Board discusses success at National Legislative Summit.
By Kyle R. Cotton
Members of the Alamo College’s board discussed their Feb. 8-12 trip to Washington to the Association of Community College Trustees’ National Legislative Summit and how congressional representatives responded to community college needs.
The Alamo Colleges sent District 7 trustee Yvonne Katz, District 9 trustee Clint Kingsbery, District 6 trustee Gene Sprague, District 5 trustee Roberto Zárate and student trustee Sami Adames. The trustees said members of Congress recognized the importance of community colleges to economic development. The summit’s goal was to communicate the national priorities of the association to the Legislature.
Kingsbery said during the board’s Feb. 23 meeting at Killen Center, the priorities they stressed to Congress were extensions of Pell grant eligibility, extending Pell grant money use for summer and to extend from 12 semesters to 14. Other priorities were the reauthorization of the Higher Education and Perkins act, each of which authorizes numerous financial aid programs.
Katz said members of congress were particularly receptive to ACCT’s suggestion about Pell grants, particularly extensions for summer use so students can get out quicker with three full semesters for the academic year.
Katz noted Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and other Texas representatives were appreciative of the perspectives of the four students from Texas, including Sami Adames.
“I’ve been to these meeting before, and in the past, it sort of looked like they listen to us. We got our picture taken a lot of times, but this is the first time I saw a recognition of the critical importance of community colleges,” Sprague said.
“We’ve been talking to the business community and every single major business, without exception, said community colleges are the most crucial element of economic development in this country and we want to do whatever we can to help,” Sprague said, quoting the chief of staff for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). “I got that same message down the line across the aisle from John Cornyn, (Rep.) Joaquin Castro (D-TX). It was down the line.”
“They finally know how important we are,” Sprague said. “We need to reinforce that and stay in touch with our elected officials and tell them about all the great things we are doing.”
Sprague said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Castro requested the Alamo College’s data so they could act on it. “I’ve never had that channel opened up to me before.”
Zárate, chair of the ACCT board of directors, noted his meeting with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), who are leading the effort for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. “The organization did a great job at positioning our membership and spoke on very pointed and targeted issues and we’re hoping it will have some payback,” Zárate said.
Zárate said ACCT offered their resources to the two senators. “The only regret I had was that I couldn’t interact with the Texas group since I was with the national group, but again we all had the same message.”
Chancellor Bruce Leslie was not at the meeting, but Diane Snyder, vice chancellor for finance and administration, filled in.
Thomas Cleary, vice chancellor of planning, performance, accreditation and information and the acting chancellor in Leslie’s absence, said Leslie was in Colorado on a ski trip and conducting business with FranklinCovey.