Will Tax Credits for Hiring Community College Graduates Survive the 2017 Budget Rejection?

Posted By Eliana Osborn on March 4, 2016 at 9:55 am
Will Tax Credits for Hiring Community College Graduates Survive the 2017 Budget Rejection?

President Obama is focusing much of his higher education reform agenda on America’s College Promise—a plan for making two years of community college free for all. Community colleges are the most accessible institutions, serving areas where no other schools are available. A new proposal targets businesses for their role in the equation. The Community College Partnership Tax Credit has a couple of parts to it. Some are extensions of already successful endeavors and other aspects are new ideas that haven’t been previously tried.

First, employers would help build community college programs. This is happening in many areas already as these schools often train based on local needs. According to the Department of Education’s press release, CCPTC will “make training programs job-driven, and will enable graduates to acquire a more productive set of skills that are in demand by regional employers when they enter the local workforce.” Think of hospitality management certification in Las Vegas area schools or mining-specific welding in Montana.

CCPTC would go further than having businesses communicate their hiring needs to colleges. They’d now be asked to be more involved, helping create curriculum or provide instructors. Job shadowing or mini-internship opportunities would also be a part.

If this sounds like a serious ask, hoping businesses will provide a lot of personnel and financial resources to community colleges, that’s where the second CCPTC proposal comes in. $500 million in tax credits will be available for businesses who hire students from the programs created. A one-time $5,000 credit can be taken by an employer for taking on full-time someone who’s completed the training.

A big complaint from businesses is about how much training they have to give to new employees. Even with four -year degrees, many find that students are coming out of college without the skills to get right to work. The CCPTC proposal targets this issue in a new way. Instead of placing the blame on colleges for not teaching the things businesses want students to learn, now companies can get involved.

The Community College Partnership Tax Credit was part of the 2017 budget rejected by Congress.  As President Obama comes to the end of his time in office, the myriad endeavors of his administration to push for higher education reform have yet to yield any dramatic changes. Announcing the credit, the White House said, “Stronger incentives are needed to connect community colleges and businesses. Jobs relying on education and training from associate degrees will grow faster than any other training source in the coming years. At the same time, we know there is greater need for more skilled workers with technical associate degrees and postsecondary certificates.”

Though the 2017 budget was not approved by Congress, updating community colleges to be more responsive and rewarding employers that participate in helping make this happen could be an area for both parties to find common ground. In fact, education plans outlined by Democrat Hillary Clinton as well as Republican Marco Rubio both point to expanding financial aid for nontraditional education programs, particularly for programs that provide job-specific training and teach in-demand skills. It is yet to be seen whether the tax credit for employers proposed by the Obama administration will survive into the future president’s plans for higher education reform.

Eliana Osborn
Eliana Osborn is an associate English professor at Arizona Western College, with degrees from Brigham Young University and Northern Arizona University. She’s published widely in forums such as The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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