Monday, April 20, 2009

MVCC and Stimulus Dollars - making a difference

Talk of the stimulus package is everywhere these days. The last time the federal government jump-started such a desperate economy it was called the New Deal. A few years later our College was founded. The New Deal and World War II transformed our nation’s workforce by pouring money into job creation and making higher education more accessible. MVCC and most other community colleges owe their early existence to these developments.

Fast forward to 2009 when the White House and Congress are again pouring money into creating jobs, retooling the workforce for new challenges, and making higher education more accessible. What does all this mean for MVCC? For one, federal stimulus funds have made it possible to restore the state-aid funds that Governor Paterson had proposed cutting from MVCC and other colleges. The stimulus package will also make Pell grants available to more of our students. Nationally, an additional $3.95 billion is being directed toward youth and workforce retraining with emphases on energy efficiency, health care and other high-demand fields.

Offices and departments throughout the College are working together to identify which credit and non-credit offerings are linked to stimulus priorities. Building on our productive partnerships with Working Solutions, the Workforce Investment Board and other agencies, we are tweaking these programs - and creating new ones - to meet abundant needs. To expedite commerce and hiring, faculty are collaborating to resequence courses and accelerate programs - - thus making them more accessible to those bumped from the workforce who can’t spend two years in a traditional semester format.

Staff are spending more time at local One Stop Centers, matching future workers with needed skills and funding sources to cover tuition and fees for students enrolling in MVCC programs. We’re conducting placement tests on site and will soon roll out a new math refresher course that is needed by many eager to be part of the emerging post-stimulus economy. Information sessions will be held for current students to help them take advantage of new programs and new funding.

I recently had the opportunity to join City, County and federal officials to announce five programs being launched locally with stimulus money to cover instructional costs, tuition, and fees. Three of five programs will be administered by MVCC. We will train youth to construct an Internet cafĂ© in the Utica Veterans Outreach Center; train another group of young people to construct retail space for entrepreneurs in Rome’s REACH arts and cultural center; and teach a third group to conduct and present environmental research on brownfields. Proposals to expand our capacity for healthcare training and green technologies are under development along with a half dozen other strategies to focus stimulus funding where it will do the most good.

So how does MVCC benefit from stimulus funds? We've already begun to do so, and more good things will come. MVCC is embracing change as we bring our programs and services closer to emerging community needs. If you have any thoughts on this, please let me know at presblog@mvcc.edu.