Rep. Lois Capps requests community college emergency funds

A local Congresswoman has signed on to federal legislation that she says will help Cuesta and other community colleges “endure these challenging economic times.”

Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, says the Community College Emergency Stabilization Fund will provide one-time, emergency funding that will enable community colleges to hire staff and expand programs.

Like other community colleges, Cuesta has been battered by the difficult economy, forcing it to meet budgets by cutting back class offerings even as the demand for them grows.

According to the American Association of Community Colleges, enrollment for the 2009-10 school year is already 10 percent above 2008 levels, Capps wrote in a news release. At the same time, 32 states have had to cut the budgets of their public colleges. 

The fund would immediately create jobs at community colleges around the country by providing $700 million in emergency funding for hiring faculty and other staff. 

It would also set aside $50 million for a competitive grant program for career and technical colleges to be run through the office of the Secretary of Education, Capps wrote.

Capps did not provide specifics on how the program would affect Cuesta. There will be a formula for distributing the money, with built-in safeguards against the state steering it to other uses. The bill will focus on areas hit hardest by the recession, she wrote.

The bill’s author, Rep John B. Larson, D-Connecticut, said, “I truly believe that our nation’s community colleges can be the birthplace of our economic recovery.”

“Education has always helped open the doors of opportunity and economic success in America and community colleges in particular have played an important role in ensuring that all Americans can access the tools needed to get a good paying job,” said Capps.

There is as yet no timeline connected with the bill, but Capps and other backers promised to fight for quick passage.