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Applications for California Advocacy & Policy Academy now open

National Skills Coalition is launching a California Advocacy & Policy Academy (CAPA) for people from nonprofit community-based organizations (CBOs) in California who want to build their capacity to engage in workforce development policy and advocacy activities. Applications for participation are currently being accepted and are due November 7, 2019.

Community-based organizations play a critical role in recruiting and training workers, providing culturally competent services, and supporting people as they work to fulfill their career aspirations. Yet too often, state skills policies fail to support these organizations. CAPA will empower participants to change this narrative. CAPA will be a platform to better connect the work being done at the local level and the decisions being made at the state policy level. Participants in CAPA will have the opportunity to examine how CBOs and non-profit service providers can inform and be supported by state skills training policies.

The goals of CAPA are to:

  • Build the capacity of CBO leaders and nonprofit service providers to engage in state workforce development policy.
  • Empower more CBOs and nonprofit service providers to become more active advocates for workforce development policy change.
  • Educate and widen participants understanding of key workforce development policy issues, the policymaking process, and landscape.
  • Examine and understand how CBOs can inform and be supported by state skills training policies.
  • Create a community of practice that unearths and elevates best practices that impact policy change and decisions.


Academy members should represent CBOs or non-profit providers that are:

  • Expanding high-quality, industry-based job training and/or support services across California.
  • Working towards a more equitable economy.
  • Committed to removing systemic barriers and creating more opportunities for people who have been structurally disconnected from economic opportunity.

The Academy will officially launch in February 2020 and will include four in-person workshops through November 2020. Participants will be expected to attend the 2020 Skills for California Summit in Sacramento on May 13-14, 2020*.

To apply and learn more, please download the full application here.

*A stipend will be provided to cover the cost of travel and any necessary lodging

Posted In: Sector Partnerships
New fact sheets will help education and skills advocates prepare for immigration “public charge” rule

National Skills Coalition is releasing two new fact sheets to assist adult education, community college, and other skills advocates in preparing for the imminent implementation of the immigration “public charge” rule. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently finalized this rule, which will make it significantly harder for millions of immigrants who are here legally to stay in the country.

Under the rule, US officials will deny green cards to individuals who are deemed likely to be dependent on the government for support. Officials will weigh a long list of positive and negative factors via a totality of circumstances test to make this determination. These include an immigrant’s age, income, English skills, educational credentials, and use of certain public benefits, among other factors.

In addition, a narrower version of the test, focusing just on public benefits usage, will be applied to non-immigrants who are living in the U.S. and seeking to extend or change their visa type (e.g. from a student visa to an employment visa).

The rule was due to take effect on October 15, 2019, although a New York federal judge has put the rule on hold.

NSC opposed this rule, which hurts our nation's efforts to build a skilled workforce. (See our public comment against the rule from December 2018.) With record low unemployment, businesses are struggling to fill open positions, particularly for middle-skill jobs. Immigrants, who account for one in six U.S. workers, are essential to closing this skill gap. But the rule will undercut immigrants’ ability to access training for middle-skill jobs. The rule will also create substantial additional burdens on adult education and workforce training providers trying to help their participants comply with its provisions.  

The bottom line for skills advocates

These are the key points that skills advocates should be aware of regarding the public charge rule:

  • Participating in education and workforce programs will NOT count against immigrants in the public charge test. Individuals should feel free to continue participating in adult education, higher education, and other workforce training programs. Participating in programs funded by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) or receiving Pell Grants will NOT be counted against immigrants, and can actually improve their ‘totality of circumstances’ by improving their education and skills.

  • Education and workforce programs may nevertheless see a drop in enrollment due to a chilling effect. Even before the final public charge rule was announced, many types of programs serving immigrants had already seen a drop in participation due to confusion and fear. This occurred despite the fact that participating in education and training programs does not count against immigrants in the public charge test, and despite the fact that many individuals (such as refugees) are exempt from the public charge test altogether. Given the high levels of media coverage and the complexity of the new rule, it is anticipated that this chilling effect will continue.
  • The new rule creates difficult choices for adult learners and jobseekersWhile education and training programs themselves are not included in the list of public benefits that count against immigrant applicants, many participants in training programs depend on other benefits that are counted against them -- such as SNAP or Medicaid -- to be able to persist and complete their education. As a result, adult learners and jobseekers are now faced with the difficult decision of whether to dis-enroll from health and nutrition programs and jeopardize their ability to complete their training, or to stay enrolled in the programs and potentially jeopardize their immigration status.
  • Education and workforce providers will face numerous new requests for enrollment documents, transcripts, and other proof of participation. As part of the new public charge rule, immigrants who are applying for green cards are now required to submit a new federal form, the I-944 Declaration of Self-Sufficiency. (See form and instructions.) This document requires applicants to submit transcripts and other documents demonstrating their educational attainment, occupational skills and credentials, and English proficiency. Organizations will begin receiving requests for these documents from their current and past students and participants starting immediately. Organizations that do not typically issue such documents will be asked for a letter to that effect.
  • End of “bright line” standard will greatly increase demands on service providers. The new rule removes a clear, bright-line standard for when an immigrant may be considered a public charge, and replaces it with a highly complex, multi-faceted and subjective test. This increased complexity will make it difficult for education and workforce providers to provide straightforward guidance to frontline staff about how to advise participants on whether using a public benefit may jeopardize their immigration status. Higher education institutions, nonprofit organizations, and state and local agencies will also face the challenge of updating enrollment forms, software programs, and other documentation that currently provides blanket reassurance to participants that enrolling in publicly funded programs will not jeopardize their immigration status, and substituting a much more nuanced and complicated disclaimer. 
  • Education and workforce providers will need to provide training for their staff members on how to respond to inquiries about public charge issues. Staff members should not attempt to provide legal advice to immigrants, but should be prepared to answer general inquiries, to reassure immigrants about their continued ability to participate in education and workforce programs, and to refer individuals to reputable legal services providers for additional guidance.

It is important to note that the public charge test pertains to benefits received by individuals. Funds that are received by institutions – such as community colleges that blend TANF or SNAP dollars with other funds to support an educational program – are not counted against immigrant participants in those programs, unless those individuals have filed an individual application for public benefits.

National Skills Coalition urges skills advocates to read and share our new fact sheets on the public charge, designed for adult educators and higher education advocates.

To learn more about the rule, read NSC's analysis below. NSC’s analysis of this complex, 837-page regulation focuses specifically on issues relevant to skills advocates. For broader analysis, we recommend materials from the National Immigration Law Center and its partners in the Protecting Immigrant Families campaign.

What is the public charge?

Public charge is the standard by which individuals can be denied lawful permanent resident (green card) status or otherwise forbidden from extending or changing their visas if they are determined likely to be dependent on the government for support. The public charge is a totality of circumstances test, in which federal officials weigh the positive and negative factors in an individual immigrant’s application and determine whether they are at risk of becoming a public charge. Before this new rule was enacted, the old public charge policy had been in place for decades. It was a much narrower rule with a clear, bright-line standard that was easier for immigrants and advocates to comprehend and navigate.

The public-charge test is a forward-looking test that will be applied to immigrant applicants beginning on October 15, 2019 if it is not enjoined by the courts. Use of public benefits before that date will not be counted against immigrants unless it is one of the two types of benefits that had been included in the longstanding public charge definition in effect since 1999 (cash assistance or long-term institutionalization at public expense).

Understanding the major changes under this new rule

DHS has made significant changes to the previous public charge policy. Among the key changes:

1. More people are now subject to the public charge test. Previously, individuals were subject to the public charge determination when applying for lawful permanent resident (“green card”) status, or when existing green card holders were being readmitted to the US after more than six months outside the country. Under the new rule, people will continue to be subject to the public charge test in those cases. In addition, individuals living in the United States will face a narrower test -- focusing just on public benefits usage -- when they apply for, extend, or change the category of any one of a long list of non-immigrant visas. This also means that the same person might be subject to the public charge test on multiple occasions, as it is very common for individuals to extend or change their status repeatedly. For example, someone might arrive in the US on a student visa, then later change to an employment visa, and eventually become a permanent resident.

2. The factors that are considered in the totality of circumstances assessment have been further codified. While the general list of factors to be considered in the totality of circumstances test was already codified in statute, the final public charge rule has now fleshed out those with substantially more detailed considerations, including a requirement that immigrants provide their credit history and credit score (if they are available).

Factors now include:

  • Age (between 18 and 61 is a positive factor; below age 18 or age 62 and over is a negative factor)
  • Health (e.g., if the individual has a health condition that could require extensive treatment in the future, or that could affect their ability to work, attend school, or care for themselves, and if they do not have access to private health insurance or other resources to pay for treatment, it will be weighed as heavily negative)
  • Family status (i.e., household size)
  • Income, assets, and financial status (having income below 125 percent of Federal Poverty Guidelines is a negative factor; income above 250 percent of FPG is a heavily weighted positive factor; other considerations include the immigrant applicant’s assets and liability; credit history and credit score; whether they have applied for or received a public benefit; received a fee waiver when applying for an immigration document; and more)
  • Education and skills (considerations include recent history of employment; credential attainment at HS diploma or higher level; occupational licensure; English skills; and other language skills)
  • Affidavit of support from a person who is sponsoring the immigrant (if required to be filed)

3. More kinds of benefits are now counted as negative factors in the public charge test. Under previous policy, only two types of public benefits usage counted against immigrants: receiving cash assistance or receiving long-term institutional care at public expense. DHS has significantly expanded that list, which now includes:

  • Any Federal, State, Local or Tribal cash assistance for income maintenance, including TANF, SSI and general assistance programs
  • Medicaid (with exceptions including coverage for emergency services, children under 21 years old, pregnant women and 60 days of post-partum services)
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called “food stamps”)
  • Federal Public Housing, Section 8 housing vouchers and Section 8 project-based rental assistance

Non-cash benefits that are wholly state-funded are not considered in the public charge test.

(Benefits received by family members of the immigrant applicant do not count. However, the size of an immigrant’s household – including people who may not be physically living with but are financially dependent on the immigrant – will still influence many of the calculations for the public charge test.)

4. The process of calculating public benefits usage is now more complicated. Under the new rules, receiving any of the above-listed public benefits for more than 12 months in any 36-month period is a heavily negative factor. If an individual is receiving two benefits in a given month, that will count as two months for the purposes of the public charge calculation.

5. The ripple effect of the new rule will be felt far beyond the immigrants who are personally subject to the public charge test. For example, an individual already living in the US who is applying for a green card may have a US citizen spouse; if federal officials deny the green card application because the applicant is at risk of becoming a public charge, the couple may be faced with a difficult decision about whether they can continue their lives together in the United States, or must move abroad or be separated. 

Similarly, immigrants who are themselves already green-card holders or US citizens may be hoping to sponsor a family member to immigrate to the US in the future. These individuals will likely have questions about how the public charge rule will affect their future plans; they should be referred to a reputable legal services provider for advice.

6. A new “public charge bond” process is being implemented to allow individuals to override their negative public charge determination. DHS has established a complex new process to allow individuals who are at risk of becoming a public charge to purchase a bond that enables them to be admitted to the United States, but only at the discretion of the DHS official processing their application. The minimum cost of the bond will be $8,100 plus fees; the immigrant will forfeit the entire value of the bond if they use public benefits in the future. Much remains unknown about the bond process, but its existence adds an additional layer of financial pressure for immigrant applicants.

Benefits that do NOT count against immigrants

Only the benefits specified in the rule will count against immigrants in the new public charge test. Thus, other benefits will NOT count. These other benefits include:

  • Social Security retirement benefits
  • Medicare benefits
  • Worker’s compensation
  • Non-cash benefits that provide education, child development, and employment and job training (even if funded by TANF)
  • Education-related benefits
  • Any exclusively local, state, or tribal public benefit that is not cash assistance for income maintenance
  • Benefits used by persons other than the applicant, including benefits used by their children

Individuals exempt from the public charge test

Some categories of immigrants are not subject to the public charge test.

  • Active duty and reserve US military service members and their spouses and unmarried minor children
  • Refugees, people who have been granted asylum, individuals receiving U visas for crime victims or T visas for trafficking victims
  • Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petitioners
  • Select other categories of vulnerable individuals
  • Family members of the immigrant applicant (unless and until they make their own applications for green-card status, visa extensions, or changes of status)

In addition, individuals are not subject to a public charge test when they apply for US citizenship.

Posted In: Immigration
Chairman Alexander introduces party-line bill containing key HEA reauthorization provisions

On September 26th, 2019, Senator Alexander (R-TN), Chairman of the Senate HELP Committee, introduced the Student Aid Improvement Act of 2019 (S. 2557). In addition to permanently preserving funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and other Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs), the bill contains piecemeal Higher Education Act related provisions, including those that would extend Pell grant eligibility to students enrolled in short-term programs, reinstate Pell grant eligibility to incarcerated students, simplify the FAFSA application process and slightly increase the maximum Pell grant award. 

While comprehensive HEA reauthorization is a legislative priority shared by key policymakers in the House and Senate as well as the White House, the Student Aid Improvement Act has been met with skepticism, as it ties recently expired MSI funding to narrow HEA reauthorization language. Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member, Patty Murray (D-WA), has not agreed to consider S. 2557 and has instead called for a clean passage of the FUTURE Act (H.R. 2486), a bipartisan bill unanimously approved by the House of Representatives on September 17th, which would extend funding for MSIs through FY 2021, and does not include the piecemeal HEA related provisions included in Sen. Alexander’s bill.   

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA-03), Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee has also urged the Senate to take up the FUTURE Act in its current form, rather than tying it to HEA reauthorization language. Chairman Scott plans to introduce a comprehensive HEA reauthorization bill this month for consideration by the Education and Labor Committee.  

Chairman Alexander, a former Department of Education Secretary, is set to retire from the Senate at the end of this Congress and has been vocal about his desire to pass HEA legislation before the end of his term. While National Skills Coalition enthusiastically supports modernizing federal postsecondary policies so that they work for today’s students, the Student Aid Improvement Act, in its current form, misses the mark on quality assurance, data transparency and other NSC postsecondary policy priorities. 

The Student Aid Improvement Act would: 

Extend Federal Pell grants to students enrolled in short-term education and training programs, but stops short of key provisions found in bipartisan JOBS Act 

Under the Student Aid Improvement Act, students enrolled in short-term education or training programs at any institution of higher education, including private, for-profit institutions would qualify for a Pell grant, so long as the program was at least 150 clock hours over 8 weeks of instruction. This provision would be a significant change to current law, which limits Pell eligibility to students enrolled in programs that are at least 600 clock hours over 15 weeks of instruction.  

While NSC is encouraged by the Chairman’s intent to include students in short-term programs in Pell grant eligibility, the language in the Student Aid Improvement Act differs significantly from the NSC-supported JOBS Act (S. 839, H.R. 3497) —a bipartisan, bicameral measure which would thoughtfully adjust Pell-eligibility parameters to better meet the needs of today’s students. The JOBS Act, which is led by Senators Kaine (D-VA) and Portman (R-OH) as well as Representatives Richmond (D-LA-02), Levin (D-MI-09), Horsford (D-NV-04), Gonzalez (R-OH-16), Herrera Beutler (R-WA-03), and Katko (R-NY-24), would also extend Pell eligibility to short-term programs that are at least 150 clock hours over 8 weeks, but does so within a strong quality assurance framework that aims to shield students from poor-performing programs.  

The JOBS Act has over 55 House and Senate co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle and has also been included in the President’s FY19 and FY20 budget requests. Additionally, this bipartisan bill, which is one of four policy priorities that make up NSC’s Community College Compact, is strongly supported by approximately 1/3 of all state community and technical college systems as well as small and mid-size business leaders and likely 2020 voters

The JOBS Act includes important provisions missing from the Student Aid Improvement Act. The JOBS Act would:  

  • Limit Pell grant eligibility to short-term programs that are offered at public, non-profit institutions. The bipartisan JOBS Act limits institutional participation to public, non-profit institutions, while the Chairman’s bill allows all IHEs to participate—including private, for-profit institutions. As an organization that works closely with community and technical college leaders across the U.S., we strongly believe in their dedication to student protection and quality assurance and urge the Chairman to limit short-term Pell eligibility to public institutions. 


  • Require participating institutions to be on the WIOA Eligible Training Provider List. Under the JOBS Act, in order for public institutions to offer Pell grants to students attending short-term programs, they must be on their state’s WIOA Eligible Training Provider List (ETPL). Under WIOA, eligible training providers are responsible for reporting outcomes data related to the individuals they serve on a yearly basis to the Department of Labor, allowing state and federal policymakers, program participants and training providers to gain insight into the effectiveness of these programs. 


While Chairman Alexander’s bill requires participating institutions to demonstrate outcomes in line with the WIOA common indicator framework, it does not require institutions to be on their state’s eligible training provider list. This approach to outcomes reporting lacks specificity around oversight and enforcement responsibility, leaving interpretation to the Education Department should the Chairman’s bill become law. 

  • Direct accreditors to adopt a process for evaluating newly eligible short-term programs. As an additional quality assurance mechanism for newly Pell-eligible programs, the JOBS Act sets forth a framework that accreditors can use to evaluate short-term education and training programs for content and quality. The Chairman’s bill does not clearly define the role of accreditors in evaluating short-term programs. 


  • Require participating institutions to adopt articulation agreement language. The JOBS Act directs participating institutions to put articulation agreements in place for students enrolled in short-term programs. This provision will help ensure that students who wish to continue in a longer-term certificate or degree pathway upon completion of their short-term program will not face additional roadblocks to success. The Student Aid Improvement Act does not contain articulation language. 


In addition to expanding Pell to short-term programs, the Student Aid Improvement Act includes a range of legislative priorities with varying degrees of bipartisan support in the Senate, including: 


Extension of Pell grants to incarcerated students eligible for parole 

More than 20 years ago, the federal government placed a ban on access to Pell grants for incarcerated individuals. However, in 2015, the Obama Administration announced the Second Chance Pell pilot program, which restored Pell eligibility for an estimated 12,000 students in more than 100 correctional facilities. This initiative has led to a groundswell of bipartisan support among policymakers, the current Administration and education and workforce advocates for the expansion of Second Chance Pell.  

Notably, a comprehensive publication recently released by NSC entitled “The Roadmap for Racial Equity: An imperative for workforce development advocates,” highlights the role of workforce training and education in addressing racial employment, income and wealth disparities and urges Congress to permanently restore Pell grant eligibility for incarcerated individuals.  

The Student Aid Improvement Act aims to address this issue by restoring grant aid for incarcerated students who are eligible for parole but would not lift the ban for all incarcerated individuals. 

Simplification of the FAFSA application and eligibility process 

Simplifying the process for students filling out the FAFSA—a form completed by current and prospective college students to determine their eligibility for federal student aid—has been a long-standing priority of Chairman Alexander’s. The Student Aid Improvement Act reduces the number of questions on the FAFSA from 108 to 17-30 and restructures the needs analysis formula for students by replacing Expected Family Contribution (EFC) with a simplified Student Aid Index, which would qualify students for Pell eligibility by considering their family size and adjusted gross income. 

The Chairman’s bill would also auto-approve applicants for maximum Pell Grants if they qualify for means-tested benefits, such as SNAP, TANF or Medicaid, or if they are not required by the IRS to file a tax return as a result of their income level. The Student Aid Improvement Act also includes income protection allowance tables for students, student parents, and parents of students, which will allow more individuals to qualify for federal aid. 

Slight increase for maximum Pell grant awards 

The Chairman’s bill also contains a $20 increase to the maximum Pell grant award.  While Pell grant increases of any amount are largely welcomed by students and advocates, many feel this small change will do little to help students cover the rising cost of education.  A comprehensive reauthorization of the Higher Education Act would make a meaningful investment in the Pell grant program a stronger possibility. 

Notably, to garner more support for the Student Aid Improvement Act before it is considered on the Senate floor, Chairman Alexander has signaled his intent to attach additional bipartisan priorities to the bill, including the College Transparency Act (S.800, H.R. 1766). The College Transparency Act, which is also a component of NSC’s Community College Compact would arm students, employers, educators and parents with the data they need to make informed decisions regarding education and training. It is currently being led by Senators Warren (D-MA) and Cassidy (R-LA), as well as Representatives Krishnamoorthi (D-IL-08) and Mitchell (R-MI-10).  

While NSC sees the introduction of the Student Aid Improvement Act as a step toward improving federal higher education policy, we urge House and Senate leadership to work together to pass thoughtful, comprehensive postsecondary legislation that protects students and ensures their success in today’s economy.  

Posted In: Higher Education Access, Career and Technical Education
Draft Senate bill falls short for workers, businesses, and communities as House passes short-term solution

Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee released draft text of their Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and related agencies bill. The bill would fund most skills programs at current levels, after a Senate allocation process last week that included a mere 1% increase in funding for the L-HHS subcommittee bill and passed on party lines. This meager increase comes despite a budget deal earlier this year that increased nondefense spending levels by almost $25 billion for FY2020 over FY2019. It also led to the subcommittee rescinding funding from the Pell Grant Reserve Fund to support level funding, in order to build in increased funding for non-Labor or Education priorities under their jurisdiction. The Senate bill’s level funding stands in stark contrast to the increases many skills programs saw under the FY2020 House Labor-HHS bill, which included important and necessary investments in critical workforce and education programs.

Department of Labor

The draft bill would level fund Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title I Adult, Dislocated Worker and Youth state grants. Since 2001, WIOA state grants have declined by nearly 40% and despite overwhelming bipartisan support for a 2014 reauthorization, Congress has never funded WIOA state grants at authorized levels.

In their committee report,  the committee recognizes that the historically low unemployment rate does not reflect the realities in communities across the country, recognizing the “critical functions” of WIOA state grant funding. As Congress looks to reauthorizing WIOA, now is the time to make a commitment to support workers, businesses and communities and address historic, comparative and detrimental disinvestment.

WIOA national programs – including YouthBuild, Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Programs, Ex-Offender Activities and Native American Programs – and Wagner-Peyser state grants are also funded at current levels under the Senate bill.

The committee report and bill did include a few important areas of bipartisan progress. There is a $10 million increase above FY2019 levels for apprenticeship in the bill and the committee recognizes that supporting industry or sector partnerships is a key strategy for expanding apprenticeship in in-demand industries, consistent with the PARTNERS Act. The bill also included a recommendation to the Department of Labor to support demonstration projects on workforce development strategies that help workers most at risk of job dislocation due to automation and AI, citing to recommendations in two recent GAO reports. Finally, the bill includes a $10 million increase to the Dislocated Worker National Reserve, which the committee report directs the Department of Labor to direct to demonstration grants to fund “Career Pathways for Youth” grants, with a focus on job training for opportunity youth and connections between workforce boards and youth-serving organizations.

At the same time, the bill would, consistent with and citing to the President’s FY2020 Presidential Budget Request, eliminate funding for the Workforce Data Quality Initiative. This elimination is contrary to the administration’s stated focus on evidence-based investment and would eliminate funding on which states rely to capture and analyze important workforce data.

Department of Education

The Senate bill would fund both Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) state grants and Adult Education and Family Literacy State grants at FY2019 levels. Both of these programs received slight increases in FY2019, but investments have declined by nearly 30 percent and almost 15 percent, since 2001, respectively. The House L-HHS bill would have provided both programs with slight increases.

The bill would increase the maximum Pell grant to $6,330 for the 2020-21 school year. The bill, however, would rescind $1.3 billion in unobligated balances of the Pell Grant reserve to pay for increases across the L-HHS bill, outside of higher education funding. This rescission amounts to a cut to the funding available to low income students to access training and education programs and is harmful to workers and businesses.

The proposal also includes a new $10 million in funding for grants to expand CTE career pathway programs and connections between secondary and postsecondary CTE programs. This new funding is consistent with the innovation grants authorized in the 2018 Perkins CTE reauthorization.

What’s Next

The House, also last week, passed a Continuing Resolution that would fund the government at current year levels through November 21. The Senate has until September 30th, the conclusion of FY 2019, to pass the CR – or reach an unlikely agreement on their appropriations bills - to avoid a government shutdown.

The Senate  is likely to move forward with the House-passed CR and continue negotiations on the L-HHS, among others, FY2020 appropriations bill. The House L-HHS bill (and the L-HHS subcommittee allocation) was significantly more generous in funding levels for skills programs than the draft released by the Senate appropriations committee. It’s possible, especially given this disparity and the increasingly partisan process in the Senate this year, Congress will be unable to reach a bipartisan agreement on spending levels and will instead pass a single CR for the year, or a series of shorter-term CRs.

If Congress is able to reach a final agreement, and the President signs off on this agreement, the final funding levels are likely to be closer to the Senate levels, but will probably reflect the areas of priority mirrored in the Senate version – apprenticeship and CTE may see slight increases with other programs maintained at least at current year levels.

NSC, along with our national organization partners as part of the Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce, urged Senate appropriators to increase investments in critical programs in a letter earlier this year.  These increases are overwhelmingly popular with likely 2020 voters – 93% of whom support investments in skills – and small and mid-size business owners – 79% of whom support new, public investment in skills.

Investments in skills are more important than ever. Businesses continue to struggle to find workers and workers aren’t able to access training necessary to succeed in good jobs. As we face the impending impact of technology, automation and AI on the workforce, reports suggest nearly 100 million workers will have their jobs substantially changed – or eliminated – in the coming years. Investments in these programs have been cut drastically over the past two decades and we invest less in our workforce than almost every other industrialized country.

The workforce and technical education systems in our country are posed to address the challenges businesses and workers face today and in the future of work, but Congress must invest today in skills training for the jobs of the 21st century.



FY 2020 – Authorized Levels

Current Levels - FY 2019

FY2020 House Labor-HHS Subcommittee

FY2020 Senate Labor-HHS Report

FY2020 Senate Labor-HHS compared to Current Levels

Department of Labor


Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Title I – State Formula Grants






WIOA Adult






WIOA Dislocated Worker






WIOA Youth






Wagner-Peyser/Employment Service Grants








Workforce Data Quality Initiative grants






Apprenticeship Grants






DW National Reserve






Native American Programs






Ex-Offender Activities






Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers






Youth Build






Senior Community Service Employment Program












Trade Adjustment Assistance






Department of Education


Career and Technical Education State Grants






Adult Education and Family Literacy State Grants







Posted In: Federal Funding
Defining quality non-degree credentials is crucial to putting students on a path to success

If states want to build an inclusive economy where all workers and all businesses have the skills they need to stay competitive in a rapidly changing global marketplace, everyone must work together to expand access to and attainment of degrees and credentials of value. Non-degree credentials, such as certificates, industry certifications, apprenticeship certificates, and occupational licenses, are a key component of state economic development and credential attainment goals, helping workers obtain better jobs and serving to reconnect them to further postsecondary education and training opportunities. In Expanding Opportunities: Defining quality non-degree credentials for states, National Skills Coalition (NSC) proposes a consensus definition of quality non-degree credentials (quality NDCs) and criteria developed in consultation with twelve leading states and national organizations, that states can adopt for their own quality assurance systems in order to make sensible budget and policy decisions and advance equity, putting students on a path to success.

The criteria identified should allow state policymakers to be comfortable supporting quality NDC programs with public funds, students to be confident about selecting high-quality training, and employers to understand which programs are effectively preparing students for careers. Consistent with NSC’s recommendation in The Roadmap for Racial Equity: An imperative for workforce development advocates, the quality NDC criteria can also help states address racial and other equity gaps by providing more pathways into quality postsecondary education and training and good jobs for people of color. A quality NDC definition can also help state policymakers identify and invest in new and emerging credentials that can help workers upskill quickly in response to technological changes and can help displaced workers figure out the right next steps as they transition to new occupations or industries.

To achieve the goal of developing a consensus definition of quality NDCs, NSC engaged with twelve states that had already established or were in the process of developing quality assurance criteria and processes for NDCs, and sought feedback from a range of national and state higher education and workforce development officials and local practitioners.

General Principles for Defining a Quality Non-Degree Credential

A quality credential provides individuals with the means to achieve their informed employment and educational goals. Individuals cannot achieve their employment goals without meeting the needs of employers.

  • The definition should support equitable credential attainment.
  • There must be valid and reliable, transparent evidence that the credential satisfies the criteria that constitute quality.
  • States should have discretion in making operational decisions such as determining whether to combine criteria in a composite rating, while still safeguarding quality.
  • States must have a public process to determine which credentials are quality, a process that ensures integrity and includes input from key stakeholders and an appeals process.

Definition and Criteria

A quality NDC is one that provides individuals with the means to equitably achieve their informed employment and educational goals. There must be valid, reliable, and transparent evidence that the credential satisfies the criteria that constitute quality.

Four criteria should be considered for a credential to be identified as a quality credential. NSC recommends the first three criteria be required and the fourth—stackability—be strongly preferred. Each criterion stands not alone but as part of a package.

Required Criteria:

  • There must be evidence of substantial job opportunities associated with the credential. Evidence must include quantitative data and direct communication with employers.
  • There must be transparent evidence of the competencies mastered by credential holders; competencies that align with expected job opportunities. A definition of a quality credential need not include any standard regarding length of time.
  • There must be evidence of the employment and earnings outcomes of individuals after obtaining the credential.

Strongly Preferred Criterion:

  • The credential would ideally stack to additional education or training. The gold standard is that credentials stack to additional education or training, but there is not a universal pathway to reach this standard so states agreed it should not be an overarching required criterion in defining a quality credential.


One key set of policy decisions facing states is determining which programs or policies will be covered by the criteria, the entities within the state that are responsible for developing and implementing the criteria, and the process by which the criteria will be established. Adopting criteria that can be applied across multiple programs and systems can support greater alignment between education, workforce, and human services investments.

States must also decide if they will adopt policies that seek to increase attainment of quality NDCs as part of their overall educational attainment and economic development strategies.  These include expanding state financial aid and non-tuition supportive services for credential seekers, as well as strengthening career counseling capacity.  States should also consider supporting the development of industry partnerships, expanding apprenticeship and other work-based learning models, investing in Integrated education and training programs, and supporting stackable credentials.

Since NSC’s quality NDC criteria call upon states to utilize labor market data to determine substantial job opportunities and to use credential and wage records to measure the employment and earnings outcomes of individuals after obtaining credentials, states need to develop policies to improve data, determine quality, and measure credential attainment. For instance, if education and career outcomes are not equitable, states can use these data to find the appropriate levers to fix inequities.

To learn more, consult National Skills Coalition’s publication, Expanding Opportunities: Defining Quality Non-Degree Credentials for States.