A bipartisan Senate bill introduced this week would create a grant program to help community colleges and states address changing workforce demands.
The Assisting Community Colleges in Educating Skilled Students (ACCESS) to Careers Act would build on lessons learned in the much-lauded Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant program (TAACCCT), according to Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) and Todd Young (R-Indiana), who introduced the bill.
“It’s important that states make strategic investments to set students up for success in the constantly-evolving labor market, and the best training for high-wage, high-skill or in-demand jobs is often offered by community colleges,” Kaine said in a press release.
Several organizations, including the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and the Association of Community College Trustees, support the bill.
“Federal and state support is critical to community colleges’ efforts to develop a well-trained, skilled workforce for local and regional employers,” said AACC President and CEO Walter Bumphus. “We thank Sens. Kaine and Young for introducing this legislation, which would provide much-needed funding for community colleges and their partners to continue to develop and expand career and training programs that provide opportunities for students to succeed in jobs that pay family-sustaining wages.”
Grants to colleges, consortia
The proposed legislation would direct the U.S. Education Department to administer competitive grants to community colleges and consortia of community colleges to:
- carry out program activities
- increase the number of students who attain postsecondary credentials in high-skill, high-wage or in-demand industry sectors
- assist colleges in developing and improving strategies to support student success
Activities could include developing and expanding education and career training programs, such as apprenticeships, work-based learning opportunities and paid internships, as well as programs that accelerate learning and credential attainment, such as competency-based education. Developing and expanding dual-enrollment and early college high school programs also would be permitted.
Selected colleges would receive up to $1.5 million and consortia up to $5 million. At least one-quarter of the grant award amounts would go toward student support services, such as childcare, transportation, mental health and more.
Grants to states
The bill also would provide competitive grants to states to develop models that support student success and workforce preparedness, focused on partnerships comprising community colleges, employers and workforce entities to create pathways to in-demand industries.
It would authorize four-year grants of $2.5 million to $10 million. States applications would have to include, among other things, a description of state policies to:
- implement a statewide longitudinal data system that includes student outcome data, including labor market outcomes by institution, program and populations that would be available to the public in an easy-to-understand format
- develop and expand articulation agreements and guaranteed transfers
- support articulation agreements between non-credit and credit-bearing college courses