Over 1000 community college trustees, presidents and students traveled to Washington, D.C. on February 10th to participate in the National Legislative Summit (NLS). Hosted annually by the American Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT), in partnership with the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), the summit is the largest community college advocacy event each year.
Washtenaw Community College President Rose B. Bellanca, Board Chair Anne Williams, Trustees Patrick McLean and Diana McKnight-Morton and Director of Government Relations Jason Morgan represented WCC at the NLS. WCC leadership met with U.S. Senator Carl Levin, Congressman John Dingell and the staff of U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow to advocate for the Pell Grant program, federal funding priorities and recommendations for President Obama’s education reform plan.
Senator Stabenow’s office touted her recent legislation The New Skills for New Jobs Act which seeks to train workers for high skilled jobs. The legislation would provide a federal match to the Michigan New Jobs Training Program, with the goal of doubling the number of workers and businesses that can participate in the program. The program allows an employer to partner with a community college to provide training for new employees in high-skill jobs. After training, the new employees begin working and their state income tax payments are used to pay back the cost to the community college.
Senator Levin discussed the need for renewed support of the Pell Grant program. More than three million low and moderate income community colleges students receive Pell Grants each year. With approximately 37 percent of all community college credit students receiving grants, the Pell Grant program is by far the most important student aid program for students. In 2012, Congress made changes to the program, increasing the maximum aid amount available to students, but also limiting access to aid. College leaders expressed their strong support for increased aid, but also stressed the need for expanded access to include eligibility for year-round Pell funding and access to grants by “ability-to-benefit students” (ATB). ATB students include students who lack a high school diploma or GED, but have proven their ability to benefit from college coursework. The Senator called upon college leaders to continue their advocacy in support of the Pell Grant program and other critical student aid programs throughout the FY2015 budget process.