While health care continues to flounder, it appears that the House has had instead had some success in addressing the financial aid and loan situation for students. In the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, the federal government, instead of private lenders, would back student loans, increase Pell grants funding, and allocate funds for *community colleges*, school construction, and early childhood education. As a grad student indebted to both the federal government and a private lender, I have to say that my federal government plan is a better deal, especially given the loan consolidation with a locked-in fixed-interest of only about 5%. Compared to my credit cards, this is a dream. But, now as I’m moving away from being a student and transitioning into a professional position (hopefully at a CC), I’m curious how this funding may actually work and if there is any actual hope that the libraries will benefit.
Looking at the bill itself, Sec. 351.2.a states that each State will receive funding for modernization and construction based on “the amount equal to the total number of students in the State who are enrolled in community colleges and who are pursuing a degree or certificate that is not a bachelor’s, master’s, professional, or other advanced degree, relative to the total number of such students in all States, combined” (115 of the PDF); in short, funds to match the proportion of students in CCs compared to the rest of the US. That seems fair enough. So helping match capital campaign funding, capitalize a revolving loan fund, or reduce costs of loans. But, how does the library fit in? Well, after approving safety and repairs, libraries are eligible for modernization and the “installation or upgrading of educational tech infrastructure” somewhat fals into our realm. Therefore, maybe new online course software, some funding to create online tutorials, assistance in funding online collections are all possibilities based upon this phrasing. For now, the funding, beginning in 2011, will be $2.5 billion (125).
As for the community college initiative, Sec. 501-505, we get some more possibilities for funding curriculum. For starters, what sort of budget are we looking at? Sec. 501 projects $730 million for each year from 2010-2013 and $680 million for 2014-2019; the individual awards themselves will be at least $1 million. Yep, that ought to help make up for some of CA’s shortfall, but wait, the criteria has changed for funding eligibility. Now, grants are awarded ” on a competitive basis” for “innovative programs,” “programs of demonstrated effectiveness” based on DOE or DOL evaluations or other research, or “lead to completion of a […degree] leading to a skilled occupation in a high-demand industry” (161). In addition, Sec. 505 even offers support for Open Online Education “to develop, evaluate, and disseminate free high-quality online training, high school courses, and postsecondary education courses” (178). Libraries fit this item remarkably! I mean, haven’t most of us been doing this to some extent since the increased demands by patrons and faculty for online content and guides have led to virtual library tours, citation guide videos, and animated “how to evaluate search results” cartoons?
Overall, the House appears to have done a decent job representing the CCs and the students on this one. Let’s see what the Senate has to say….