Monday, October 20th, 2014

The Obameter

Create a community college partnership program


"Will create a Community College Partnership Program to strengthen community colleges by providing grants to a) conduct more thorough analysis of the types of skills and technical education that are in high demand from students and local industry; b) implement new associate of arts degree programs that cater to emerging industry and technical career demands; and c) reward those institutions that graduate more students and also increase their numbers of transfer students to four-year institutions."

Updates

Administration directs $2 billion to community colleges that partner with industry

During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to "create a Community College Partnership Program to strengthen community colleges by providing grants to a) conduct more thorough analysis of the types of skills and technical education that are in high demand from students and local industry; b) implement new associate of arts degree programs that cater to emerging industry and technical career demands; and c) reward those institutions that graduate more students and also increase their numbers of transfer students to four-year institutions."

Buffeted by a difficult economy, the Obama administration has actively engaged community colleges over the past two and a half years over how to better prepare workers for skills needed in emerging industries. What the administration has done in relation to community colleges doesn't track the specifics of this promise exactly, but the efforts have been extensive.

The U.S. Labor Department, in collaboration with the Education Department, announced a series of competitive grants for community colleges, requiring that two-year colleges have strong employer partners and that the colleges meet industry needs. The grants -- funded by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, signed by Obama on March 30, 2010 -- will provide $500 million in 2011, and a total of $2 billion over four years.

"The grants will enable eligible institutions to expand their capacity to create new education or training programs — or improve existing ones — to meet the needs of local or regional businesses,” the Labor Department said in announcing the grants. "By statute, every state, as well as the District of Columbia and the commonwealth of Puerto Rico, will receive at least $2.5 million each year in grant awards.”

Courses developed with the grants would be available online for free. "These learning tools will help schools and students tailor education so each worker can have a better opportunity for success in the classroom and job market," the Labor Department said.

Meanwhile, Obama announced expansions to a program called Skills for America"s Future during a June 2011 visit to Northern Virginia Community College. Skills for America"s Future is an effort to encourage industry partnerships with community colleges to "maximize workforce development strategies, job training programs and job placements.”

The Manufacturing Institute, a non-profit affiliated with the National Association of Manufacturers, announced that it would help provide 500,000 community college students with industry-recognized credentials to help them secure jobs in the manufacturing sector. The effort aims to overcome the current lack of a standardized credentialing system when filling new and vacant jobs.

Finally, Jill Biden -- a professor and the wife of Vice President Joe Biden -- hosted a widely attended White House summit on community colleges on Oct. 5, 2010. The summit produced recommendations that are now in process.

The administration"s efforts to work with community colleges have been extensive, and, even though what"s been done doesn't track perfectly with the promise, we think the administration has taken many steps toward its underlying goal of helping community colleges and industry work more closely -- to aid students entering or re-entering the job market. It"s a close call, but we'll call this a Promise Kept.

Sources:

U.S. Department of Labor, "U.S. Labor Department encourages applications for Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program" (news release), Jan. 20, 2011

White House, "President Obama and Skills for America's Future Partners Announce Initiatives Critical to Improving Manufacturing Workforce" (news release), June 8, 2011

White House, "The White House Summit on Community Colleges" (report), June 2011

THOMAS, Text of Title V. of the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009 (H.R.3221), accessed Jan. 5, 2010

E-mail interview with David Baime, vice president for government relations at the American Association of Community Colleges, Aug. 8, 2011

House bill with community college grants awaits Senate action

During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to "create a Community College Partnership Program to strengthen community colleges by providing grants to a) conduct more thorough analysis of the types of skills and technical education that are in high demand from students and local industry; b) implement new associate of arts degree programs that cater to emerging industry and technical career demands; and c) reward those institutions that graduate more students and also increase their numbers of transfer students to four-year institutions."

A bill that includes provisions to do this -- the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009 (H.R. 3221) -- passed the House on Sept. 17, 2009, by a 253-171 vote. The measure now awaits action by the Senate.

The bill authorizes grants totaling $730 million for each of the fiscal years 2010 through 2013, and $680 million for each of the fiscal years 2014 through 2019. These grants would aid community colleges in such areas as creating job-training partnerships with industry; providing student support services; creating new degree programs closely tied to the needs of employers; and increasing graduation and postcollege employment rates.

Separately, the economic stimulus bill passed in February 2009 included $90 million for 2009 and 2010 for a Community College and Career Training Grant Program. But its purpose was less specific, awarding grants broadly to "improve educational or career training programs."

The pending bill in Congress is the one that most directly addresses this promise, and the fact that one chamber has passed the bill and the other has not makes it an example of a promise that's In the Works.

Sources:

THOMAS, Text of Title V. of the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009 (H.R.3221), accessed Jan. 5, 2010

Text of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

Interview with David Baime, vice president for government relations at the American Association of Community Colleges, Jan. 4, 2010