Belle S. Wheelan stood before a group of community college leaders from around the country and asked for their help.
The setting was an early-morning breakfast meeting at the annual convention of the American Association of Community Colleges in Washington, D.C., not far from the U.S. Capitol, where lawmakers and their aides have been busy rewriting the Higher Education Act since last summer.
While the audience of college presidents and chancellors sipped coffee and picked at their bacon and eggs, Wheelan, president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, said a reauthorized HEA could be very hard to swallow.
It could include provisions tying the receipt of federal money to minimum completion rates. It might create new penalties for colleges with high student loan default rates. And it’s up to community college leaders to tell Congress how unpalatable measures like that are, before they become law, Wheelan said.
“If you look at the policies coming out of Washington, they are still focused on that 18-21 year old cohort, which is only 13 percent of out students,” she said. “We are trying to get the folks in Washington to understand that. Help us help the powers that be understand that. We can speak with one voice.” <Read more.>