Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-North Carolina) on Wednesday urged community college leaders to support three higher education and workforce development bills that her House Education and the Workforce Committee passed over the last two months — and she indicated that she would not pursue another term to head the committee.
Foxx, who chairs the House committee, started her speech at the Community College National Legislative Summit (NLS) in Washington, D.C., by saying she delivered on her promise during last year’s NLS to make Workforce Pell a priority for her panel. The House committee in December passed the Bipartisan Workforce Pell Act — which would allow Pell grants to be used for eligible short-term workforce education programs — along with the Stronger Workforce for America Act, a bill to reform the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, the nation’s main workforce development law.
“The environment is ripe for transformative change for skills-based learning,” she said.
Foxx also asked NLS attendees to support another bill the House committee passed last week, the College Cost Reduction Act (CCRA), which aims to rework parts of the Higher Education Act. However, unlike the other two bills, which had support from both sides of the aisle, CCRA passed along party lines and has received pushback from various higher education organizations. (The American Association of Community Colleges sent a letter to committee leaders before the panel vote outlining its concerns about certain provisions but also noting support for other aspects.)
Foxx appeared to allude to that uncertainty for the measure. She said the risk-sharing provision of the bill has garnered the most attention from stakeholders and has created “misplaced hesitancy in the community.”
She continued: “Let me be clear: the value-added earnings formula for Workforce Pell is the same accountability formula for CCRA. If you support Workforce Pell, you should support the CCRA and fight just as hard for it.”
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Foxx added that the “vast majority” of community colleges would financially benefit under CCRA. She cited an issue brief on the bill by the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity that estimated that almost 90% of community colleges would receive a net increase in funding.
“Community colleges hold great economic value, and evidence proves that they would thrive under a performance-based model,” Foxx said.
Gratitude and farewell
Foxx concluded by reflecting on the community college sector. “The 1,000-strong network of community colleges represented here today might be the single most American institution in our great nation,” she said.
Foxx noted that earlier in her career in higher education, she left Appalachia State University to work in the community college sector, eventually serving as president of North Carolina’s Mayland Community College from 1987 to 1994.
“I believed that community colleges were the best place to make a difference in this country in terms of education, particularly for those people who thought they didn’t have a chance to continue their education,” Foxx said.
She then alluded that she would not seek another term as chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, which she chaired from 2017 to 2019 and was selected again as chair in 2023.
“Though my work is not quite finished, it has been a great honor to lead legislative efforts on behalf of America’s community colleges each day for over seven years,” said Foxx, who is 80. “While steering the committee can sometimes be frustrating and often messy, it’s always been rewarding to work with education advocates like yourselves.”