Center for American Progress

Matching Funds for Grants Should Come from Community Colleges’ Operating Budgets
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Matching Funds for Grants Should Come from Community Colleges’ Operating Budgets

America’s Graduation Initiative and eventual legislation should require that the 50 percent matching funds schools have to provide should come from their operating budget funds.

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Community colleges receive a significant amount—45 to 60 percent—of their funding through a per-enrollment subsidy usually provided by state legislatures (and from localities). In other words, they receive funding based on how many students enroll. This seat-time revenue gets added to financial aid, institutional support, and student payments to create the college’s operating budget to deliver services.

However, the per-enrollment subsidy forces the core operations of the college to focus on the student credit hour. It firmly entrenches community college culture and operations in academic preparation, and shades all discussion of curricula, programming, and student services in the veil of the four-year colleges and university transition. This limits both the ability to focus on curricula and programs that integrate academic, occupational, and remedial learning as well as limiting the amount of revenue that can be redirected toward innovation in meeting community learning needs. Community colleges have long attempted to adapt education programs to state and regional labor market needs. We need to unleash their strengths in this area.

America’s Graduation Initiative and eventual legislation should require that the 50 percent matching funds schools have to provide should come from their operating budget funds. This requirement will make it necessary to look at all curricula, programs, and services and make tough choices about core competencies balanced against local community education needs. In turn this will maximize the likelihood that sustained institutional change will result from funded projects.

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