicitation for Grant Applications (SGA) for the Community College and Career Training Program (CCCTP) in the first half of October. The CCCTP is the Trade Adjustment Assistance Act program that was funded at $500 million per year for four years starting in federal fiscal year 2011, which starts this coming October 1. While the full details of the SGA will not be known until its release, certain elements of the program are coming into focus. AACC is aware of the tremendous amount of interest in this program by community colleges, and we have compiled all the details of the program that we are aware of on our website. This site will be updated as we become aware of further information.

The AACC government relations department will be reviewing this information as part of a free webinar on Wednesday, September 8, 2:00 - 3:00 PM EDT. In addition to the CCCTP, topics will include the gainful employment regulations, the American Opportunity Tax Credit, FY 2011 funding for key programs, the White House community college summit, and the DREAM Act. Please join us tommorow.

AACC Fall Legislative Preview Webinar
When: Wednesday, September 8, 2:00 - 3:00 PM EDT
Register: Click Here

Upon registering, you will receive your personal URL for logging onto the webinar, as well as call-in information for the audio portion.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Free Webinar September 8 - Fall Legislative Preview

Register now to join the AACC government relations staff as they recap recent legislative developments and look ahead at what remains on the agenda for September and beyond. Topics will include the upcoming RFP for the Community College and Career Training Program, gainful employment regulations, the American Opportunity Tax Credit, the White House community college summit, the education jobs fund, FY 2011 funding for key programs and the DREAM Act.

What: AACC Legislative Webinar

When: Wednesday, September 8, 2010, 2:00 - 3:00 PM EDT

Registration: Click Here

After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar, including your personalized URL, phone number and access code.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Education Jobs and FMAP Funds Pass Key Senate Vote - Final Passage Expected Soon

Earlier today, the U.S. Senate voted 61-38 to cut off debate and proceed to a vote on final passage of the Murray-Harkin amendment to H.R. 1586. All the Senate Democrats were joined by Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins from Maine to obtain the 60 votes necessary to end the filibuster on the amendment. This was a key procedural hurdle and paves the way for likely passage of the bill in the Senate before the end of the week, sending it back to the House of Representatives. Anticipating this Senate action, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has taken the highly unusual step of recalling the House, which had already adjourned for its August recess, for a vote on the bill early next week.

The Murray-Harkin amendment will provide $26 billion to help states deal with the crippling financial situations they are facing. $10 billion of that money is for the education jobs fund, which states can use to retain and hire K-12 teachers and other educational personnel. While the jobs fund does not extend directly to higher education, the maintenance of effort provision that states must comply with to receive these funds does set minimum spending levels for higher education. Many states have reported to AACC that this MOE language was instrumental in avoiding larger cuts to state higher education spending.

The Murray-Harkin amendment also includes $16 billion to extend increases to the federal Medicaid matching funds provided to States that were part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. These increases to the federal medical assistance percentage, or FMAP, were scheduled to cease at the end of 2010. The Murray-Harkin amendment will extend the increase for six additional months.

Taken together, the education jobs and FMAP funds will provide crucial fiscal relief to states, relieving the pressure on them to make cuts in other areas such as higher education.

Please call or email your Representative today and urge them to vote "Yes" on H.R. 1586 when they vote on the bill next week.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Education Department Issues Proposed Regulations on "Gainful Employment" and Other Key Issues

This is a brief update on regulatory activity by the U.S. Department of Education that has major implications for community colleges.

On June 18, the Department of Education released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on "program integrity." The regulations cover a wide variety of issues and have generated a great deal of controversy, in part because they are generally targeted at abuses by for-profit institutions. Comments are due on this proposed rule by August 2nd.

AACC has worked closely with the American Council on Education in developing formal comments to be submitted by all of higher education, but it also plans to submit its own comments on issues related to "gainful employment." We encourage you to examine AACC's DRAFT comments and to submit similar comments.

Lastly, earlier today the Department of Education made available a notice of proposed rulemaking that fleshes out its approach on the "gainful employment" issue. This regulation has major implications for community college certificate training programs, and indeed for all of higher education, given that the regulation involves the federal government in new ways in evaluating and determining eligibility for higher education programs. For more information, see Inside Higher Education's story on the regulations and the regulation itself.

AACC will be developing a community college response to this regulation in the coming weeks—comments will be due in early September—and in doing so, will strive to balance the clear need for the Federal government to exert greater quality control over profit-driven institutions, along with the need to ensure that community colleges aren't subject to inappropriate regulations and/or sanctions because of abuses by other institutions.

These issues are complicated and important, and we encourage your engagement with them. Please let us know if you have any questions or comments.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Final Legislative Alert! Support Funding for Education Jobs and Pell Grants

As early as this week, the House of Representatives will vote on “supplemental” appropriations legislation for Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 to appropriate additional funds for various purposes, including national defense. AACC, along with the rest of the education community, is fighting to include vitally important funds for education jobs and the Pell Grant program in this legislation. We need your help.

Please email, call or fax your Representative today and urge their support for the education jobs fund and $5.7 billion for the Pell Grant program in the FY 2010 supplemental appropriations bill.

Background Information:

Legislation has been introduced in both the House and Senate to provide $23 billion in aid to states for the purpose of hiring and retaining teachers and other educational staff. These funds would essentially be a more focused extension of the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund created in last year’s economic stimulus legislation. The Senate supplemental appropriations bill, which is the bill that the House will take up, does not include this jobs fund. The House needs to hear strong support from the education community for adding the jobs fund to the supplemental appropriations bill. Furthermore, the latest version of the jobs fund only included K-12 education, and not higher education. While any education jobs fund would likely help community colleges, at least indirectly, higher education should be part of the jobs fund.

AACC is also urging the House to include $5.7 billion to retire a shortfall in the Pell Grant program that has arisen because of the tremendous increase in demand for the grants brought on by the recession. The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, passed as part of the health care reconciliation bill earlier this year, retired most, but not all, of this shortfall. Without this additional $5.7 billion in this legislation, the maximum Pell Grant could fall as much as $845 in the 2011-12 academic year.

Talking Points (please tailor to the situation at your institution):

• The Education Jobs Fund is vital to community colleges. These institutions have been squeezed by shrinking state support and increased enrollments, forcing them to layoff faculty, reduce class sections and/or increase class sizes, and slash support services. In many places, thousands of students have been prevented from enrolling in the classes that they need.

• An education jobs fund of any kind helps community colleges by relieving pressure on state budgets in other areas. However, higher education should be explicitly included in a final jobs fund, just as it was in the Jobs for Main Street Act passed by the House last December.

• More than 2.5 million community college students rely on the Pell Grant to help make their education possible. $5.7 billon is desperately needed to ensure that these students do not see a significant cut in their grants, as much as $845.

• Failing to fix the Pell Grant “shortfall” may result in future reductions not only to Pell Grants, but also other student aid, job training and institutional support programs that are vital to community colleges and their students.

Help in contacting your Representatives is available on the AACC website. If you have any questions, please email David Baime, Senior Vice President of Government Relations and Research, or call 202-728-0200 x224; Jim Hermes, Director of Government Relations, x216; or Laurie Quarles, Legislative Associate, x249.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

AACC Policy Brief: Moving Success from the Shadows

The need for better data on the performance of higher education has become a major focus of education policymakers, and this has been reflected in federal legislation. Community colleges are appropriately held accountable for the workforce outcomes of their students, but the data that are gathered to evaluate those outcomes must reflect the post-college occupational experiences of their students. The latest AACC policy brief “Moving Success From the Shadows: Data Systems That Link Education and Workforce Outcomes” examines the current state of linkages between education and workforce outcomes.

Visit for more information and the full report.

Friday, March 12, 2010

AGI in Jeopardy

Congress is now finalizing how they are going to move forward on the health care bill, having finally decided to use a process called budget reconciliation to pass the plan. The student loan bill, which passed the House last year as the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA) will likely be part of this package. From the community college point of view, the two most important parts of SAFRA are the American Graduation Initiative and the money it would provide for Pell Grants.

Over the last few days, the landscape has changed dramatically. First, the estimated savings generated from ending the Federal Family Education Loan program in favor of direct lending by the Education Department fell by $20 billion over 10 years, to $67 billion rather than the $87 billion estimated last year. Since SAFRA would use these savings to pay for the AGI, the Pell Grant increases, and other programs, this created a problem for Congressional leaders. Furthermore, the cost of increasing the Pell Grants has risen dramatically. As a result, we are now hearing that the AGI and most other new programs have been stripped from the bill.

AACC has sent an alert to all of its members asking them to weigh in with Democratic Senators to reverse this outcome, and restore AGI to the student loan legislation. The Pell Grant funds are vitally important, but so, too, are the resources that would be provided to community colleges through the AGI. Final decisions on this matter will likely be made today - so time is of the essence for action.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

President Obama Reflects on H.R. 1, One Year Later

On the one-year anniversary of the signing of H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), President Obama publicly announced that it has been a success, stating that it has saved millions of jobs and raised the percentage of domestic product growth.

Included in the legislation last year was an increase of the Pell Grant Maximun to $5,350 and an increase in Federal Work-Study funding by $200 million. The bill also provided $3.95 billion for training and employment services administered by the Department of Labor and granted $1.25 billion for dislocated workers, $500 million for adult workers and $1.2 billion for youth programs.

Click here for the full article in the Washington Post to view Obama's thoughts on the year following the signing of H.R 1 .

Monday, February 1, 2010

AACC Releases Summary of Key Aspects of the Obama Administration's FY11 Budget

The administration released its FY11 budget earlier today, and AACC has just posted this summary of the budget's highlights to its website. The summary covers funding requests for the most important programs to community colleges, including student aid, institutional assistance, job training and others. We will continue to update and expand on this information, but wanted to make sure that you had the basic information as soon as possible. Please let the AACC government relations team know if you have any questions.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Latest on the AGI Status

When the Senate will consider legislation containing the American Graduation Initiative (AGI) remains unclear. According to accounts today in the New York Times and Congressional Quarterly, Congressional Democrats are actively considering a plan by which they would pass final health care reform legislation by a process known as budget reconciliation, which would allow the Democrats to pass the legislation in the Senate with only 51 votes. The AGI legislation, which includes several other funding components, is also budget reconciliation legislation. Under the terms of the FY2010 budget, the Senate can pass only one reconciliation bill, so the Senate Democrats must hold the AGI legislation until the health care debate is resolved. Should they choose to use reconciliation to pass health care, it would be joined with the AGI legislation.

The victory of Republican Scott Brown in last week’s special election in Massachusetts for former Senator Edward Kennedy’s seat robbed the Democrats of their filibuster-proof 60-vote majority in the Senate, thereby complicating their strategy for passing health care reform. The Brown victory left Congressional Democrats with two other options in addition to reconciliation to avoid a Senate filibuster on final health care legislation. The House could simply pass the Senate bill and send it to the President for his signature, an option that was rejected by Speaker Pelosi last week because of opposition by some House democrats to certain portions of the Senate bill. The Democrats could also retreat from the larger health care package and fashion smaller-scale legislation that would garner enough Republican support to get 60 votes in the Senate, a tact that some Democrats seem to favor.

For now, though, the reconciliation option is very much in the mix, meaning that the AGI legislation will continue to wait until the reconciliation option is either used or taken off the table. The situation is fluid and once decisions are made, however, action on both the health measure and education bill could occur very quickly.

Friday, January 15, 2010

AACC Urges Senate to Include Education Jobs and Workforce Training Funds in Jobs Bill

As many of you are aware, the House of Representatives passed a jobs bill last month that could greatly benefit community colleges by providing funds for retaining and hiring additional college staff and for workforce training programs. (AACC's summary of that bill can be found on the AACC website).

Yesterday, AACC sent
a letter to the Senate Democratic leadership urging them to include similar provisions in jobs legislation that they plan to introduce soon. Although the jobs bill has not generated a great deal of attention, it stands a reasonable prospect of providing significant financial relief for at least some of our colleges. Despite the abysmal federal budget landscape and the pressures against greater deficit spending, Congress and the Administration are aware of the dire state budget situation, and are further aware that states cannot print money to remedy the situation.

Also, it is important to remember that the jobs legislation provides actual funding. H.R. 4196, the Emergency Community College Financial Stabilization Act, which AACC supports, is an authorization bill that does not provide any money, in and of itself. Therefore, we believe it is best to concentrate efforts at this time on actually securing funds, while working to refine and broaden the base of support for H.R. 4196. Ideally, the community college focus of H.R. 4196 will be reflected in the jobs bill.

Thanks for your attention to this important matter.

David Baime
AACC Senior Vice President of Government Relations and Research

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Latest Webinar Slides on AACC Website

For those of you who could not make it to the January 7 webinar - Community College Federal Legislative Priorities in 2010 - the slides are available on the AACC website .

As you can see in the presentation, 2010 is shaping up to be a very busy year on the legislative front. After the dust settles on health care, the Senate is prepared to move ahead with budget reconciliation legislation containing the American Graduation Initiative. We hope to see action on reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act shortly after that. The jobs bill is now in the mix as well. Immigration and welfare reform, education tax credits, and reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act all remain on the longer-term agenda. And of course, we will continue to advocate for our annual funding priorities.

Happy New Year, and here's to an eventful 2010.