Community College Grant Fund Requirements Clearer

Some community college leaders are surprised by how much they have to do to get new grants.

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Last week, President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced the $4 billion Race to the Top Fund, which makes grants available to states but with strings attached, like easing restrictions on charter schools and linking teacher pay to student achievement. Now, the strings attached to a similar, even larger $9 billion grant fund for community colleges are clearer, and the extent of the requirements to earn the money has surprised some community college leaders, the Chronicle of Higher Ed reports.

The requirements, laid out in a House of Representatives student aid bill that is awaiting floor action, include setting goals tied to program completion, workforce preparation, and job placement. Though grant recipients could choose their own benchmarks, they would have to be approved by Duncan.

Most community college presidents agree that the government should expect results in return for its funding. But many campus leaders and analysts worry that the bill's strings could have unintended consequences, like "rewarding institutions and states that set their sights low or encouraging colleges to tighten their admissions standards to meet graduation goals," the report says. Community college presidents also worry that the bill might lead to federal meddling in two-year college curricula and that $9 billion will not be enough to accomplish the broad changes Obama and Duncan have in mind.

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