Washington Watch: Stimulus talks reaching conclusion

Photo: Matthew Dembicki/AACC

High-level negotiations between the Senate, House and Trump administration continue on massive stimulus legislation. The situation remains extremely fluid, with drafts flying between offices in an effort to nail down a pact. As of this writing, legislative language outlining a looming agreement is not available.

Walter Bumphus, president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges, sent a memorandum to AACC-member colleges on March 23, outlining the association’s priorities in the stimulus legislation. Many college leaders have taken the time at this pressure-laden moment to contact their legislators, for which the association is thankful.

Community colleges were cheered that modified stimulus legislation offered by House Democrats late Monday upped the amount provided through a State Fiscal Stabilization Fund to $50 billion from $30 billion from an earlier version of the bill. Public colleges and universities were thereby guaranteed almost $15 billion in support, with the possibility of more support coming at the governor’s discretion (40 percent of the overall fund). This funding was predicated on maintenance-of-effort requirements that could be challenging for states to meet in projected economic circumstances. A pot of money implicitly dedicated to private institutions via the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) was funded at $8 billion. 

AACC continues to hammer away on its CARES Act priorities. In the critical area of direct support to institutions (or via states), AACC is asking for robust overall support, a distributional formula that is tilted towards the number of financially needy students served, a minimum grant for all institutions, and exclusion of for-profit colleges from direct institutional support.  

AACC also hopes that the House’s increased funding for the Strengthening Community College Training Grants is incorporated. Increased institutional assistance for Title III-A and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) is also in the House bill. It is not clear at this moment how the individual ongoing programs will be treated in final legislation.

Other federal support will undoubtedly be needed in the coming weeks and months to shore up state funding of community colleges, and for institutions to engage in worker training and retraining to repair the economy and provide individuals with new opportunities.  

Once the stimulus legislation is finalized, AACC will provide members with detailed information on its impact on colleges and students.  

About the Author

David Baime
is senior vice president for government relations and policy analysis at the American Association of Community Colleges.