Tag Archives: AACC

National Legislative Summit

Alec Moreno and Yaritza Vasquez with Rep. Raul Grijalva

Alec Moreno and Yaritza Vasquez with Rep. Raul Grijalva

Last week, I attended the 2015 Community College National Legislative Summit in Washington, D.C. and joined 1,000 other community college trustees, presidents, and other leaders to advocate for increased funding and resources to support community colleges. The summit was convened by the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) with support from the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).

Top priorities for AACC and ACCT for 2015 include federal funding for community colleges and students, funding for the Pell Grant Program, Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization, Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) Act reauthorization, veteran students, the DREAM Act, higher education tax provisions, and extension of the TAACCCT Program, along with promotion of President Obama’s America’s College Promise proposal.

PCC Governing Board Members Scott Stewart and Mark Hanna attended the summit and meetings on Capitol Hill, along with Michael Peel, Government Relations Liaison; Amanda Kaminski, Advanced Program Coordinator, Grants Resource Office; and two exceptional student leaders, Alec Moreno and Yaritza Vasquez. We met with Senator Jeff Flake and Representatives Raúl Grijalva, Martha McSally, and Ann Kirkpatrick. We also met with the staff of Senator John McCain’s Office. We emphasized continued support for the Pell Grant Program, adult education, and workforce development programs such as TRIO for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. Grant agency meetings were also held with the U.S. Department of Education.

Alec Moreno and Yaritza Vasquez with Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick

Alec Moreno and Yaritza Vasquez with Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick

In addition to the meetings on Capitol Hill, the summit included many group meetings and sessions focused on the economic and workforce development role of community colleges. Sessions included distinguished speakers including: Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden; and Thomas E. Perez, Secretary, U.S. Department of Labor.

Secretary of Labor Perez highlighted Pima Community College and his recent visit to our Aviation Technology Center in January during his speech for the closing of the summit as an example of successful efforts to address unemployment and economic development.

I presented the 2015 Government Relations Award to Rachel Gragg, former federal policy director of the National Skills Coalition. Senator Al Franken was presented with 2015 National Education Service Awards for his ongoing support of community colleges.

In addition, we were honored to be invited as guests of Congresswoman Kirkpatrick to attend the dedication of a statue of the late Senator Barry Goldwater unveiled in Statuary Hall. House Speaker John Boehner, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senator McCain, Representative Grijalva, members of the Goldwater family, and many other congressional leaders were in attendance for the dedication ceremony.

I want to thank Michael Peel for his great work in organizing and facilitating our congressional visits. I also want to thank Alec Moreno and Yaritza Vasquez for the leadership they displayed with our legislators as they recounted the positive impact of PCC on their lives during this critical time for funding for community colleges at the federal and state levels.

Alec is studying Mechanical Engineering. His is a member of the PCC Governance Council, Native American Student Association (NASA), Asian Pacific American Student Association (APASA), Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE), and STEM-related clubs such as Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE). He plans to study Engineering at UA.

Yaritza is studying Nursing. She is an Upward Bound student from Desert View High School and graduated with a 4.0 GPA. She is currently a TRIO student, an Upward Bound tutor, Amigos de Pima scholarship recipient, and a PCC Merit Scholar. Her GPA is 4.0 and she is pursuing a Nursing Degree through the PCC/NAU-BSN program.

Pima Community College is incredibly fortunate to have such strong student leadership to represent the College in the best possible ways.

For more information about the 2015 Community College National Legislative Summit, go to www.acct.org.

Alec Moreno and Yaritza Vasquez with Rep. Martha McSally

Alec Moreno and Yaritza Vasquez with Rep. Martha McSally

A chance to graduate ready for the new economy

Anyone who works or studies at a community college had to stand a little taller after listening to President Obama’s State of the Union address last night. The president made clear the important role that community colleges can and should play in the lives of those seeking a foothold in the middle class.

He related the story of a young couple, battered by the recession, who got back on their feet through hard work, sacrifice and the wife starting on a new career after retraining at a community college. The president also restated his proposal to lower the cost of community college to zero because “in a 21st century economy that rewards knowledge like never before, we need to do more” to educate America’s workforce.

Like my fellow community college leaders, I am awaiting the release on Feb. 2 of the president’s budget, when the details of the proposal will be revealed. But the realities underpinning his proposal are clear today. Forty percent of U.S. undergraduates attend a community college.

By the end of the decade, it’s estimated that two of three jobs will require some postsecondary education. And while community colleges such as PCC are a very affordable educational option, for many the cost of attending college is substantial.

One of the best aspects of the plan is that it rewards achievement. Students would qualify as long as they maintain at least a 2.5 grade point average. Another commendable part of the proposal is that students of all ages will benefit, not only recent high school graduates. This is especially relevant for PCC, where the average age of our students is 27.

Clearly, debate over the proposal is going to be spirited and likely will spark many competing approaches aimed at having more students attend and complete some form of postsecondary education and training. However, the mere fact that we will have a robust conversation is a significant step forward. I stand with all those who serve at community colleges to assure decision-makers that the investment in our students, and our nation’s future economic vitality, is well worth it.

To read a letter sent to the members of Congress by American Association of Community Colleges’ President/CEO Dr. Walter Bumphus and other higher education leaders: Community Colleges Leaders to Congress 1 21 15

AACC president visits PCC

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The College had the extreme good fortune to host a visit last week by Dr. Walter Bumphus, the president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., AACC represents and advocates for more than 1,100 community college and their 13.3 million students. Dr. Bumphus’ presentation to PCC employees and members of the community was the perfect mix of information, inspiration and wit, and it’s easy to see why he is one of the most respected leaders in higher education.

PCC and the nation’s community colleges “are doing some of the hardest work in America,” Dr. Bumphus maintains. The challenges we and our fellow community colleges face are substantial: aligning with K-12 systems and bachelor’s degree-granting colleges and universities to improve college readiness and implement pathways to student success and completion; engaging business and industry to create apprenticeship opportunities and a national credentialing system for career and technical education;  and becoming more accountable to our diverse constituents by making data-inspired decisions that consistently deliver tangible value.

Yet the heightened expectations and scrutiny make this a heyday for community colleges. When our institutions are referenced a half-dozen times in a State of the Union address, when community colleges annually vie for the $1 million Aspen Prize for innovation, when community college leaders play substantive roles in discussions of national educational policy and workforce development, it’s clear that we are front and center during a crucial moment for our nation’s educational and economic future.

Regarding PCC’s current probation, Dr. Bumphus believes that the College will successfully regain the fullest confidence of the Higher Learning Commission and the public. But more than that, Dr. Bumphus said he had “no doubt that . . . PCC will return to the outstanding district it has been.” We at PCC know what needs to be done to fulfill Dr. Bumphus’ prediction, and I believe we have the courage to actually follow through with lifting our students to better lives. As Dr. Bumphus succinctly put the issue, “One’s ZIP Code should not determine a person’s lot in life.” That is our view, too. Your roots should ground you, but not keep you from setting the highest of goals. Pima Community College is more determined than ever to provide the programs and services so that our students can have the opportunity to achieve their American Dream.

AACC President Bumphus at PCC today

I’m looking forward to hosting American Association of Community Colleges President Dr. Walter Bumphus, who will be presenting at 2 p.m. today at our District Office. [Read more about the presentation here.] Dr. Bumphus will be discussing the steps community colleges are taking to help the nation’s middle class develop economically. He has said in the past that community colleges are at a “Camelot moment,” a time of great responsibility and great promise. I’m eager to hear his insights.