Roundup of various Pell efforts

(From left) AACC President and CEO Walter Bumphus, College of Southern Nevada President Frederico Zaragoza, Salt Lake Community College President Deneece Huftalin and AACC's David Baime at Thursday's congressional briefing on Pell grants. (Photo: AACC/Martha Parham)

The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) on Thursday hosted a congressional briefing to provide critical information to members of Congress and staff on the importance of Pell grants to community colleges.

AACC President and CEO Walter Bumphus thanked the audience for its support of the decades-old Pell Grant program and noted that for so many Americans, it is the on-ramp to higher education. He said community colleges are a critical link in the nation’s workforce pipeline, and the nation’s two-year colleges are grateful for the continued support of the program.

“Pell grants have received sustained support from both sides of the political aisle, which is a testament that the program works in providing real access to higher education opportunities,” Bumphus said.

Burgess Owens (R-Utah), chair of the House Higher Education and Workforce Development Subcommittee, remarked on his work to remove administrative barriers to innovation in higher education. Citing competency-based education and rapid degree programs, Burgess discussed the need for legislators to “remove the regulations and let the innovators lead the way.”

More information on the Pell Grant program or other legislative happenings.

Since its creation more than 50 years ago, the Pell Grant program has helped millions of community college students finance college and realize their educational and employment dreams. Jermaine Williams, president of Montgomery College (MC) in Maryland, provided insight on the power of the Pell grants to help community college students “climb the ladder of success,” but noted that by strengthening the Pell Grant program and boosting the maximum award, the program could become “an escalator to student success.” He told legislators that “we need your help to harness the potential” of our students and it is time to “power up the Pell Grant.”

MC freshman Yerenmy Zelaya talked about his journey to college. Knowing that his immigrant family could not afford college tuition and fees, Zelaya was resigned to begin working after high school. But a counselor told him about the Pell Grant program and about Montgomery College.

“When I heard about the Pell Grant, I had hope,” he said. “Without it, I would not be here today talking about being a college student.”

AACC Advocates in Action September 18-19 in Washington, D.C.

College of Southern Nevada (CSN) President Frederico Zaragoza spoke on the merits of Workforce Pell. Noting that it would be a “game-changer,” Zaragoza outlined the need for enhanced supports for local economic and workforce ecosystems.

“CSN, like many community colleges, are partnering with employers and the public workforce ecosystem to produce graduates that address the current and emerging workforce and talent development needs of area employers,” he said. “As a rule, most community colleges maintain robust workforce programs that are labor market-driven and are designed to equip our students with the skills and knowledge needed to attain the jobs that exist in our diverse communities. At CSN, we have 70 areas of study with over 160 occupational and 35 short workforce training skill certificates.”

Second Chance Pell was also discussed by Deneece Huftalin, president of Salt Lake Community College (Utah). Huftalin thanked legislators for supporting Second Chance Pell and provided an update on the program process as they prepare to implement the legislation on July 1.

“We are so grateful that because of this support we will be able to provide educational opportunity so that upon release, these students are able to obtain jobs and support their families,” she said.

About the Author

Martha Parham
Dr. Martha Parham is senior vice president of public relations at the American Association of Community Colleges.
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