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* College sees federal stimulus package

Shoreline Community College officials got a glimpse at the size of the federal stimulus package for education and it appears to be big, really big.

 

Public schools in Washington, both K-12 and higher education, could receive more than $1 billion in direct federal dollars with millions more coming in additional aid to students, tax breaks, job training and new grants. And all of it intended to be spent In the next two years.

 

“This is an unprecedented partnership we are seeing unfold between higher education and our federal government,” Molly Corbett Broad of the American Council of Education said Monday morning during a Webcast viewed at hundreds of schools and other sites across the country.

 

Broad is President of ACE which co-hosted the Web-based event viewed at SCC by members of the President’s Senior Executive Team. The National Association of College and University Business Officers with John Walda, President and Chief Executive Officer, was the other co-host. The Webcast included an opportunity for viewers ask questions. Broad said the entire Webcast will be available by Wednesday, Feb. 25. In the meantime, click here to see the PowerPoint slides.

 

The Webcast echoed information outlined in a memo sent Saturday, Feb. 21, by  Charlie Earl, Executive Director of the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges, about federal stimulus-package money.

 

In his memo, Earl outlined what appear to be the state’s slice of the federal pie and other aspects of the package, including:

 

-         $39.5 billion (Washington’s estimated share = $820 million) in education block grants to local school districts and public colleges and universities.

-         $25 billion (Washington’s estimated share = $182 million) in flexible block grants to avert budget cuts in K-12 and higher education or in other basic state services, such as public safety, services for the elderly, or child care.

-         $17.1 billion for student Pell grants, increasing the maximum Pell grant to $5,350 in 2009 and $5,550 in 2010.

-         The Act creates a new tax credit, the “American Opportunity Tax Credit” which will provide a tax credit up to $2,500 of the cost of tuition and related expenses paid during the taxable year.

-         $3.95 billion (Washington’s estimated share = $50.3 million) for Workforce Investment Act (WIA) job training and employment services including state formula grants for dislocated worker, youth, and adult programs.

-         $750 million for a new program of competitive grants for worker retraining and placement in high growth and emerging industries.

 

According to the presentation by ACE Senior Vice President Terry Hartle, the state-specific funding, known as the State Stabilization Fund, will be administered by the federal Department of Education. The problem, Hartle said, is that the DOE hasn’t yet determined how states should apply. One of the few criteria set out in the Act is the assurance that 2006 funding levels would be achieved, he said.

 

Earl’s memo says that state board staff is working with the Gov. Chris Gregoire and the Office of Financial Management to better understand the “funding pathways and mechanisms for these funds."

 

What this means for Shoreline Community College is uncertain, President Lee Lambert said after the ACE presentation.

 

“At this point, we will move ahead with the current timeline,” Lambert said. “We had planned for the need to remain flexible and this just points out the need to remain so.”

 

On, Friday, Feb. 20, Lambert and other college officials outlined the scope of potential job cuts to get to a projected budget reduction target of 10 percent (see related story). Discussions with faculty and classified union representatives are ongoing and starting March 2, Lambert is planning to have one-on-one conversations with employees who might be laid off. An all-campus is scheduled for Friday, March 6, to reveal the specific positions that might be lost.

 

Lambert struck a cautionary note about the federal stimulus money.

 

“We’re not sure what this means for the state and for Shoreline,” he said. “We heard today of the uncertainty of when and how the federal money might flow.”

 

Some of that uncertainty is just in the newness of the Act and President Obama’s administration, ACE’s Hartle said. “This is a huge piece of legislation with dozens and dozens of pieces,” he said. Adding to that, Hartle said, in many of the key agencies, political leadership, the appointees, are not yet in place.

 

There isn’t agreement, Hartle said, on whether reaching the 2006 funding levels is possible, although a waiver is possible. One analysis, he said, showed only one or two states may have a problem, However, the Governors Association said there could be more.

 

“The prudent thing to do is to move ahead with our plan,” Lambert said. “If we need to change at some point, we can do that.”

 

It appears a similar course is being charted at the state-board level. In the memo that outlines the federal program, Earl also points out that budget-cut bills signed Wednesday, Feb. 18, by Gov. Gregoire do trigger the ability to declare a financial state of emergency for the community and technical college system (see related story). Earl said the state board may schedule a special meeting in the next two weeks to decide whether to make such a declaration.

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