WASHINGTON, D.C. – It isn’t often that community colleges get an opportunity to talk to national policymakers about education.
That’s one of the reasons why the Association of Community College Trustees’ (ACCT) annual National Legislative Summit often includes representation from Northeast Community College, along with other community colleges across Nebraska and the nation. This year’s ACCT summit took place this week.
The Northeast delegation that attended included President Leah Barrett, along with Tracy Kruse, vice president of Development & External Affairs, and board members Dirk Petersen of Norfolk and Pat Wojcik of South Sioux City. The group met with U.S. Reps. Mike Flood of Norfolk, Adrian Smith of Scottsbluff and Don Bacon of Omaha, as well as U.S. Sen. Pete Ricketts of Omaha. The delegation also met with U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer’s staff as she had to be on the floor for a vote.
Barrett said the entire delegation of Nebraska’s elected officials made themselves available and were supportive of community colleges.
“Tracy (Kruse) has done an incredible job of creating and cultivating these relationships over the years and it shows in the supportive actions and comments of our federally elected officials. MidPlains and Western (community colleges) joined us in the visits so as a community college team, we have represented the rural community colleges of Nebraska well,” Barrett said.
Additionally, Barrett was invited to the White House for a listening session on Tuesday. She was one of about 30 community college presidents who met with White House staff, offering suggestions to improve community college and industry partnerships.
The White House issued a press release regarding the meeting. It stated in part, “(Tuesday), the Biden-Harris Administration convened community college presidents and provosts at the White House to discuss the ways they are strengthening talent pipelines into growing sectors fueled by President Biden’s historic Investing in America agenda.”
The White House noted that its “Investing in America” agenda — including the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, CHIPS and Science Act, Inflation Reduction Act, and American Rescue Plan — is creating strong demand for skilled workers in clean energy, biotechnology, advanced manufacturing, semiconductors and more.
Biden-Harris Administration officials represented the Domestic Policy Council, the National Economic Council, the Office of the First Lady, the Department of Education, and the Department of Labor. More than 30 community college leaders representing 21 states attended the summit, reporting on their successful strategies for recruiting and training a diverse array of students and workers.
This year’s summit began on Sunday, Feb. 4, and ended on Wednesday, Feb. 7. Discussions included advocating for tax free Pell, short term Pell and inclusion of community college funding opportunities in the farm bill.
Northeast in Washington, D.C. cutline
Northeast Community College representatives met Tuesday, Feb. 6, with U.S. Rep. Mike Flood of Norfolk. Shown here are (from left) Tracy Kruse, vice president of Development & External Affairs, President Leah Barrett, Rep. Flood, and board members Dirk Petersen and Pat Wojcik. The group was in Washington, D.C., for the Association of Community College Trustees 2024 National Legislative Summit. (Northeast Community College)