WASHINGTON – Maryland community college representatives came to Capitol Hill Tuesday looking for money for new facilities and a more dependable source of funding in the face of state budget cuts.
They didn’t have to look far.
“Give me an amendment or a bill . . . and I’d work to build support on both sides of the aisle,” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Baltimore, at a meeting between the college officials and members of Maryland’s congressional delegation.
Mikulski’s comments were part of a warm reception for the community college leaders, who were told they have “probably one of the best cases for support” among groups coming before Congress.
Frederick Community College President Pat Stanley said the biggest need now is “in facility space, in laboratory space.”
“We’re turning people away in chemistry, biology, the life sciences . . . and nursing,” said Stanley, who is also president of the Maryland Council of Community College CEOs.
College officials said they need a more dependable source of funding — even as they acknowledged Mikulski’s work on the appropriations committee last year to earmark nearly $1 million for technology training programs at Maryland’s 16 community colleges.
Montgomery College President Charlene Nunley said the earmarked funding has been helpful, but “if there was some kind of . . . ongoing money, this would take it to another level.”
She said the idea is only in the beginning stages, but the goal is to “propose some legislative method that can leverage some dollars into laboratory needs in community colleges.”
Mikulski and other lawmakers asked Nunley and the college presidents to draft a bill or an amendment to a bill that would secure permanent funding for community college facilities.
“It would be nice if we had something already in place,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore. “Something you can depend on year after year after year.”
The community college representatives also asked for help in increasing Pell Grant funds and refining President Bush’s Jobs for the 21st Century plan, which would allocate $250 million to the Department of Labor for workforce training programs developed by community colleges and businesses.
“We need to get funds to the community colleges, not huge corporations if it is training money,” said Mary Ellen Duncan, president of Howard Community College.
That is not likely to happen without language to that effect in the law, she said.
“Lockheed Martin doesn’t necessarily want to give up training money to community colleges,” Duncan said.
Rep. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger, D-Timonium, said community colleges should reach out more to local businesses and develop strong workforce training programs.
“If you just rely on the government as it is right now, you’re going to keep slipping,” he said.
But Cummings said the colleges should be able to get the legislation through.
“You all have probably one of the best cases for support,” he said of the colleges, which “take a little bit of money, a little bit of nothing and make a whole lot of something.”
Mostly, however, the colleges said they just want more federal attention.
“Sometimes community colleges aren’t even included in legislation,” Duncan said. “Maybe if you could be aware when a bill comes across your desk, if it says higher education but doesn’t say community colleges, it doesn’t include half the students.”
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