Nov. 5, 2021
After a whirlwind week in a whirlwind year of negotiations on a reconciliation package, two community college investments are now in the Build Back Better Act. Added to the legislative language was $1.2 billion for the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program administered through the Department of Labor and $5 billion for a new program closely aligned with TAACCCT: the Community College and Industry Partnership Grants program at the Department of Education.
If the Obama-era iteration of TAACCCT is any indication, this pair of programs would be a boon for colleges and the communities they serve. The original TAACCCT offered grants to community colleges during the Great Recession recovery period for new or updated programs, student support services, some facilities updates, and more. Our research indicates that TAACCCT participants’ likelihood of completing their programs was nearly twice as high as comparison students, and they were around 30 percent more likely to either get a job or a wage bump after participating. That’s exactly what so many Americans need right now, and new legislative language gives us insight into how TAACCCT would be reshaped for today.
Of course, the challenges we face today are also different from those we faced during the Great Recession. At that time, there were too many students streaming back to community colleges and now there are too few. Back then, many of the unemployed were from closing manufacturing. Today, many have been displaced from retail and hospitality.
Given these changes, it is good that there have been some updates to the TAACCCT program and a new program added. Here’s what you need to know about TAACCCT’s funding and program structure:
- New Build Back Better language includes $1.2 billion for TAACCCT--at $300 million per year for 2022-2025--compared to just under $2 billion total in the program’s last iteration.
- Grants for single colleges max out at $2.5 million in this legislation, and consortia of colleges can get up to $15 million. For scale, the original TAACCCT provided grants ranging from $2.26 million to $20 million.
- It’s not clear yet how exactly program administration will work, what the grant evaluation structure will look like, or the length of time period when colleges can expend grant funds. We can expect these details to come out though the regulatory process, provided this legislation passes.
Funding isn’t the only part of TAACCCT getting a revamp. Here’s what you need to know about the proposed application process and use of funds:
- Institutions applying for TAACCCT grants would have to demonstrate they’re effectively serving underserved populations. This is a welcome change for TAACCCT. While the original program was effective for participants and did a lot of good, those participants tended to be men and tended to be white. Given longstanding inequities and the disproportionate ways the COVID-fueled recession hit Black and Brown communities and women, this new requirement is a huge step in the right direction.
- Language around using TAACCCT to develop or scale-up programs with direct labor market value is very much in line with the original TAACCCT. This is another piece where--should the legislation pass--we’ll hear more details as the program regulations and solicitation for grant applications are developed.
- Student supports are given priority this time around. All TAACCCT grantees will need to use at least 15 percent of grant funds for student supports. No such requirement was imposed in the original TAACCCT, though grantees were permitted to “enhance” existing support services, like career coaching or advising. This time, the kinds of student supports for which grantees can use funds has expanded in important ways. Formerly, grantees couldn’t use funds for direct student aid or services (e.g. student grants or child care). This time, holistic student needs are front and center, with child care, transportation, mental health services, direct emergency grant aid, and substance use disorder prevention and treatment all named in legislative language as appropriate uses of grant funds. This is a huge win for community college students. Credit for this wise carveout is due to Senators Kaine and Young’s early 2020 bill to create a community college grant program and included a set percentage for student supports.
The new Community College and Industry Partnership Grants program has a very similar focus to the revamped TAACCCT program. This program will provide grants to colleges or consortia of colleges to expand employment and training activities for high-skill, high-wage, or in-demand occupations.
- The funding structure for this program is a little different than TAACCCT. Rather than a set amount appropriated per year, $4.9 billion would be appropriated in 2022 for grants, which could be disbursed at any time before September 30, 2026.
- The legislation also sets aside $100 million for the Department of Education to administer the program, evaluate its outcomes, and to work with colleges that serve diverse populations to apply.
- Both grantmaking and program administration are the responsibility of ED, to be conducted “in conjunction with” the Department of Labor. How exactly coordination will look is to be determined.
- In addition to support services and launching or growing programs, colleges can spend the grant funds on establishing transfer and articulation agreements, publicizing competencies and labor market outcomes, purchasing equipment for programs, and establishing or expanding industry or sector partnerships.
Bringing TAACCCT back, in conjunction with the new Community College and Industry Partnership Grants program, would be huge for community colleges aiming to ensure students have access to programs linked to local labor markets with holistic support available every step of the way.
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