California Community Colleges Advocate on Capitol Hill 

By Larry Galizio, Ph.D.
President & CEO, Community College League of California

Thursday, February 13, 2020

More than 100 trustees, CEOs, faculty, students and other California community college (CCC) colleagues descended upon Washington, D.C. February 10th-12th, 2020, for the annual National Legislative Summit (NLS) hosted by the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT).    

While many attended the sessions and activities at the Summit, the League's Acting Director of Government Relations, Ryan McElhinney and I focused our time and energy on Capitol Hill advocating for CCC federal priorities primarily with members of the California Congressional delegation. The League works closely with the Chancellor's Office with the guidance and support of Connie Meyers and Craig Metz from the Washington, D.C.-based government relations firm of Nelson, Mullins, Riley & Scarborough.

On Monday February 10th and 11th, we met with the following congressional members or staff:

  • Congressman Mike Levin (D-CA-49)
  • Congressman Raul Ruiz (D-CA-36)
  • Congressman Harley Rouda (D-CA-48)
  • Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-CA-53)
  • Congresswoman Lucile Roybal-Allard (D-CA-40)
  • Congressman Gil Cisneros (D-CA-39)
  • Chairman Mark Takano (D-CA-41)
  • Senator Patty Murray (D-WA)
  • Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
  • Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA)
  • Congressman Brett Guthrie (R-KY)
  • Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA-43)
  • Congressman Josh Harder (D-CA-10)
  • Congressman Pete Aguilar (D-CA-31)
  • Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA-11)
  • Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC)
  • Congressman T.J. Cox (D-CA-21)
  • Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA)
  • Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR)
  • Congresswoman (Norma Torres) (D-CA-35)
  • Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA-19)
  • Congressman Lloyd Smucker (R-PA)
  • Congressman Ami Bera (D-CA-7)
  • Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-12)
  • Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

A primary focus of this year's visits included seeking support and co-sponsorship of the House of Representatives' version of the Higher Education Act Reauthorization dubbed the College Affordability Act (H.R. 4674). Key provisions of this comprehensive House Bill include:

  • Increasing the maximum Pell Grant award by $625, indexing it to inflation, and extending lifetime Pell eligibility limits. This includes provisions permitting incarcerated individuals, undocumented individuals, and working learners' access to financial support;
  • Permitting Pell Grants for short-term programs with strong quality and accountability standards and measures;
  • Allowing DACA recipients to access federal student aid;
  • Recognition of states such as California that have made substantial investments supporting accessibility and affordability;
  • Support for evidence-based completion strategies and permanently extending mandatory funding for HBCU's and Minority Serving Institutions;
  • Simplification of the FAFSA, alignment with other means-tested benefit programs, and connecting students to other support programs such as SNAP and housing assistance;
  • Expansion of dual enrollment opportunities and improving accountability metrics for federal student loan rates by incorporating the percentage of student-borrowers in the calculation of a college's cohort default rate.

Attendees at the League's Annual NLS Breakfast heard from Congressman Mark Takano (D-41st) and Congressman Josh Harder (D-10th). Both members discussed their backgrounds as community college faculty and board members respectively, and both expressed their deep appreciation and commitment to the CCC mission, as well as their gratitude for the leadership of the entire CCC Delegation.

An evening reception co-sponsored by the League, the Chancellor's Office, the Foundation, and the Los Angeles Community College District on February 11th honored retiring Congresswoman Susan Davis, and her colleagues Congressman Adam Schiff and Mark Takano.

Overall, it was a very impressive showing of the size and strength of California's community college leadership. Trustees and CEOs who have not had the opportunity to participate in this federal advocacy are highly encouraged to consider attending next year.

Larry Galizio is the President & CEO of the Community College League of California.