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2024 Mid-Session Update on State and Federal Advocacy for Iowa’s Community College

Posted on March 18, 2024 at 8:00 AM by Emily Shields

With the Iowa Legislative session past its second major deadline and the National Legislative Summit
behind us, I wanted to provide an update on our advocacy efforts.

State Update
The Iowa Legislature has two deadlines that serve to winnow down the field of bills under consideration as session winds down. March 15 was the second of those two deadlines. Fortunately, our two main priority bills are still under consideration:

  • SF 2405 makes our requested changes to the distribution formula for State General Aid. Its next steps are to be passed on the floor of both chambers.

  • HF 2615 exempts college and career transition positions from the shared operational funding cap, allowing for more school districts to access funding. It received unanimous support on the House floor and next step is to be passed by the Senate.

For both bills, it is helpful for all our stakeholders to thank their legislators for their support so far and ask for their help in getting both bills across the finish line. Right now, we aren’t facing any opposition, so just a reminder that these are our top priorities is helpful.

In addition to these policy priorities, Community Colleges for Iowa has requested a $10 million increase in State General Aid. This amount is critical to our work in creating a more equitable distribution of funds. The next step is consideration during the appropriations process.

The state’s Revenue Estimating Conference met on March 8. This group forecasts state revenues, which is an important piece of the budgeting process. With this information, each chamber will begin to set “targets” for each of its budget subcommittees, and then those committees will do the work of
determining how funds are allocated.

Earlier this month, we had the opportunity to present to the House Education Subcommittee to make our case for the investment we are requesting, and we have met with the Senate Subcommittee Chair. You can find information on who serves on each of these committees here. If any of these members represent you, it is helpful to reach out and share the importance of our funding requests.

Beyond our priorities, there are several other state bills we are working on that would impact our colleges. You can see the most updated list on our bill tracker. Several bills we had concerns with did not pass the deadline and are no longer up for consideration, but several remain. We are still working with lawmakers on concerns related to Adult Basic Education and the Last Dollar Scholarship. We will alert our stakeholders if communication on these bills is needed.

Federal Update
In early February, representatives from seven Iowa community colleges attended the ACCT National Legislative Summit in Washington, DC. We were able to meet with every member of Iowa’s congressional delegation and had productive conversations about community colleges’ national legislative priorities, including the need to:

  • Expand the Pell Grant to cover short-term certificates and other programs.

  • Exempt the Pell Grant from taxation.

Both proposals have been supported by our delegation, but to date, have not moved forward yet. The Bipartisan Workforce Pell Act did not proceed to the House floor for a vote as hoped for last week due to stiff opposition from several education associations. Despite our disappointment, ACCT will continue its advocacy and will look for another opportunity to pass the bill this year. Leaders in the Education and Workforce Committee remain committed to the legislation and urge vocal support from those who will benefit.

We also used time at these meetings to discuss ongoing issues with the rollout of the new FAFSA form. Our delegation shared our concerns and frustrations with our representatives and have been in touch with the Biden administration to try and improve the situation.

As we continue to work to move our priorities forward, budget negotiations are ongoing and proving a major challenge for federal lawmakers. They were recently able to avoid a government shutdown with a continuing resolution and President Biden has released his proposed FY2025 budget, but the process seems like it will be another difficult one and attention is needed on Pell Grants to keep them sustainable into the future.

What you can do
Stay up to date: Make sure you sign up for our newsletter. Every week during session and monthly throughout the year, we share advocacy news and calls to action.

Build relationships with your representatives: It’s important to connect with your elected officials outside of times when action is needed. Attend their coffees and office hours, send emails with good news about your college, and invite them to campus. These efforts build a foundation of support that we can rely upon when things come up at the Capitol that require attention.

Inform your campus: As you share information with your campus’ staff and students, promote the progress being made through public policy to support student success, expand programming, and invest in community colleges.

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