A senior National Science Foundation leader told ACCT Leadership Congress attendees Tuesday that community colleges are a key partner in helping reach the “missing millions” in STEM education and careers. “We have all the right stakeholders in the room to create a disruptive transformation across America,” said keynote speaker Dr. James L. Moore III, assistant director for the NSF’s Directorate for STEM Education.
Likening the 2022 CHIPS and Science Act to the “Sputnik moment” that followed the creation of the NSF seven decades earlier, Moore stressed the importance of expanding access to STEM in rural and economically underserved regions through new kinds of partnerships. “We recognize that because community colleges play this critical role that we have to reimagine how we think about funding and our mechanisms to be able to ensure that community colleges can be successful,” Moore said, noting the importance of advanced manufacturing and other areas in which community colleges play key roles. “We have to make investments in communities that we haven’t always made investments if we want to maintain our global edge as a leader in STEM and creativity.”
The CHIPS Act was also one focus of a Tuesday briefing on federal and legislative community college priorities. While community colleges are not directly eligible for CHIPS Act funding, they can—and should—be involved in the workforce development funding included in the law, said Carrie Warick-Smith, ACCT Vice President of Public Policy. “We want to make sure [manufacturers] are looking at community colleges to be partners,” she said, urging colleges to “be proactive with your partners and business communities.”
The uncertainty precipitated by the departure of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and ongoing budgetary impasses across party lines and between the House and the Senate could be “hugely consequential to our interests,” cautioned David Baime, American Association of Community Colleges senior vice president for government relations and policy analysis. “It’s very important for us to continue sending the message about the value of federal programs to our campuses.”
To that end, ACCT has launched an advocacy grassroots campaign to encourage community college leaders to stress the impact of cuts on their campuses to their representatives in the House, said José Miranda, ACCT director of government relations.
The ACCT Advocacy Action Center is a one-stop shop for community college supporters seeking to message their elected officials, respond to relevant regulation comment requests, and reach out to local media.
And ACCT and AACC leaders stressed that not all the news is bad: Short-Term Pell continues to enjoy bipartisan support, despite continuing challenges over criteria and how programs would demonstrate their value, and the Farm Bill includes several priorities for community colleges and their students. But in the immediate term, the prospect of another government shutdown in less than 40 days remains a key concern.
“I am always somewhat optimistic we will eventually get to the finish line,” said Miranda. “But we are nowhere as close as we need to be.”
The 2023 ACCT Leadership Congress continues through Thursday with more than 150 concurrent sessions and a Wednesday keynote panel discussion on workforce development with business and education leaders, including Roger Tadajewski, executive director of the National Coalition of Certification Centers, Dr. Roger Ramsammy, president of Hudson Valley Community College, Karolyn Ellingson, head of industrial workforce development for Festo Didactic, Michael Hines, Trane Technologies North American director of education initiatives and workforce, and Michael Bond, director of community relations for Snap-on Incorporated.