Graphic with a backdrop of Washington D.C.'s important buildings (i.e., The White House, the Washington Monument, etc.). Graphic text says "COLORADO COMMUNITY COLLEGE SYSTEM, Goes to Washington to Advocate for Community Colleges"

The Colorado Community College System (CCCS) recently visited Washington, D.C. to advocate for federal funding and legislation that would support the system’s 13 colleges and their students.  

Fiona Lytle, CCCS’ chief government and external affairs officer, represented CCCS during the Association of Community College Trustees annual National Legislative Summit. The gathering brought together hundreds of community college leaders to learn about federal policy affecting community colleges, connect with Congressional delegations, and meet with agencies such as the Department of Energy.   

Lytle said Colorado community colleges are fortunate to have strong champions across the political spectrum.  

“Gratitude is the foundation of progress, and I extend my sincerest thanks to Colorado’s congressional delegation for their engagement and steadfast support of our institutions and the students we serve,” Lytle said. “Their dedication to our cause fuels our advocacy efforts, and together, we are building a brighter future for Colorado’s communities through education and opportunity.”  

Fiona Lytle, CCCS’ Chief Government and External Affairs Officer, with Yadira Caraveo, U.S. Representative for Colorado’s 8th congressional district.

Energizing Workforce Development  

While advocating on the hill, Lytle pledged CCCS’ support for draft legislation that would create regional Energy Innovation Centers at community colleges in Colorado and four other locations across the country.   

If passed, the bill would allow the U.S. Secretary of Energy to designate Colorado as an energy training hub and provide funding for program expansion. Dollars could go toward developing apprenticeships, forging more community and industry partnerships, and supporting services that promote student success and completion.  

CCCS is well-equipped to host an Energy Innovation Center, Lytle said. The state could build on successful wind and solar energy training programs offered through colleges like Pueblo Community College and Northeastern Junior College. Arapahoe Community College and Community College of Aurora are also rolling out courses in related clean energy fields, such as electrical vehicle maintenance and sustainable construction.  

In addition to these programs, CCCS is investing $4.5 million in state and philanthropic funding to develop clean energy “micro-credentials” in solar installation and energy maintenance. Students can complete these programs within weeks and stack credits into certificate and associate degree pathways.   

Although the legislation is in its early stages, Lytle says the increased funding would accelerate CCCS’s mission to close skills gaps in clean energy. Jobs are among the fastest growing in Colorado, and the sector has received increased attention with the state’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 100% by 2050.  

Expanding Support for Students and Colleges 

Lytle also advocated for several federal measures that would further advance college access and student success.  

Some of the proposed solutions would reform the popular Pell Grant program to reduce barriers for low-income students. Efforts include making short-term training programs eligible for federal financial aid, boosting the annual award amount to $13,000, and ending a tax on Pell Grants when used for living expenses. 

In advocating for federal funding and legislation, we are not just shaping policies; we are amplifying the voices of our students, who are the heart of our community colleges.
Fiona Lytle, CCCS Chief Government and External Affairs Officer


Lytle said the tweaks would be a significant help to CCCS students, about 40% of whom qualify for Pell Grants. By expanding the award amount and eligibility, community colleges could serve a wider group of learners while reducing dependency on student loans.   

Other bills would benefit CCCS colleges directly. The draft Farm Bill, for example, includes new funding to scale up agricultural and natural resources programs at rural colleges like Northeastern Junior College and Lamar Community College. Lytle also stated support for maintaining federal Title IV funding, which powers services and programs at all CCCS colleges. 

Amplifying Voices 

After a whirlwind week in the nation’s capital, Lytle left inspired by the policy conversations happening at the highest levels of government. She praised Colorado’s congressional delegation and felt optimistic about future partnerships.  

Though Washington, D.C. is thousands of miles away, she hopes the impact of CCCS advocacy work will be felt closer to home in the coming years.  

“In advocating for federal funding and legislation, we are not just shaping policies; we are amplifying the voices of our students, who are the heart of our community colleges. Their dreams, aspirations, and successes drive our mission forward, and it’s an immense privilege to be their advocate on the national stage,” she said.