2021 National Legislative Summit Day 1 Recap + Dr. Jill Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi & More to Speak This Morning

by Mark Toner

February 9, 2021

Resilience and the Road Ahead

The first all-virtual Community College National Legislative Summit celebrated the sector's collective impact in the face of  unprecedented challenges. 

Plus: First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi & Others to Speak Today

Community college trustees, presidents, and advocates kicked off the 2021 Community College National Legislative Summit (NLS) Monday with calls for continued advocacy from near and far.

"Even though we're not physically present in Washington, D.C., this year, our voices still make a tremendous difference," ACCT Chair David Mathis, a trustee at Mohawk Valley Community College in New York, told attendees.

The first-ever virtual NLS brought together more than 800 community college leaders and advocates, a number comparable to last year's in-person event despite the considerable challenges the sector has faced during the pandemic.

ACCT President & CEO J. Noah Brown credited ongoing advocacy efforts over the past year for "legislative victories on behalf of students and communities that prior to the pandemic have not been seen since the GI Bill, the response to Sputnik, and the founding of the Great Society that led to the creation of our $120 billion national student aid system."

Together, the two coronavirus relief packages approved by Congress in 2020 - the CARES Act in March and CRRSSA in December - include more than $10.2 billion to support community colleges and their students. An estimated $40 billion in additional higher ed funding is included in the next round of coronavirus relief proposed by the Biden Administration that is currently being deliberated by Congress.

"Our advocacy has been heard," ACCT Senior Vice President Jee Hang Lee said during a briefing on legislative priorities. The unprecedented support of community colleges to date, he added, "is testament to all your advocacy this year, last year, and in years past."

Looking ahead, Congress and the administration are beginning to look at the budget for FY22. The administration's upcoming budget proposal will provide "the first clear indication of higher ed priorities," Washington Post Education Finance Reporter Danielle Douglas-Gabriel told attendees. 

"It's so important that we're all here to help advocate on behalf of community colleges while Congress is looking at the funding numbers," said Katie Brown, ACCT director of government relations.

At the top of community college legislative priorities discussed Monday is an additional $97.3 billion in funding to meet the $120 billion ACCT, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), and other higher education leaders requested in the fall to address the challenges faced by the sector and the students it serves. It will be crucial that lawmakers ensure that additional higher ed funding follows the same revised formula as the second relief package passed in December to recognize the community college student population. Funding also must be supported by maintenance of effort provisions to prevent it from being offset by cuts from state budgets, said ACCT and AACC government relations staff. 

NLS speakers addressed a wide range of issues Monday, including college promise programs and the role of the sector in the nation's economic recovery. "Almost all of the jobs created in the last recession required some kind of postsecondary education," said Katie Spiker, director of government affairs for the National Skills Coalition. "Our response to the current crisis has to create opportunities for workers to get that education."

In describing an increasingly polarized political climate that has become "poisonous," keynote speaker Amy Walter focused on the broader decline in public trust for institutions of all kinds - and urged community college leaders to be a part of the solution.

"You have put the greater good of any institution ahead of your own interests," said Walter, national editor of Cook Political Report. "At this tipping point we're sitting in, we have a chance to be a part of that solution, regardless of where you sit or who you are."

ACCT's Brown stressed the role community college leaders will play in addressing these challenges. "With your commitment and collective voices, combined with the administration's support for community colleges - led by First Lady Dr. Jill Biden - we now have the prospect of moving community colleges to the forefront of restoring our economy and addressing equity and opportunity that have been lost to the pandemic," Brown said. "So let us build upon what we have started, and focus our sights on the restorative power of our colleges and the collective impact of our voices. Together we will get through this crisis and come out stronger." 

"Our collective resilience has never been so tested, the status quo has never been so interrupted, and the possibilities for meaningful systemic change have never been so within our reach," added American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) President & CEO Dr. Walter Bumphus. "We don't know yet what your new normal will be. I have no doubt we will meet those challenges because our community colleges have never been more resilient."

On Monday evening, the Northern Virginia Community College Fab Lab hosted a collaborative, interactive virtual fabrication seminar through which community college trustees, CEOs, students and other National Legislative Summit participants worked together to learn how laser etching, 3-D printing and other fabrication techniques are taught. 

Tuesday's Speakers

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden will make a special appearance at the National Legislative Summit this morning at 10:30 a.m., followed by a slate of speakers to include:

  • Carmel Martin, Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council for Economic Mobility
  • Dr. Michelle Asha Cooper, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Postsecondary Education at the Department of Education
  • Representative Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives (D-Calif.-12)
  • Representative James Clyburn, House Majority Whip, (D-S.C.-06)
  • Representative Glenn 'GT' Thompson (R-Penn.-15)
  • Representative Lloyd Smucker (R-Penn.-11)
  • Senator Patty Murray, Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee (D-Wash.)
  • Representative Bobby Scott, Chair of the House Education and Labor Committee (D-Va.-03)
  • Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.)
  • Representative Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.-03)
  • Representative Alma Adams (D-N.C.-12)

To register for the Community College National Legislative Summit, go to https://www.pathlms.com/acct

Any media interested in participating should contact dconner@acct.org

For more information about the Community College National Legislative Summit, visit NLS.ACCT.org

Held Feb. 8-10, the National Legislative Summit is the premier community college advocacy event in Washington, D.C. 


About ACCT

The Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) is a non-profit educational organization of governing boards, representing more than 6,500 elected and appointed trustees who govern over 1,200 community, technical, and junior colleges in the United States and beyond.