Senator Murray Steps In to Allow Seattle Central Community College to Compete for Grant to Help Disadvantaged Students

Jun 09 2010

After Department of Education red tape denies local college the chance to compete for funds they have been receiving for over thirty years, Murray successfully presses Education Secretary to reverse decision

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) received a call from Education Secretary Arne Duncan informing her that the he would be reversing the Department of Education’s decision to deny Seattle Central Community College’s (SCCC) application for TRIO funding because of a technical error on their application. The decision comes after Senator Murray personally called Secretary Duncan on Friday, May 28th and sent multiple letters with Senator Maria Cantwell, asking that the Department of Education allow SCCC to compete for the funds which they had received for over 30 years. TRIO funding provides critical support services including counseling, tutoring, mentoring, and financial guidance to low-income students.

“This was unfortunately a case of bureaucracy trumping the needs of disadvantaged college students,” said Senator Murray. “And I was proud to stand up for the young people at Seattle Central who rely on TRIO to turn college potential into college success. I told Secretary Duncan that we had to forget about technicalities and focus on the needs of these students, and thankfully, he agreed. ”

“The TRIO program is a critical component of our mission to provide education to all who come to our doors,” said Gary Oertli, Interim President of Seattle Central Community College. “We applaud Secretary Duncan’s decision and the hard work of Senator Murray, who worked diligently to bring this matter to a satisfactory ending.”

SCCC has received TRIO funding for over 30 years and the school stood to lose almost $2.5 million over five years if their application was not considered (a decision on granting the funding is forthcoming). SCCC serves 12,000 students per year, 54% percent of whom are racial and ethnic minorities. SCCC is among Washington’s most diverse community colleges, and serves many veterans, former foster youth, low-income and first-generation college students, students with disabilities, and students of color.

SCCC’s TRIO application was submitted on time to the Department of Education via email on December 11th, 2009. However, the Department of Education maintains that a portion of their application - the “program narrative” - was not included on the submission email and were therefore refusing to consider SCCC’s application.

After being informed of the denial, Senator Murray along with Senator Cantwell, sent the Department of Education a letter. After receiving a letter back that the Department of Education was maintaining the denial, the Senators sent a second letter. Senator Murray, a senior member of the Senate Education Committee, also then personally called Secretary Duncan to demand an answer.

A timeline of actions follows:

  • December 11, 2009 – SCCC submits their application for TRIO Student Support Services for the 2011-2015 grant cycle via email.
  • December 14, 2009 – Department of Education’s TRIO application deadline.
  • January 4, 2010 – The Department conducted a review of the application and determined that the application was incomplete.
  • April 1, 2010 – SCCC notified by the Department that their application would not be considered.
  • April 27, 2010 – Senator Murray writes a letter, along with Senator Cantwell, to the Director of the Office of Federal TRIO Programs requesting that SCCC be readmitted into the competition for 2011-2015 TRIO funding.
  • May 12, 2010 – Senator Murray receives a letter back from the Department denying the request that SCCC’s application be considered.
  • May 20, 2010 –Senator Murray responds to the letter from the Department of Education, along with Senator Cantwell, urging the Department to reconsider their decision not to consider SCCC’s TRIO application.
  • May 28, 2010 – Senator Murray calls Education Secretary Arne Duncan to urge him to find a way to consider SCCC’s application and to “not allow bureaucratic red tape to stand in the way of success for the SCCC students that utilize TRIO services.”
  • June 9th, 2010 – Secretary Duncan reverses the Department of Education’s decision to deny SCCC’s application.