Washington Watch: What the CHIPS Act offers community colleges


The recently passed CHIPS Act, which approves multi-billion-dollar investments in American semiconductor research and manufacturing, includes items of interest to community colleges, including reauthorization of the Advanced Technological Education program.

Congress in late July passed the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) and Science Act on a bipartisan basis, ending a year-long negotiation. President Joe Biden is expected to sign the bill into law on August 9.

The measure includes dedicated funding for critical infrastructure research training. However, it is a scaled-back version of the House’s earlier competitiveness bill, the American Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing, Pre-Eminence in Technology, and Economic Strength (COMPETES) Act, and the Senate’s earlier competitiveness bill, the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA), which both passed their respective chambers this year and last year, respectively.

The House’s COMPETES Act included several key community college priorities, including expanding Pell Grant eligibility to certain shorter-term programs, creating a streamlined student-level data network, and reauthorizing the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Teaching (TAACCCT) Grants.

These important measures were unfortunately dropped from the CHIPS Act package during the conference negotiation process.

Updating ATE

The CHIPS Act ultimately included $11 billion for semiconductor manufacturing workforce development and $81 million for the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support critical infrastructure workforce research and training.

The bill updates NSF’s Advanced Technological Education program and authorizes it at $150 million for fiscal years 2023 through 2027. ATE supports partnerships between two-year colleges, other academic institutions, industry and other entities to improve the education of technicians in STEM fields.

The new changes to ATE include priorities to:

  • Establish more centers for science and technical education at community colleges.
  • Support the research and development of effective STEM education practices at community colleges.
  • Establish a pilot program to provide community college students with hands-on training and research experiences.
  • Support the development of new CTE programs in STEM fields.

The bill also supports greater access to STEM education for students in rural communities by funding NSF research into online STEM education.

The remaining NSF funding is expected to help bolster existing workforce and training collaboration programs, including the Regional Innovation Engines and the Future of Semiconductors initiatives. The funding could also be used to establish new programs, with opportunities to grow microelectronics training programs at community colleges and at the K-12 level.

Coming next month: Sign up for AACC’s Advocates in Action September 22-23 in Washington, D.C. It is an opportunity for community college leaders to network, discuss key policy issues and advocate for critical federal programs. Review the draft agenda and register.

About the Author

Kathryn Gimborys
Kathryn Gimborys is a government relations manager at the American Association of Community Colleges.