Higher Ed Advocates to Congress: Fund Community College Career-Training Programs

A coalition of community college leaders and advocates asked lawmakers to approve funding levels proposed in the Biden administration's budget.
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  • The Biden administration's proposed budget includes $309 million for two programs.
  • The coalition asks lawmakers to include at least that much in the final budget.
  • The programs are even more important in the wake of the pandemic, the letter said.

A coalition of community college leaders and advocates are asking Congress to approve President Joe Biden's budget requests for programs that serve low-income students and assist in workforce development.

Biden's proposed fiscal year 2023 budget includes $100 million for the Strengthening Community College Training Grants (SCCTG).

These grants help community colleges to "address identified equity gaps and meet the skill development needs of employers" for high-demand, quality jobs, according to the Department of Labor. That proposed figure represents an increase of $50 million compared to the amount enacted in 2022, according to a House Committee on Education and Labor fact sheet.

The budget proposal also includes $209 million for the Strengthening Institutions Program (SIP), which provides grants to underresourced institutions, including community colleges, to serve low-income students, according to the coalition.

In the June 15 letter to House and Senate Appropriations Committee members, more than 20 organizations — including the American Association of Community Colleges, the Institute for College Access and Success, and Higher Learning Advocates — lauded the programs and asked for them to be funded at the levels requested by the president.

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"With more than 1,000 institutions across the country, community colleges meet the unique needs of rural, suburban, and urban communities alike," the letter reads. "As such, these institutions are at the epicenter of local and regional job training efforts, business and industry development, and educational and economic opportunity throughout the United States. SCCTG and SIP strengthen this role and enhance the ability of community colleges to meet the needs of their students to the benefit of the entire community."

In January 2021, the letter noted, the Department of Labor awarded $40 million in SCCTG funding — and although more than 150 community colleges applied for those grants, only 11 could be awarded. The Department of Labor is currently accepting applications for a third round of SCCTG funding.

"Providing at least the level included in the President's budget request would allow more institutions to meet the unique needs of their communities," the letter said.

The Strengthening Institutions Program received $109 million in 2021 and 2022, according to the Department of Education. The proposed 2023 fiscal year budget includes $209 million for the program.

Education officials received 194 SIP applications during fiscal year 2019, but only had enough funding for 64 grants, according to the letter — although another 62 of those applications were funded in fiscal year 2020.

"In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is even greater need for SIP grants to bolster community colleges and the student populations and communities they serve," the letter reads. "At $209 million, this program could support 250 new development awards."