FMCC looks to advocate

JOHNSTOWN — Members of the Fulton-Montgomery Community College Board of Trustees will be joining college President Dustin Swanger to discuss advocacy efforts.

During the Dec. 21 board meeting, Swanger shared with trustees information from the Higher Education Act reauthorization that the federal government is considering.

“There are some things in here that are OK. There are some things that cause me great concern,” Swanger said.

He said what has been proposed includes adding 300 to 600 clock hours of non-credit hours to PELL grants. Pell grants are awarded to undergraduate students and do not have to be repaid in most cases.

Swanger said this proposal is something community colleges have been pushing for, for some time.

“Imagine that we are running a short term, non-credit get ready for work program. That would be financially aidable under this legislation,” Swanger said.

The proposal would see students get a bonus for taking 15 credits or more per semester.

Swanger said the proposal would see students earn their Pell throughout the semester in 25 percent chunks. He said currently, when the course is 60 percent completed and they have been attending, their Pell is secured and the college gets paid.

Swanger said what is proposed would see students not get their full Pell until the course was over.

“So they have to complete the entire course to earn the Pell, which means we don’t get paid,” he said. “Imagine the struggle for any college to manage that up right to the last day of classes whether somebody attended or not, that is problematic for our budgeting.”

Swanger said the proposal would also see the funds given to students in various payments throughout the semester instead of a lump sum payment.

For Federal Loans, financial officers would have discretion in how much a student could take out, so they don’t overtaken when it comes to loans. Swanger said that could be helpful so students don’t take out more than they need to.

The Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant would be eliminated under the proposal. Swanger said that grant is used by students most in need. Under that program students get anywhere from $100 and $4,000 a year, depending on financial need.

Swanger said he would like a few trustees to work with him on what advocacy efforts they would like to see.

He said some of his colleagues have met with congressional representatives. He said they were told “colleges don’t have enough skin in the game” when it comes to students graduating.

“Now we are all working hard to get students to complete their programs. But some of this is designed to punish us if we don’t. So it is problematic,” Swanger said.

Trustees Geoff Peck, William Easterly, Edmund Jasewicz and James Landrio all said they were interested in sitting down with Swanger to discuss their advocacy efforts.

Kerry Minor can be reached at kminor@leaderherald.com.

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