Dr. Wayne Giles, Chancellor Metropolitan Community Colleges On Behalf of the American Association of Community Colleges
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Presenting Testimony on Behalf of the American Association of
Testimony for the Higher Education Act Reauthorization Hearing
Kansas City, Missouri
March 7, 2003
Good Afternoon. My name is Wayne Giles, and I am Chancellor of the Metropolitan Community Colleges located here in Kansas City. Metropolitan has five campuses and enrolls over 43,000 students.
I am here today on behalf of the American Association of Community Colleges, which represents more than 1,100 colleges, which is over 95% of the nation's associate degree granting institutions. The more detailed views of the AACC have already been submitted to the Department of Education. I have just completed a term on the Board of Directors of the American Council on Education, which is also presenting testimony today.
I am pleased to offer comments on the reauthorization issues most important to community colleges.
First and foremost: the Pell Grant program works! It needs only modest legislative changes. Pell Grants have had a hugely beneficial impact on American higher education, and resulted in dramatically increased college participation rates for needy students. The program's benefits have accrued both to individuals and the nation as a whole. Currently, approximately 1.5 million community college students are receiving Pell Grants. This number has surged in the last few years as the economic downturn has sent waves of individuals to our doors. As you know, community colleges provide a portal of access for students who have been traditionally underrepresented in higher education. Community colleges now serve approximately half of America's undergraduate students. A significant number of these students will be unable to attend college without the financial support that Pell Grants provide.
Accordingly, the Pell Grant program requires significant funding increases. According to the College Board, the average cost of attendance for a full-time community college student is more than $10,000. With a current maximum grant of $4,000, it is easy to see why the average unmet need for a low-income community college student is $3,200 and growing.
In the area of accountability, we urge the Department to proceed with caution and avoid adopting simple solutions to complicated issues. "One size fits all" approaches to institutional performance simply will not work in a higher education universe of 3,600 not-for-profit institutions serving over 15 million students. It is not the intent of AACC to recommend accountability measures for other types of institutions; however, community colleges are ready to provide greater information about their performance, so long as institutions can generally rely on existing information, such as that produced for states and accreditation agencies. Greater transparency will allow competition to flourish, and that is the best higher education accountability mechanism we can identify.
We do believe that the federal government can play a useful role in increasing institutional performance in the transfer of students between two-and four-year institutions. With 45% of all first-time college students enrolling in community colleges, more should be done to help them continue into four-year colleges if they are so inclined. Proposals being funded should have a strong information dissemination component.
We call on the Department to recognize the significant and growing role that community colleges play in the area of teacher preparation. With the right incentives, community colleges could make even more contributions in this arena. Therefore, AACC is proposing that a new section be added to Title II of the Higher Education Act in order to create a competitive national grant program for community colleges. Eligible activities would include: the first two years of teacher training, with an emphasis on articulation into baccalaureate programs; post-baccalaureate certification; professional development for current K-12 teachers; encouraging high school students to become engaged in teaching careers; and enabling community colleges to help meet the requirements contained in the "No Child Left Behind" statute for the increased training of paraprofessionals.
AACC strongly supports extension of the Strengthening Institutions program. We are not advocating changes at this time, but have an open mind to proposals that could increase the program's appeal to policymakers. Title III-A does not serve a student population that is as easily identifiable as those served by other institutional grant programs, but its funds help colleges and students that face similar educational and economic hurdles. Over the years, Title-III-A has had a transformative impact at hundreds of community college campuses. We urge the Department of Education to keep this in mind as it devises its reauthorization and budget policies.
Lastly, in the area of distance education, we believe that the "50% rule" should be retained, but that the Secretary of Education should be granted the authority to waive this limit. Such a policy will allow distance education to expand where it should, but also keep a lid on potential fraud and abuse.
Thank you for your consideration of these views. I would be happy to answer any questions that you may have.