Recommendation 6 – Advocacy

Target public and private investments strategically

Target public and private investments strategically to create new incentives for institutions of education and their students and to support community college efforts to reclaim the American Dream.

To make sure community college is affordable, college must make the most of every available funding stream—an effort that will require both ingenuity and advocacy at the local, state, and national levels. AACC collaborates with other policy information organizations to do this critical work, and colleges should contribute to the advocacy effort, both locally and at the state and national levels.

Policy is a critical tool for setting public priorities and strategically targeting public investments. As community colleges accelerate efforts to reclaim the American Dream, advocacy should focus on (1) generating renewed public and private investment in community colleges to support the public good; and (2) promoting policies that will both push and support community colleges in their work to improve college completion. At the same time, community colleges—particularly CEOs, with governing board support—must find innovative ways to diversify their revenue streams, while recognizing the very real challenge of managing resources in ways that achieve better outcomes at lower cost. This is the conundrum and the challenge of 21st century leadership for community colleges.

How Can Colleges Partner With Others to Do This Work?

Success requires engaging in advocacy. On the state and federal levels, responsibility for advocacy is shared by AACC, ACCT, AACC councils and commissions, state systems and associations, and individual institutions. In addition to their participation through these entities, colleges can advocate directly through their state and federal representatives and their governors. This work depends on involvement of informed and active CEOs, trustees, faculty and staff, and student organizations, such as PTK. For some colleges, these advocates may require training to develop skills in policy and advocacy. And for nearly all community college advocates, the next level of work will require the courage to promote public transparency and performance accountability, along with the flexibility to change traditional designs and funding for higher education.

In support of community college efforts to restore the middle class and reclaim the American Dream, community college advocates should support policies that advance the following objectives:

  • Ensure affordability. Expanded funding for Pell Grants and restoration of the summer Pell are critical. Advocates also will push for reinstatement of the Pell Grant Ability to Benefit option to allow students without a high school diploma or a high school equivalency to participate in higher education.
  • Promote college completion. New public funding models that promote and reward college completion will better serve colleges and their students. Innovative funding models should include incentives for colleges to preserve access and continue serving high-risk and traditionally underserved students. Updated financial aid programs can include incentives for students to focus on their own progress and achievement. And new, evidence-based policies can support colleges in reducing the need for developmental education while dramatically increasing completion of both developmental education and related college-level courses. Policy also can promote innovation and efficiency through non-course-based funding.
  • Strengthen transparency and accountability. Policy leaders at the local, state, and federal levels should recognize the Voluntary Framework of Accountability (VFA) as a set of accepted metrics for community college performance and improvement. Colleges will be more transparent and consistent—and their data burden will be reduced—if federal policy designates the National Student Clearinghouse as the official provider of accountability data for the VFA and all federal metrics. Perhaps most important is public investment in data systems that can be used to track students’ progress—within individual institutions and educational sectors, through transitions from one education sector to the next, and into the workforce.
  • Build seamless transitions across education sectors. Local governing boards, as well as state and federal policymakers, should provide incentives for comprehensive P–20 partnerships. These incentives can encourage institutions to work across educational sectors to give students clear pathways to further education and careers. State policy also can require actions that fix the community college/university transfer process, including measures to reduce students’ loss of credits, ensure quality by basing credits on students’ demonstrated mastery of specified knowledge and skills, and provide incentives for students to complete associate degrees before transferring.
  • Connect education and jobs. State officials should take steps to officially designate community colleges as the state’s primary providers of workforce education and training. At the federal level, continued funding of Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grants will enable community colleges to provide programs needed to meet the needs of employers and to support economic growth. At all levels, advocates should pursue discussions about augmented funding for job training, particularly for the long-term unemployed.