Federal Funding Task Force Produces Wealth of Information
The Federal Funding Task Force convened November 3-6 at CASE’s Washington, D.C. offices, continuing a partnership between CASE volunteers and federal program officers, responsible for grant competitions and programs that are essential to higher education, especially in the community college sector.
The 2019 task force brought together 65 CASE volunteers, the vast majority of whom represented two-year institutions. They visited 38 agencies—or divisions within agencies—and will produce a comprehensive Federal Funding Report for Education that will cover 216 programs, according to task force chair Michelle A. Alexander.
“One of the key takeaways is that there are more program officers that are realizing the value of community colleges,” says Alexander, the director of institutional advancement at Vernon College, in Texas, U.S. “Each time that we visit with a program, we don’t just go in to learn what’s coming up. We really do have a dialog with them. We want to know what programs or what grant competitions are on the horizon. But we also want to know how we can help them accomplish their goals. So, we do approach it as a partnership.”
That’s not the only partnership that energizes Alexander. She says that the 2018 and 2019 editions of the task force featured a handful of grant professionals from four-year institutions. Alexander thinks that the networking that can take place between individuals at two- and four-year schools is helpful and practical.
“This is an opportunity for [community colleges] to increase our networks and for four-years to increase their networks of two-year institutions,” she says. “There are many programs where a two-year institution has to be the lead in a grant, but it can partner with a four-year. Or the reverse.”
Alexander, who has been with the task force for 13 years, says that she’s been hearing from a greater number of federal officers who have a positive outlook when it comes to collaborations between different types of colleges and universities. Those relationships can benefit a range of institutions, which means that the federal grants can assist a variety of students on their educational journeys.
“Federal programs or federal grant competitions allow us to do things for our colleges and for the success of our students that we might not be able to do without an enormous budget,” Alexander says. “Sometimes we try new things. Or we have an idea and if it fits into a federal grant competition, and if we’re successful, then it’s a great thing.”
In her work at Vernon, Alexander has seen, first-hand, the benefits of federal grants. The college is currently receiving funding from a federal Title III grant.
“Vernon College is classified as a rural institution. We have a very small tax base,” she says. “It is this partnership and these federal grant programs that allow us to get further along on our agenda. We do the practical things. Those are the kinds of grants, many times, that we are looking for. With the help of federal grants, we do a lot of worker training in some areas.”
In terms of Vernon’s Title III grant, Alexander gives much of the credit to her long-running experience with the Federal Funding Task Force and the network of grant professionals she built as a result. Although the task force works around the year, its most active time is when it meets in the fall. Busy days are paired with nightly debriefs that present specific tips. The culmination comes in the form of sessions that present a variety of highlights to the larger Conference for Community College Grant Professionals at the end of the week. The two sessions can be viewed as webinars.
The quick turnaround is always a challenge, says Alexander, who was also pleased to report how well this year’s group of task force volunteers was able to work together.
“We’re passionate about what we do,” she says. “The folks that come to the task force are interested and committed. They take away so much and they give so much.”
Want to Get Involved?
For more information about volunteering in a community college-specific role, such as with the Federal Funding Task Force or the Conference for Community College Grant Professionals Planning Committee, contact Marc Westenburg at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-478-5570.
About the author(s)
Bryan Wawzenek is a content creator at CASE