A New Opportunity for Education, Technology, and Jobs
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
By Christopher Haight
Of the two bills signed into law that enacted the historic health care reform effort under President Obama, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 features one of the least cited yet critically important grant opportunities since the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).
The Reconciliation Act passed in conjunction with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, or ACA) with two purposes: the first, to amend features of PPACA such as the infamous legislative dealing that was required to pass PPACA in the Senate (think Senator Ben Nelson's "Cornhusker Kickback" or Senator Mary Landrieu's "Louisiana Purchase," both of which disproportionately alleviated Medicaid costs on those states); and the second, to institute student loan reform, eliminating the use of financial institutions as intermediaries between federal financing of higher education and students/borrowers.
The student loan reform, formally known as the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA), included $2 billion in funding for competitive job training grants targeted primarily, although not exclusively, at community colleges across the nation. Released in late January, the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grants program (TAACCCT) is now available with a deadline of April 21, 2011.
For any institution of higher education seeking to implement new, two-year job training programs, this is the key opportunity for the foreseeable futures. With $500 million available for each fiscal year through 2014 and at least $2.5 million guaranteed for recipients in each state, it cannot be stressed enough how important this opportunity is.
The TAACCCT program includes the following priorities for funding: (1) Accelerate Progress for Low-Skilled and Other Workers; (2) Improve Retention and Achievement Rates to Reduce Time to Completion; (3) Build Programs That Meet Industry Needs, Including Developing Career Pathways; and (4) Strengthen Online and Technology-Enabled Learning. Applicants must address these priorities within their proposals as well as undertake several partnerships and engage in community outreach, including working with local employers and industry associations, local governments, workforce investment boards, labor organizations, and other educational institutions such as K-12 school districts. Applicants that fail to address these priorities or include all of these partnerships will place themselves at a competitive disadvantage.
In terms of allowable costs, the grant funds can be used for hiring or training new instructors or staff, developing program curricula, purchasing supplies and equipment, leasing space for educational and training purposes, implementing necessary information technologies, and other costs of program development.
One of the key motivators many colleges and universities have in seeking out grant funding is to implement new technology infrastructure - this an ideal opportunity in terms of programmatic purpose, allowable costs, and the size of the awards (which can range from $2.5 million up to $20 million).
With FY2011 appropriations still at a standstill and a new Congress focused on cutting up to $100 billion from current and future fiscal years, applicants that are slow to act now are missing out on what is likely to be the best grant opportunity for higher education throughout the next five to ten years.
For more information, please visit http://www.doleta.gov/grants/pdf/SGA-DFA-PY-10-03.pdf.