How The Fiscal Edge Affects Community Colleges

Even if Congress and President Obama avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, a compromise may include cuts that could affect community colleges.

The fiscal cliff comprises a worst-case scenario by year’s end that could throw the economy into a downward tailspin—the expiration of popular tax benefits on Dec. 31 and a looming “sequestration,” which would kick in on Jan. 2 if lawmakers don’t hammer out a deal to rein in federal spending.

The sequestration calls for across-the-board cuts to most non-defense discretionary programs. While Pell Grants would be exempt in fiscal year 2013, other education and workforce training programs would see an 8.2-percent cut, including TRIO, GEAR UP, Perkins career and technical education, adult education, Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grants, and Workforce Investment Act programs, among others. (Read more.)

Via Times Staff, Community College Times.

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New Department of Labor Initiative Focuses on Workforce Development

While most of us would not debate the value of a four-year degree, this American dream remains beyond the reach of many as the cost of a college education continues to rise. However, even in 2012, there are many family-sustainable occupations to be had without that sometimes-elusive document.

The U.S. Department of Labor, in conjunction with the Department of Education, has recently awarded 54 grants to 297 schools across the U.S., District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to increase workplace development programs in community colleges around the country, thanks to a provision in the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act signed by President Obama in 2010. The initiative—the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training (TAACCCT) program—awards grants for training programs to enable schools to meet the needs of local industries in an ongoing effort to develop a stronger national workforce.

According to U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, nearly half of all job openings in the next decade will be “middle-skill” jobs, requiring less than a four-year degree, but requiring more than a high school diploma. She sees these grant programs as “tickets to employment.”

In Nebraska, which boasts a 4 percent unemployment rate, the primary problem is the lack of people with industry-required skills. The manufacturing industry is working closely with schools so that training is geared to move the student directly from school to work. Soft skills, such as getting to work on time, are also addressed to make these students “career-ready.”

According to Tony Raimondo, chair of the Nebraska Advanced Manufacturing Coalition, “Over 80 percent of manufacturers report a moderate to serious shortage of skilled talent in the hiring pool.”

Nebraska’s Central Community College is a leader in a consortium in workforce development. There, the DOL grant will help address a state-wide need for manufacturers by allowing the school to offer a manufacturing generalist degree consisting of 12 hours of core requirements. One may choose to continue to get an industry certificate, then go on to a diploma (32 credit hours), then on to a full two-year associate degree. (Read more.)

Via Beatrice Townsend, Diverse Issues in Higher Ed.

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George Lucas’ Promise to Invest in Education Prompts Speculation

George Lucas’ announcement that a majority of the proceeds from the sale of his film company will be funneled into education philanthropy has sparked speculation among educators about where the new influx of money might be directed.

The creator of “Star Wars” has a history of involvement in education, and it may provide some clues for those who hope to gain financial support for innovative ideas and for those who believe particular topics in education, such as technology or the arts, need additional emphasis.

Chris Tebben, the executive director of the Portland, Ore.-based Grantmakers for Education, a membership organization for public and private education-related philanthropies, said traditionally philanthropists give to education in areas in which they themselves have been successful.

For Mr. Lucas, a pioneer in technology and digital animatronics in his filmmaking and a gifted storyteller, that could mean bolstering technology, interactivity, and student-centered learning in education, as well as communications and storytelling skills, Ms. Tebben said.

“Tapping into some of the drivers of what makes for powerful, interest-driven learning and learners’ motivation—you can really see how some of the things that [Mr. Lucas] really excelled at could inform a grantmaking portfolio,” she said. (Read more.)

Via Katie Ash, Education Week.

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Texas Is Trying to Put Brakes on High Cost of University

Ashton Curlee, the ambitious daughter of two teachers, received official notification of her acceptance to the new Texas Science Scholar Program at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin on the first day of college.

“It’s a really awesome program,” said Ms. Curlee, a native of Monahans. “There’s a lot of good stuff that comes along with it.”

Savings top that list. If Ms. Curlee stays on track, maintaining a 3.0 grade point average and completing 30 hours of course work each school year, she will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 2016. Instead of paying more than $6,300 per academic year in tuition and fees — the current cost for a regular student — Ms. Curlee will pay $2,500 per year.

That adds up to a $10,000 degree, a notion that has taken on grail-like status in some Texas higher education circles as the state struggles to address rising tuition at its public universities.

In Gov. Rick Perry’s 2011 State of the State address, he called on the state’s universities to create degrees that cost no more than $10,000, including books. And he reiterated his desire for those institutions to lock in tuition rates for four years for incoming students. Some schools scrambled to create low-cost degrees, but the latter request was largely ignored.

Mr. Perry recently signaled his intention to once again call for a four-year tuition guarantee during the coming legislative session, teeing up a conversation about the rising price of a college education that he has been eager to engage in. (Read more.)

Via Reeve Hamilton, The New York Times.

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Administration Announces $500 Million in Community College Grants to Expand Job Training

The U.S. Department of Labor this week announced $500 million in community college grants to develop and expand innovative training programs through local employer partnerships. The Labor Department is implementing and administering the program in coordination with the U.S. Department of Education.

The grants are part of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training initiative, which is intended to promote skills development and employment opportunities in fields including advanced manufacturing, transportation and health care. All states and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico will receive at least $2.5 million in funding for community college career training programs, according to the Labor Department.

The grants are the second installment of a $2 billion, four-year initiative. In total, 297 schools will receive grants as individual applicants or as members of a consortium. The grants include awards to community college and university consortia totaling $359,237,048 and awards to individual institutions totaling $78,262,952.

Learn more about the grant program at http://www.doleta.gov/taaccct.

Via Erin Uy, Communications and Marketing Manager, CTE Blog.

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