Budget and Appropriations
AACC advocates for robust increases to key community college programs as part of the annual budget and appropriations process.
Last week, President Biden released his budget framework for Fiscal Year 2024 (FY 24). The budget proposal requests $90 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of Education, a 13.6 percent increase above the FY 23 level. The proposal asks for a $500 discretionary increase to the maximum Pell Grant award, alongside a $320 increase in mandatory funding – building on substantial increases over the last two appropriations cycles. The budget also proposes a national free community college program through a federal-state partnership. This would be accomplished through $90 billion in mandatory funding, with a $500 million discretionary competitive grant program for selected institutions.
The budget includes a $20 million increase for the Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) program, increased investments in Federal TRIO Programs, GEAR UP, and Postsecondary Student Success Grants, and new investments in campus-based mental health programs and holistic student supports.
The budget framework also asks for $15.1 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of Labor, an 11 percent increase from FY 23. The proposal asks for a $35 million increase for the Strengthening Community Colleges Training Grant (SCCTG) Program and a $50 million increase for Registered Apprenticeships.
While we are encouraged to see increases to key community college programs proposed in the President’s Budget, the framework is not likely to be taken up as a starting point by House Republicans. Instead, most expect to see House Republicans propose cuts to overall spending and key programs, as part of their focus on deficit reduction.
For more information, please visit our Budget and Appropriations page.
Short-Term Pell and Workforce Training
AACC’s Office of Government Relations (OGR) advocates for strong federal support for job training and workforce development programs at our nation’s community colleges.
The long-stymied JOBS Act was reintroduced by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Mike Braun (R-IN), taking over as the Republican lead for retired Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH). The bill continues to enjoy strong bipartisan support and was reintroduced with 37 original cosponsors. The bill was reintroduced in the House by Reps. Bill Johnson (R-OH), Lisa Blunt-Rochester (D-DE), Michael Turner (R-OH), and Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ).
Another proposal, the Promoting Employment and Lifelong Learning (PELL) Act, was introduced by Ed & Workforce Chair Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and House Republicans. The bill would expand Pell Grant eligibility to programs between 150 and 600 clock hours (same as the JOBS Act). In this proposal, eligible programs must demonstrate graduation and job placement rates of at least 70% and students who received federal financial aid must see a “positive return on investment.” This means that the program’s published tuition and fees cannot exceed the difference between the median earnings of students receiving federal financial aid and 150% of the federal poverty line. Notably, for-profit institutions would be eligible under this proposal. The bill builds on a previous proposal from last legislative session, the REAL Reforms Act.
Last week, the Jobs to Compete Act was introduced by Ed & Workforce Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) and House Democrats. The bill requires programs to demonstrate that they prepare students for “gainful employment” through earning at least more than a high school graduate and experiencing an earnings gain of at least 20%. The bill also has requirements around the stackability and transferability of credits, data transparency and career counseling, and alignment with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act eligible training provider list.
These bills show broad bipartisan interest in expanding Pell Grant eligibility to shorter-term programs and AACC will continue to work with members and committee staff to search for a viable vehicle.
For more information, please visit our Workforce Development page.
Pell Grant Tax Treatment
AACC’s Office of Government Relations (OGR) advocates for federal tax and finance policies that best serve our nation’s community colleges and the students they serve.
AACC will continue working with policymakers to end the taxation of Pell Grants and to help more low-income community college students take advantage of the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC). Currently, Pell Grant award dollars that exceed tuition and fees are taxed as income, even though these dollars are key resources to help students afford books, transportation, and living expenses. By making Pell Grants entirely non-taxable, more low- and moderate-income students attending community colleges will receive their entire Pell Grant amount. Similarly, community college students who receive a Pell Grant are commonly denied access to the $2,500 AOTC because the grant is counted against a student’s eligibility.
The bipartisan Tax-Free Pell Grant has not yet been reintroduced in the 118th Congress. AACC will continue monitoring the status of that legislation and lobbying the House Committee on Ways and Means and the Senate Finance Committee to make this commonsense, low-cost change through any potential vehicle.
For more information, please visit our Tax Policy page.
Higher Education and Student Aid
AACC advocates for strong federal investment in student and institutional aid and for Higher Education Act (HEA) policies that best serve our nation’s community colleges and their students.
Sens. Mitt Romney (R-UT), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), and John Barrasso (R-WY) reintroduced the Graduation Reporting for Accuracy and Decision-Making (GRAD) Act. The bill aims to improve federal graduation rates to better account for the community college mission and the diversity of community college students. Specifically, the bill would ensure that the federal graduation rate measure includes non-first time, non-full time students, uses 300% of the normal time for community college students, and includes transfers. AACC has long supported this change and has endorsed the GRAD Act.
For more information, please visit our Higher Education and Student Aid page.
AACC represents our nation’s community colleges and their students as federal agencies propose and consider new regulations, rules, and guidance.
Last week, AACC joined a letter led by the American Council on Education (ACE) asking the Department of Education (ED) to extend a new reporting requirement around the use of Third-Party Servicers (TPS). The Department’s Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) put in place a new institutional reporting deadline of May 1. Based on ACE letter and other feedback, ED announced that they were creating a comment period ending March 30 and extending the reporting deadline to September 1. AACC plans to submit comments.
The Department of Education (ED) announced a new slate of regulatory actions that will impact community colleges, including its intention to host a new round of Negotiated Rulemaking. ED has indicated that they are set to issue formal NPRMs on key topics discussed during last year’s negotiated rulemaking, including gainful employment, certification procedures and standards of administrative capability, and Ability-to-Benefit. ED also announced that they will release a proposed rule on the new terms and conditions for income-driven repayment, announced as part of President Biden’s loan cancellation plans. Finally, ED is planning on convening new negotiated rulemaking committees around accreditation, distance education, state authorization, cash management, and “Return of Title IV Funds.”
For more information, please visit our Regulatory Actions page.
AACC advocates for a broad range of priorities that impact community colleges and the students they serve, including those that fall outside of our other listed categories.
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released new guidance for colleges and universities on upcoming changes to Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility for college students. During the duration of the national emergency, college students were temporarily eligible for SNAP benefits so long as they qualified for a federal or state work study program or had no Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The program’s 20-hour work requirements were also suspended for all adults participating in the program. With the national emergency set to end, many community college students will have to increase their hours worked, enroll in a work study or SNAP Education & Training program, or lose their eligibility. AACC is advocating for policies to permanently expand SNAP eligibility to college students during the next reauthorization of the Farm Bill.
For more information, please visit our Other page.