STCC leaders join 2024 National Legislative Summit
Left to right: John B. Cook, STCC president; Nate MacKinnon, executive director of Massachusetts Association of Community Colleges; Vanessa Smith, chair of the Holyoke Community College Board of Trustees; Samalid Hogan, STCC Trustee; Jynai McDonald, chair pro tempore for the STCC Board of Trustees; Congressman Richard E. Neal; Tonia Butler Perez, STCC Trustee.
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Springfield Technical Community College President John B. Cook and three STCC Trustees attended the National Legislative Summit.
The Summit, organized by the American Association of Community Colleges and the Association of Community College Trustees is the premier annual community college advocacy event in Washington, D.C., held Feb. 5-7, 2024.
The Summit puts a spotlight on the importance of community colleges for Congress and the Biden Administration. Cook and STCC Trustees, along with the Presidents and Trustees of the MA Community Colleges seized the opportunity to discuss with policymakers and leaders in Washington issues facing STCC; all fifteen Massachusetts Community Colleges, as well as community colleges across the country. More than 1,000 community college leaders attended.
The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) lists a number of community college federal priorities for 2024. In addition to increasing Pell Grants other priorities included bolstering the role of community colleges in workforce development, funding key education and workforce programs and ending the taxation of Pell Grants.
Establishing Pell Grants for short-term programs would greatly benefit community college students, including those at STCC, according to the AACC.
Pell Grants enable millions of low-income community college students to pay tuition and fees and meet other college expenses. Increasing the maximum award promotes affordability and student success for low-income students, lifting them out of poverty by earning credentials while reducing their need to borrow and going further into debt.
Other priorities include increasing access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to combat food insecurity on campus and enacting the Dream Act, which provides a path to citizenship for undocumented young people.
The conference is a valuable opportunity for community college leaders to meet directly with decision makers in Washington.John B. Cook, STCC president
Speaking via Zoom from the conference in Washington, Cook briefed the STCC Board of Trustees on the event during its Feb. 5 meeting.
“The conference is a valuable opportunity for community college leaders to meet directly with decision makers in Washington,” Cook said. “We learn more about federal policy issues, and we discuss our institutions’ priorities.”
Chair Pro Tempore Jynai McDonald, Trustee Tonia Butler-Perez and Trustee Samalid Hogan also attended the conference.
McDonald said at the Board of Trustees meeting that she attended an information session on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). “I also participated in the under-45 caucus so I had an opportunity to collaborate and network with some other trustees who are newer to the Trustee scene,” she said.
McDonald said she was looking forward to meeting with Congressman Richard E. Neal to thank him for his support of STCC and to discuss the college’s needs. Neal in January 2023 announced a $3 million earmark which is being used to establish the Cybersecurity Center of Excellence at Springfield Union Station. The center, slated to open later in 2024, will be operated in collaboration with CyberTrust Massachusetts, as a regional CCE for Western Massachusetts and beyond.
Neal also helped secure federal grants to support STCC’s science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs which has increased the recruitment of low-income and students of color in STEM programs at the college.
Butler-Perez said attending the conference also was a chance to connect with leaders from other community colleges.
“It’s a great time to learn about the community colleges and what other people are doing,” Butler-Perez said. “I’ve enjoyed … meeting with other people to find out what they’re doing.”
Massachusetts featured a delegation of about 45 people, including other community college presidents and trustees as well as staff from the Massachusetts Association of Community Colleges.
“That was an opportunity to compare notes with our Massachusetts counterparts which is always helpful to do in both a formal and informal setting,” McDonald said.
Cook said Massachusetts stands out nationally thanks to MassReconnect, a program for residents in the state who are 25 years of age and older to earn an associate degree or certificate for free at any Massachusetts community college.
Because of MassReconnect, community colleges in Massachusetts are seeing better enrollment numbers than institutions in many other states, Cook said.
“We are on people’s radar because of our enrollment numbers,” Cook said.
Here are the 2024 community college federal legislative priorities outlined by the AACC:
- Bolster the role of community colleges in workforce development by supporting workforce Pell Grants for students in short-term programs and by strengthening the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act;
- Fund key education and workforce programs;
- Focus student tax policy on those who can benefit most;
- Farm bill (support rural community colleges and increase access to SNAP);
- Enact the Dream Act to provide a path to citizenship for undocumented young people; and
- Strengthen accountability and transparency.
Interested in applying to STCC? Visit stcc.edu/apply or call Admissions at (413) 755-3333.
About Springfield Technical Community College
STCC, the Commonwealth's only technical community college, continues the pioneering legacy of the Springfield Armory with comprehensive and technical education in manufacturing, STEM, healthcare, business, social services, and the liberal arts. STCC's highly regarded workforce, certificate, degree, and transfer programs are the most affordable in Springfield and provide unequaled opportunity for the vitality of Western Massachusetts. Founded in 1967, the college – a designated Hispanic Serving Institution – seeks to close achievement gaps among students who traditionally face societal barriers. STCC supports students as they transform their lives through intellectual, cultural, and economic engagement while becoming thoughtful, committed and socially responsible graduates.
Jim Danko, (413) 755-4812, firstname.lastname@example.org