Reporter’s notebook

House passes funding package, but…

The House passed a nearly $1 trillion spending package on Wednesday by a 226-203 vote. However, Democrats’ victory could be short-lived as there is still the issue of budget caps and automatic sequestration cuts.

If Congress and the White House cannot agree to increase the funding parameters, the federal government could eventually face another potential shutdown. The new fiscal year begins October 1.

Funding levels for U.S. Education Department programs in the final appropriations package largely remained the same, with an overall 6 percent increase to funding. An amendment offered by Rep. French Hill (R-Arkansas) to allow federal apprenticeship grant funds to be used for industry-recognized apprenticeship programs failed along party lines.

Democrats last week lauded completion of the Labor-HHS-Education section of the overall bill.

“Our mission has been to advance a positive agenda, to look at issues where programs have been starved and to reflect the oversight we have been conducting. I believe we have done so,” Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut), chair of the House education appropriations subcommittee, said on the House floor last week in support of the bill. She also noted new initiatives in the bill, including a proposed $150 million for community colleges and other four-year institutions to train workers for in-demand industries.

Housing, food insecurities among Chicago college students

More than half (54 percent) of students attending a Chicago community college report they faced housing insecurities over the past year, with 15 percent indicating they were homeless during that period. In addition, 44 percent said they were food insecure, according to a new Wisconsin HOPE Lab survey of 3,000 students among the seven colleges comprising the City Colleges of Chicago system.

Rates of basic needs insecurity are higher for marginalized students, including African-Americans, LGBTQ students and independent students, the accompanying report said. Students who have served in the military, former foster youths and students who were formerly convicted of a crime also are at greater risk of basic needs insecurity.

Working during college is not associated with a lower risk of basic needs insecurity, and neither is receiving a Pell Grant, the report said. “The latter is in fact associated with higher rates of basic needs insecurity,” it said.

Training for self-driving trucks

Pima Community College (Arizona) and self-driving truck company TuSimple this fall will launch the first autonomous driving certificate program for truck drivers.

The certificate will prepare individuals for jobs such as training the autonomous system as test drivers, operating the vehicle in situations where autonomous driving is not suitable and remotely monitoring the system from a command center. Students must have a Class A commercial driver’s license as drivers will build on their trucking knowledge with each course.

The program was created along the backdrop of an upcoming U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) study examining how automated vehicle-related technology is expected to affect the transportation workforce. The first part of the study will focus on the long-haul trucking and transit bus sectors, with a report to Congress expected this summer.

Building a transfer pipeline in New Orleans

Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans will use a three-year, $500,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support initiatives to expand its community college student pipeline and to establish a new summer bridge program.

The grant will fund on-going university efforts to engage and enroll more community college students by streamlining its transfer process, clarifying course and major requirements, and reducing any course-related hurdles to graduating in four years, according to the university.

It will also fund a new pilot summer immersion program to let potential community college transfer students sample the university prior to matriculating. During the six-week residential bridge program, participants will receive an introduction to research, mentoring by college faculty, counseling and career development. Upon successful completion of the program, students are guaranteed conditional admission to Xavier.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
is editor of Community College Daily and serves as publications director for the American Association of Community Colleges.