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As President Bush Begins Second Term, Educational and Economic Opportunity Closely Tied to Future of America's Community Colleges

NEW YORK, NY (November 18, 2004) — While on the campaign trail, President Bush delivered stump speeches from the campuses of community colleges, reinforcing the key role that these vital institutions play in providing educational and economic opportunity for all. Now that Bush is preparing policy for a second term, many are asking how the federal government can support community colleges to deliver these opportunities.

“With federal legislation in limbo that would directly impact student financial aid, grants for low-income students and workforce training programs, we see a crucial role for the Bush Administration,” said CCRC Director Thomas Bailey.

Pell Grants

Students from low-income households are still much less likely to enroll in college, and when they do, are much less likely to finish, than students from higher income families. For low-income students to pursue higher education successfully, Pell grants need to be expanded to meet tremendous demand. The buying power of Pell grants, which are aimed at helping low-income students obtain higher education, has declined over a quarter century because they have not kept pace with the rising costs of college tuition. According to a yearly survey by the College Board, community college tuition rose nearly 9 percent in fall 2004 over the previous year. Even though
President Bush promised $33 million to increase Pell grants for college tuition, much more needs to be invested in this program as it faces a budget shortfall.

Workforce Investment Act (WIA)

WIA offers workforce development activities in local communities to promote and increase employment and strengthen the quality of the workforce. In 2003, the Bush administration eliminated more than $160 million from the program and changed the funding formula to reduce the aid given to local centers that help laid-off, unemployed workers at a time when workers needed them most. CCRC encourages the federal government to reinstate funding for this program. Additionally, CCRC recommends that more emphasis is placed upon degree completion efforts, as opposed to short-term training in the WIA systems. WIA regulations and accountability measures discourage community colleges from serving low-income and educationally at-risk students. Policy should be changed to create incentives for colleges to serve these populations.