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As States Gear Up for Perkins Planning, Advocates Can Help Shed Light on Role of Adults in Postsecondary CTE

This blog post is published jointly with the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), and also appears on the CLASP blog. 

Skills advocates can inform and improve the upcoming planning process for Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs by analyzing information about the demographics and needs of adult postsecondary students. Incorporating this information can also help to ensure that planning is responsive to the needs of businesses, as many adult postsecondary students are already engaged in the labor market. 

Too often, conversations about postsecondary CTE assume that most participants are progressing directly from high school CTE classes into a postsecondary program. The data indicate otherwise. The average person in a postsecondary CTE classroom is an adult in their late 20s. He or she is more likely to be economically disadvantaged and more likely to be Black or Hispanic compared to the U.S. population overall. This population is likely to have work and family responsibilities that younger students may not.

Fully understanding who is in our CTE classrooms is especially relevant as states prepare to implement the newly reauthorized Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the Twenty-First Century Act, commonly known as Perkins V.  

State leaders should consider the economic, age, and racial makeup of their postsecondary CTE populations to ensure their programs are responding to the specific assets and needs that these learners bring to the table.

 What do the data tell us?

According to data from the U.S. Department of Education (ED), roughly 3.7 million postsecondary students participated in CTE courses in 2016-17.* They were primarily enrolled in community colleges and technical schools, which serve a disproportionate share of low-income students and students of color.

Among these students, 1.6 million, or 44 percent, were considered economically disadvantaged. This is a far higher share than the overall percentage of working-age Americans who live in poverty. Students of color were also disproportionately represented in CTE courses, with 21.2 percent identified as Hispanic and 13.2 percent identified as African American.  

ED’s Perkins Data Explorer unfortunately does not include age data. However, the National Center for Education Statistics’ 2015-2016 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study shows that postsecondary students whose field of study is CTE on average are 26.3 years old.**

It is important to note the average age difference among races/ethnicities:  African American students average 28.7 years of age, while Hispanics average 25.1 years.   More information is needed to understand the importance of these differences for policy and practice.

Specific details of this demographic data vary by state. But as state leaders and skills advocates begin the Perkins V state planning process, the above overview provides a jumping-off point for discussions about their postsecondary CTE populations.

 What can state leaders and advocates do?

  • Advocate for sufficient CTE resources that are allocated as appropriate given state needs.  At the national level, approximately 40 percent of Perkins funds are allocated to postsecondary CTE, but this level varies substantially across states. Advocates should encourage state policymakers to carefully consider ED’s question in the state plan template --“What is the right ‘split of funds’ between secondary and postsecondary programs given today’s environment?” -- and ensure that the state has designated appropriate resources to support postsecondary CTE learners. Stakeholders can also advocate for additional investments in CTE by state and federal policymakers.
  • Ensure that state Perkins V plans outline on-ramps for working adults to postsecondary CTE programs. Postsecondary programs can ensure access for working adults in a variety of ways. In some cases, even secondary CTE programs can partners with adult education providers, as in this example from El Paso, Texas.
  • Bring allies to the table to spark new ideas. Perkins V now requires states to include their adult education state director as part of the planning process. States can draw on the expertise of these adult education experts to ensure that their postsecondary CTE planning reflects the abilities, needs, and interests of adult learners.
  • Capitalize on resources available from national partners. The nonprofit National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity has an array of resources that help postsecondary CTE programs respond to the needs of students of color. Similarly, Advance CTE has published a number of materials on equity issues, including four briefs on how advocates can address the harmful history of tracking low-income students and students of color into low-quality CTE programs, and ensure that high-quality CTE programs of today are helping to achieve greater racial equity.
  • Draw on state and local data to inform policy and planning conversations. Advocates can use the Perkins Data Explorer tool to better understand their state’s CTE student demographics and identify areas for further exploration or study. Other local data sources can help to flesh out this picture and illuminate how the system may be excelling or struggling to reach a particular population.

Ultimately, state Perkins V planning should consider the characteristics of older postsecondary CTE students who may have more significant work and family responsibilities than their younger peers. Policies that mistakenly assume most students come straight from high school without these responsibilities will not incent practice that best serve all students.


*Unless otherwise noted, statistics in this post reflect CLASP’s analysis of information from the Perkins Data Explorer.

** CLASP analysis of U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:16).

Posted In: Adult Basic Education, Career and Technical Education
Better Together: How adult ed/CTE collaborations benefit workers and businesses

Advocates can create new upskilling opportunities, meet local business needs, and streamline training costs by launching partnerships between adult education organizations and Career and Technical Education (CTE) providers. That’s the message of National Skills Coalition’s new policy brief, Better Together.

The brief highlights an example from the border city of El Paso, Texas. Local leaders at the Socorro Independent School District (ISD) have capitalized on opportunities under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) to improve alignment between the adult education and CTE systems. Their work has been supported by officials from the Texas Workforce Commission’s Adult Education and Literacy program (AEL). 

On the ground in Texas: What one adult ed/CTE partnership looks like

The story begins in 2015, when Socorro ISD adult education leadership reached out to their peers in the district’s CTE program with an idea. Could the district’s adult education program use its own funds to pay high school CTE teachers to instruct adult learners in the evenings?

The idea was a hit. Soon, the providers had developed a plan for offering Integrated Education and Training (IET) programs in four high-demand careers. The CTE partners would provide technical instruction, classroom space, and oversee the use of laboratories and equipment. The adult education partners would fund instructional costs, pay for materials and textbooks, and ensure that the foundational-skills component of coursework was well integrated with the occupational training. From the state level, broad, flexible policy guidance from AEL gave the Socorro partners freedom and confidence in pursuing their collaboration.

Today, the program regularly exceeds its state targets for IET enrollment. In the most recent year, Socorro served 184 adult learners – more than double their target of 76 individuals. Participants can pursue training in security services; heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC); computer repair and maintenance; or a pre-apprenticeship electrician program.

Creative partnerships can seed IET innovation

IET is a proven model allows adults with reading, math, or English language skill gaps to build their foundational skills while simultaneously training for a specific occupation or industry. The model was first developed in Washington State, where it is known as I-BEST, and was formalized as a federal requirement in the 2014 WIOA legislation.

As the Socorro example shows, local communities can think creatively about how to implement IET programs. Looking beyond the WIOA-funded adult education provider world to collaborate with CTE partners can enable programs to offer training in occupations that require laboratory equipment or other resources that would be too expensive to purchase on their own. Similarly, partnering with CTE can make it easier to identify and contract with instructors who have industry experience and strong employer relationships.

In Texas, state leaders and other advocates have supported the development and implementation of IET models through the Accelerate Texas initiative, which pre-dated the federal WIOA legislation. Texas officials have also provided local adult education programs such as Socorro with opportunities to receive peer technical assistance and mentoring on topics such as IET and career pathways.

State and federal policies can facilitate strong partnerships

Skills advocates who are interested in replicating the Socorro example in their own states and localities can advocate for policies that will support such partnerships. For example:

  • Provide state policy guidance and technical assistance to spark ideas while allowing flexibility for local innovation. Guidance can detail a list of ways (beyond WIOA) that adult education partners can pay for IET; provide a roadmap for how adult ed providers can establish a Memorandum of Understanding with their local high school or postsecondary CTE program partners; explain how adult ed/CTE collaboration can ensure that IET programs are truly responsive to local business needs, and more.
  • Capitalize on federal policy mandates under WIOA and the Perkins Act to bring partners together to develop a shared strategic vision. States will be required to submit their WIOA and Perkins plans on a similar timeline in Spring 2020, making it easy for state officials to align planning processes and conversations.
  • Explore opportunities for how TANF and SNAP E&T can support upskilling. These key safety net programs are important tools for serving adults with foundational skills gaps. States can consider using some of these funds – as Texas does with TANF -- to support IET programs or similar efforts that will help adults transition off of public benefits.


Check out the full Better Together brief to learn more. Don’t forget about NSC’s prior publications, the IET 50-state Scan and State Policy Toolkit, for examples of state policies that go above and beyond WIOA requirements, and model language for drafting a policy in your state.

Posted In: Adult Basic Education, Career and Technical Education, Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act Implementation, Texas
House Democrats introduce HEA legislation that would extend Pell grants to short-term programs and increase data transparency

On July 24, 2018, House Education and Workforce Committee Ranking Member, Bobby Scott (D-VA), along with several House Democrats, announced the roll-out of the Aim Higher Act (H.R. 6543)—a comprehensive bill that would reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA) for the first time since 2008 if signed into the law. According to the bill’s sponsors, H.R. 6543 consists of proposals contained in Aim Higher, the House Democratic legislative campaign launched in May 2017, as well as amendments offered by Committee Democrats during the December 2017 markup of the PROSPER Act (H.R. 4508)—a controversial HEA re-write introduced by House Republicans late last year.

Many of the provisions in the Aim Higher Act embody long-standing priorities of House Democrats—including access to free community college, increased Pell grant funding, strict oversight of proprietary institutions, and the expansion of support services for underserved students, including DACA recipients and foster and homeless youth. The bill has a number of provisions that contradict those contained in the PROSPER Act—demonstrating that House Republicans and Democrats have been unable to build consensus around modernizing higher education policy.

Bipartisan progress on HEA has also stalled in the Senate. Despite a series of promising hearings on higher education reform this year, Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander announced that his Committee will not produce legislation to reauthorize HEA this Congress. Nonetheless, the Aim Higher Act provides insight into the postsecondary priorities of House Democrats—which helps set the stage for HEA reauthorization debate in the 116th Congress.

Key elements of the Aim Higher Act include:

Extending federal financial aid to short-term programs – The Aim Higher Act contains language from the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act—a comprehensive bill introduced by House and Senate Democrats this Congress; which aims to make a number of changes to the funding and accessibility of Pell grants.

This language would extend Pell grants to academic or job training courses that are at least 150 clock hours of instruction time over a period of at least 8 weeks; so long as the program is part of a career pathway, and results in an industry-recognized credential. Under current law, students are only eligible to receive Pell grants if they are enrolled in a program of study that requires 600 clock hours over a minimum of 15 weeks. This long-standing policy makes federal financial aid inaccessible to students who may be looking to upskill through high-quality, short-term programs—an issue that has been consistently raised by National Skills Coalition (NSC).

The PROSPER Act made similar changes to Pell grant eligibility—however, students would only have access to Pell grants if they were enrolled in a program that was at least 300 clock hours of instruction over a minimum of 10 weeks. Additionally, the PROSPER Act lacks important quality assurance provisions—missing opportunities to engage business and industry leaders in the oversight of short-term programs and set clear guidelines for institutions looking to offer these courses.

NSC has long advocated for students attending short-term programs of high quality to have access to Pell grant programs; a concept that Republicans and Democrats have now both supported in various pieces of legislation, including the bipartisan JOBS Act—introduced by Senators Kaine (D-VA) and Portman (R-OH) last year—the PROSPER ACT, and most recently the Aim Higher Act.

Improving postsecondary data transparency – Due to existing legal restrictions on the collection and dissemination of postsecondary data, students, parents and policymakers do not have a full picture of the quality of higher education programs. Currently, postsecondary institutions are required to report information to the Department of Education through multiple surveys rather than sharing consistent student level data; a practice that is both burdensome and ineffective. Additionally, the federal government only requires colleges to report data on students receiving Title IV financial aid—leaving the public without a clear picture of program outcomes.

The Aim Higher Act addresses this issue by overturning the 2008 student unit record ban and requiring the development of a secure system, housed by the Department of Education, that would evaluate program-level data. This language is similar to that of the College Transparency Act—a bipartisan, bicameral bill led by Senators Hatch (R-UT) and Warren (D-MA) and Representatives Polis (D-CO) and Mitchell (R-MI)—that aims to equip students with the data they need to make informed decisions about their futures. NSC supports the College Transparency Act and is encouraged by the inclusion of similar language in the Aim Higher Act.

The PROSPER Act also took steps to increase the transparency of postsecondary education data by mandating the creation of a college dashboard website. While this public-facing website would include valuable, institution-level information such as student to faculty ratio and the median earnings of students who obtained a certificate or degree both in the 5th and 10th years following their graduation, the student unit record ban would be kept in place—meaning no new data would be captured. While the dashboard acknowledges the importance of data transparency, it leaves students and their families without a complete picture of what to expect from various institutions.

Increasing support services for high-need students – National Skills Coalition has been a vocal advocate for support services for adult and other non-traditional students enrolled in higher education. The majority of postsecondary students today have at least one characteristic of a non-traditional student—which can include working full or part-time while attending school, parenting a dependent child, or entering college for the first time after spending years in the workforce.  These students often have different needs than first-time, full-time college students between the ages of 18-23 who are living on campus while attending classes.

To help aid non-traditional students, the Aim Higher Act establishes a $150 million grant program for states to establish or expand initiatives that help vulnerable populations, such as foster and homeless youth, successfully transition to college. Grantees would also be required to award funding to institutions looking to provide wrap around services to these students, such as housing, childcare, and transportation, once they enroll in college.

NSC supported a similar proposal introduced in the Senate this Congress, known as the Gateway to Careers Act. Led by Senator Hassan (D-NH) this measure would support career pathways for nontraditional students through dedicated federal grant funding. The grants, which would be administered by the U.S Department of Education in consultation with the U.S Department of Labor, would be awarded on a competitive basis to institutions that are working in partnership to serve students experiencing barriers to postsecondary access and completion. Career pathways, which combine access to career counseling, direct support services—such as childcare and transportation—and basic skills instruction, lead students to the skills and credentials they need to persist and succeed in today’s economy.

In addition to this new grant program, the Aim Higher Act increases funding for existing student support programs, including:

  • The Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program (CCAMPIS)
    • The Aim Higher Act would increase funding for CCAMPIS, a program that provides campus-based child care services to low-income parents, from $16 million per year to $67 million (a $51 million increase).
    • The PROSPER Act preserved CCAMPIS but did not provide additional funding for the program. 
    • The Federal TRIO Programs (TRIO)
      • TRIO programs are designed to provide services to individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. TRIO includes eight different programs targeted to assist low-income individuals, first generation college students, and individuals with disabilities—so that they can progress through the academic pipeline from middle school to postbaccalaureate programs. The Aim Higher Act increases funding for TRIO programs by $110 million—which would bring total funding to $1.01 billion.
      • The PROSPER Act cut funding levels for TRIO by $50 million.
      • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG)
        • SEOG is a federal assistance grant reserved for college students with the greatest need—roughly 81% of students who receive SEOG come from families earning less than $30,000 per year.
        • The Aim Higher Act phases out the current SEOG allocation formula and replaces it with one that would base the amount of funding on the level of unmet need at an institution as well as the percentage of low-income students they enroll; rather than how long the institution has participated in the program. The Aim Higher Act also creates a pilot program that allows institutions to use up to 5% of their FSEOG funds to provide emergency grants to students.
        • Under the PROSPER Act, SEOG would have been eliminated.
        • Federal Work Study (FWS) program
          • The bill would also replace the current FWS grant allocation formula with the one proposed for SEOG—and would include a “bonus allocation” for institutions that have strong outcomes for serving and graduating Pell recipients. The Aim Higher Act would also double funding for FWS.
          • FWS also received an increase in funding under the PROSPER Act, although the current funding formula would stay in place. PROSPER also aimed to give students participating in FWS more flexibility to work in the private sector during their time in school.
          • Pell Grant Program
            • The Aim Higher Act extends financial aid access to those who have historically been unable to qualify for assistance, including undocumented students who are eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) and individuals who were previously or are currently incarcerated.
            • The bill would also increase the maximum Pell award by $500 each year and permanently index the grants for inflation. Additionally, students would be able to access Pell grants for fourteen semesters instead of the current twelve.

Other notable elements of the Aim Higher Act include:

Establishing a federal-state partnership to finance free community college – One of the hallmarks of the Aim Higher Act is the establishment of a federal-state partnership that would cover the cost of community college for students across the United States. States would be able to opt into a partnership with the federal government, through which they would receive federal funding, so long as they committed to providing all students with two years of community college free of cost—and continued to invest in education to reduce the financial burden on students and families.

The concept of free community college dates back to “America’s College Promise”—a plan announced by President Obama in 2015 that would tuition to community college students who maintain a grade-point average of 2.5 or better, and who graduate within two years. Although America’s College Promise was not supported at the federal level while President Obama was in office, a number of states have continued or adopted their own free tuition programs; including Tennessee, Oregon, Rhode Island and California.

Simplification of the federal student loan system – The Aim Higher Act would provide students with two repayment options for their student loans: a fixed repayment plan, or an income-based repayment plan. Borrowers who are more than 120 days delinquent will automatically be enrolled in an income-based repayment plan.

A step toward Competency Based Education (CBE) – The Aim Higher Act green lights a demonstration project that allows participating CBE programs to request flexibility from some regulatory requirements seen as barriers to implementation. In exchange, annual evaluations of CBE programs are required. An institution’s accrediting agency is also required to set standards specific to CBE.

As of today, the Aim Higher Act has not yet been scored by CBO. National Skills Coalition looks forward to continuing to work with Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle as move closer to enacting higher education legislation that works for today’s students.

Posted In: Adult Basic Education, Career and Technical Education, Federal Funding, Higher Education Access
Senate Subcommittee moves forward bipartisan spending bill to fund workforce and education programs

Earlier today, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) moved forward a bipartisan funding bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2019. Senate appropriators were working with an allocation of $2.2 billion more in funding than the subcommittee had in FY 2018, unlike the House process for which appropriators had level funding.

The Senate bill is not yet available online, but a committee summary describes level funding for state formula grants under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, increased funding for apprenticeship programs ($15 million more than in FY2018, up to $160 million) and Adult Education state grants ($642 million, $25 million more than in FY 2018) and an increase to the maximum Pell award of $100, bringing the max to $6,195. The Senate bill would level fund Career and Technical Education programs; the House version would increase funding by $115 million over FY 2018 levels.  Earlier this week, a group of bipartisan members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee introduced a reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act that advanced through committee and is expected to be considered on the floor in the coming weeks.

The full Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to mark-up the bill on Thursday, June 28th. The House appropriations process has stalled this week after the full Appropriations Committee mark-up of the House Labor-HHS bill was rescheduled, for a second time. The House process continues to be more partisan than that in the Senate, in part because of cuts required – including to WIOA Title III – to offset increases in other programming – including increases for National Institute of Health and an opioid response – under the subcommittee’s jurisdiction because the House subcommittee did not receive an increase in their allocation for FY 2019.

Despite the continued negotiations around the House bill, the House committee report included important recognition of the role of partnerships between industry, the workforce system, educators, and community organizations. In the report, the committee recognized the role of these industry partnerships in closing the skill gap, meeting employer needs and expanding apprenticeship across the country.

Once the both chambers advance their bills, Senate and House appropriators will meet to agree on final funding levels. The final spending on workforce and education programs is likely to be close to those in the Senate version of the bill.

Posted In: Career and Technical Education, Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act
Senate introduces highly anticipated Perkins Act legislation

Update: On Wednesday, July 31, President Trump signed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act into law.


Update: On Monday, July 23rd, the Senate unanimously approved the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (S. 3217)—a bipartisan Perkins Act reauthorization bill passed by the Senate HELP Committee last month. Given consistent efforts by the House to reauthorize the Perkins Act over the last few years, educators, employers and workforce development stakeholders have been eagerly anticipating action in the Senate.

In light of this new development, the House is expected to take up S. 3217 before the end of the 115th Congress—which would mark the first reauthorization of the Perkins Act since 2006. National Skills Coalition is encouraged by these developments and looks forward to continuing to work with legislators and stakeholders to strengthen federal CTE legislation.


On Sunday, June 24th, Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) along with Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act—a bipartisan bill that aims to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, also known as the Perkins Act. The Perkins Act is the primary federal law supporting career and technical education (CTE), providing approximately $1.2 billion per year for secondary and postsecondary programs.

Since 2016, the House has passed two Perkins Act reauthorization bills with strong bipartisan approval—leaving further action in the hands of the Senate.  National Skills Coalition (NSC) supported both House-passed bills and is encouraged by impending progress in the Senate.

Similarities between House and Senate Perkins Act reauthorization proposals

  • Improve alignment between federal workforce policy and CTE policy
    • Under current law, Governors must submit a state Perkins Act plan every six years. Both the House-passed Perkins reauthorization bill and the Senate’s recent proposal would reduce the period covered by the state plan from six years to four years, to bring it into alignment with the planning period for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, and would allow states to submit a combined plan once every four year that covers both WIOA and Perkins Act programs.

  • Support the use of career pathways to drive student achievement
    • Career pathways, as defined by WIOA, are a combination of rigorous and high-quality education, training and support services that help individuals enter or advance in a specific occupation and obtain both a secondary diploma and at least one recognized postsecondary credential. The House and Senate proposals aim to extend the use of career pathways to CTE students by: carrying over the WIOA definition of career pathways, encouraging coordination between CTE providers and State workforce boards when developing career pathways and requiring recipients of Perkins Act funds to align their programs with existing career pathways if applicable.

  • Further the use of sector partnerships to strengthen worker pipelines
    • Sector partnerships—which are formed when multiple employers in an industry choose to collaborate with a range of other stakeholder, including academic institutions, to develop a pipeline of skilled workers—are a required workforce development practice under WIOA. The House and Senate bills encourage the use of sector partnerships to strengthen CTE programs by recommending that recipients of Perkins Act funds work with these partnerships to align program curriculum with local skill demands.

  • Expand work-based learning models
    • Work-based learning—which can include apprenticeships, on-the-job training, internships and other strategies—has been one of the main focuses of federal workforce policy in recent years. Although many Perkins Act-programs voluntarily incorporate work-based learning as part of their curriculum, current law does not direct administrators to ensure that CTE students have some form of work experience. Under the House and Senate proposals, state and local recipients of Perkins funds are required to submit a description of the work-based learning opportunities that will be provided to CTE students.

Notable differences between House and Senate proposals

  • Roll back of key performance indicators

    • Both the House and Senate Perkins Act bills require states to measure the performance of CTE students at both the secondary and postsecondary levels, to help track the effectiveness of existing Perkins Act programs. State leaders must consider the following performance indicators for students at the secondary level: the percentage of students who graduate high school, attainment of State academic standards adopted under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and the percentage of students who are enrolled in postsecondary education or advanced training, military service or employment two quarters after the completion of their secondary education.
    • At the postsecondary level, both the House and Senate bills require states to consider: the percentage of students who remain enrolled in postsecondary education or advanced training, enter military service or achieve employment after the second quarter of program completion, those who receive a recognized postsecondary credential within one year of program completion and the percentage of students enrolled in CTE programs that lead to non-traditional fields.
    • Additionally, the House-passed reauthorization bill would mandate the use of median earnings of postsecondary CTE students, two quarters after program completion, as a means to determine program quality. However, the Senate’s proposal removes that requirement—weakening the chances of continuous CTE program improvement. 

  • Increased investment in CTE programs through higher authorization levels

    • Both the House and Senate proposals aim to underline the importance of CTE programs by authorizing increased appropriation levels over five years. The House-passed reauthorization bill raises funding levels from $1.13 billion in FY 2018 to $1.21 billion in FY 2023—while the Senate proposal would start funding at $1.22 billion in FY 2019 and increase it to $1.32 billion in FY 2024. These changes are in line with recent efforts to boost Perkins Act funding, including an increase of $75 million for CTE state grants in the FY 2018 omnibus and a timely proposal put forth by the House Appropriations Labor-HHS Subcommittee that would provide an additional $115 million to CTE in FY 2019 if signed into law. NSC is encouraged by this reversal of historic funding cuts to Perkins Act programs.

  • Heightened involvement of local stakeholders in development of state plan

    • Upon review of both House and Senate reauthorization proposals, it is clear that policymakers are committed to ensuring the involvement of local stakeholders in the development of CTE state plans. Notably, both proposals call for recipients of Perkins Act funds to develop their state plans in consultation with teachers, faculty, employers, labor organizations, workforce development boards, community-based organizations, individuals with disabilities, parents, students, the Governor of the state and the heads of other state agencies.
    • However, while the House bill leaves the state plan development and public comment process largely in the hands of eligible agencies, the Senate proposal puts a more formal process in place for the review and comment of state plans—specifically pertaining to performance indicators. Eligible agencies must make state plan performance benchmarks available for public consideration at least 60 days prior to submission of a state plan to the Department of Education Secretary. All comments must be included in the final state plan—and eligible agencies must respond to each comment in writing. If performance indicators are adjusted at any point during the four-year state plan period, this formal review and comment process must take place again.

  • Newly negotiated Secretarial authority provisions

    • In the House-passed Perkins reauthorization bill, the Secretary of Education is prohibited from establishing curriculum or other instructional content that eligible agencies must adapt in order to continue to receive funding under the Perkins Act. Additionally, while the Secretary would be authorized to disapprove a state’s CTE plan, he or she would not have the power to withhold Perkins Act funding from a state under any circumstance.
    • In an attempt to achieve bipartisan consensus, the Senate proposal strikes a notable balance in the area of Secretarial authority. While the Secretary cannot require states to have their academic standards approved by the federal government or deny states who do not apply for Perkins Act funding assistance under any other Department of Education program, he or she is permitted to withhold federal funding from states who do not meet 90 percent of their performance benchmarks for two consecutive years.

Overall, NSC applauds the efforts of both the House and Senate to modernize the Perkins Act, and looks forward to continuing to work with members on both sides of the aisle as they finalize this timely reauthorization bill.

Posted In: Career and Technical Education
Administration reorganization would eliminate critical workforce and education programs and expand ineffective work requirements

Earlier today, the Trump Administration released a proposal to restructure the federal government that includes merging many of the functions currently handled by the Departments of Labor and Education into a single Department of Education and the Workforce. The proposal would also establish a standing Council on Public Assistance tasked in part with administering a “uniform work requirements” policy across several federal programs.

This proposal is unlikely to gain traction in Congress, as legislators have rejected earlier calls by the administration to both cut funding for critical workforce and education programming and to expand ineffective work requirements. However, it reflects the continued push from the administration to eliminate vital workforce and education programming and to implement detrimental and ineffective work requirements across safety net programs.

National Skills Coalition strongly opposes these efforts to expand work requirements, which have demonstrated little impact in increasing employment or reducing poverty but have led to reduced access to critical income supports for millions of low-income workers and their families. We also strongly oppose efforts to eliminate or consolidate federal workforce and education programs that have helped U.S. businesses and workers obtain the skills and credentials needed to succeed in today’s economy. We look forward to working with the Administration and Congressional leaders to support constructive and meaningful policies that invest in our nation’s greatest asset – our workforce.

Read a statement on the reorganization from NSC CEO Andy Van Kleunen here.

Proposed Changes to Departments of Labor and Education

The proposal would merge the Departments of Labor and Education into the Department of Education and the Workforce, explicitly eliminating “overlapping” programming and funding sources.

The newly established Department of Education and the Workforce would be comprised of four subagencies:

The K-12 agency would move administration of the K-12 system from the Department of Education largely in the same form they are now. This agency would include the Offices of Elementary and Secondary Education and English Language Acquisition.

The American Workforce and Higher Education Administration would merge the functions currently administered by DOL’s Employment and Training Administration, Women’s Bureau, Veterans’ Employment & Training Services and Office of Disability Employment Policy with Ed’s Office of Postsecondary Education and Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education. Continuing the administration’s focus on apprenticeship, the proposal would also task this sub-agency with administering an Apprenticeship and Impact Fund. Under the proposal, this agency would be broken in to a series of “components”:

  • Higher Education
  • Disability Employment
  • Adult Workforce Development
  • Youth Workforce Development
  • Veterans Employment Office

The Enforcement Agency would merge DOL’s current enforcement agencies including Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program, Office of Labor-Management Standards, Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs and Wage & Hour Division with Ed’s Office of Civil Rights. Justification for this proposal relies on the fact that these divisions represent half of DOL’s workforce. 

The Research, Evaluation and Administration Agency would merge current sub-agencies with evaluation and research components, including Ed’s Institute with Education Sciences. The proposal would move the Bureau of Labor Statistics to the Department of Commerce.

While National Skills Coalition agrees that federal workforce, education, and public assistance programs could be better aligned, we do not believe that this goal is furthered through wholesale consolidation and cuts to these programs.  Congress has taken significant action to strengthen coordination of federal investments – most notably through the bipartisan passage of the the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act in 2014 – and states and other stakeholders have undertaken major updates to their workforce development strategies and policies to reflect this greater emphasis on alignment. The proposed reorganization provides limited details on funding levels for programs that would be retained and provides limited guidance on how the administration would be better positioned to coordinate programs and activities through the proposed consolidation process.

The administration has called  for elimination of programming in their Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 and 2019 budget requests and recent Executive Orders including those on apprenticeship and  safety net programs. Funding for workforce and education is still far below historic levels and below the level of investment necessary to meet worker need or business demand, but Congress has largely rejected the administration’s attempts to cut these programs in the last two years and has actually increased funding for many workforce and education programs, reflecting the strong bipartisan support for these investments.

Proposed Changes to Safety Net Programming

The proposal would also consolidate U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), the current administrator of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Employment & Training (E&T) program, into the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Administration for Children and Families (ACF), the current Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) administrator. The proposal would also create a new Council on Public Assistance to administer work requirement policy across a range of safety net programs, including SNAP, TANF and Medicaid.

This proposal continues the administration’s push for expanded work requirements in a number of federal policies, consistent with an Executive Order the President signed in April and proposals in both the FY 2018 and 2019 Presidential Budget Requests to reduce funding for these programs. The Senate Agriculture Committee rejected an expansion of SNAP work requirements in their bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Farm Bill, marked up just last week. While the House Farm bill would expand work requirements, it seems unlikely that any final Farm Bill will reflect this approach.

Posted In: Career and Technical Education, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, SNAP Employment and Training
With tight subcommittee allocation, House Labor-HHS bill includes cuts to workforce programs coupled with boost for CTE

Last week, the House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) Subcommittee released its draft of the Fiscal Year 2019 (FY 2019) Labor-Health and Human Services-Education appropriations bill. Despite an increased budget cap for FY 2019 agreed to earlier this year as part of a two-year, bipartisan budget agreement, the FY 2019 House Labor-HHS allocation was essentially the same as the FY 2018 allocation. This level allocation means increases to some programs under the bill, including to Perkins Career and Technical Education state grants and apprenticeship funding for the administration’s new Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Program but also more significant increases for programs under the National Institute of Health and Health and Human Services, are offset by cuts to other workforce and education programs.

Department of Labor

Funding for the Department of Labor overall is decreased by $88.1 million, with $216 million in cuts coming to programs under the Employment and Training Administration. 

Funding for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) state formula grants would be the same as FY 2018 levels, $2.8 billion – still a 40 percent cut since 2001 and below authorized levels. Wagner-Peyser Employment Service grants would be cut by almost $81 million below FY 2018 levels to $585,788,000. The bill would also cut more than $20 million in funding from the Dislocated Worker National Reserve for FY 2019 and rescind $200 million appropriated to the program for FY 2018.

The bill would fund Workforce Data Quality Initiative grants at the same levels as FY 2018, $6 million.

The bill would provide a $5 million increase in funding for apprenticeship opportunities. Unlike FY 2016, 2017 and 2018 appropriations, the House bill would not restrict this funding to expand only registered opportunities. This change would allow DOL to use funds to support new industry recognized apprenticeships, consistent with expansion called for in the President’s June 2017 Executive Order.

Department of Education

Under the House bill, Department of Education funding would increase by $43 million over FY 2018 levels. Perkins Career and Technical Education State Grants would be funded at almost $115 million more than FY 2018 levels. This is consistent with the administration’s focus on CTE as an important component of their job creation agenda and bipartisan Congressional efforts to reauthorize the current legislation authorizing the program.

Adult Education and Family Literacy State Grants would be funded at FY 2018 levels and the bill would maintain the maximum Pell award at $6,095.

What’s Next

Aided by increased spending levels agreed to in the bipartisan budget agreement, both the House and Senate are advancing the appropriations process at a faster pace than last year. Members are motivated to complete the process with relatively regular order before mid-term elections in the fall and because of threats from the White House to veto omnibus funding legislation or continuing resolutions.

The full House Appropriations committee is expected to mark up the bill Tuesday, June 26th where it will likely advance on a party-line vote, with Democrats registering continued opposition to the subcommittee allocation and cuts required to offset increases to some programs above FY 2018 levels. In the Senate, the Labor-HHS allocation was slightly higher than in FY 2018 and the process continues to be slightly more bipartisan. The Senate Labor-HHS subcommittee is expected to mark up their bill (also) on June 26th. The Senate Labor-HHS bill has not yet been released. It is likely to include level funding for most workforce and education programs and be closer to the final funding levels than the more partisan House bill.

Through the Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce, NSC was one of more than 35 national organizations to send a letter urging members of the subcommittee to support vital investments in workforce and education programs. NSC will continue to advocate for these investments as the House and Senate continue the appropriations process.



FY 2018 Omnibus

FY 2019 House Labor-HHS Bill

Difference FY 2017 – FY 2018 House Bill

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








Senior Community Service Employment Program




Department of Education


Career and Technical Education State Grants




Adult Education and Family Literacy State Grants





Posted In: Career and Technical Education, Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce
National Skills Coalition offers Perkins Act recommendations to Senate HELP Committee, prior to markup

Since the House of Representatives voted to pass a bipartisan, comprehensive Perkins Act reauthorization bill in both 2016 and 2017, all eyes have been on the Senate HELP Committee to follow suit. The Perkins Act, which has not been reauthorized since 2006, is the main federal investment in both secondary and postsecondary career and technical education (CTE) programs. Perkins Act-programs are a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to effectively equipping individuals to fill jobs in high-demand industries in need of workers—especially those at the middle-skill level. As a result, workforce development stakeholders, including employers, educators and policymakers, have remained steadfast in calling for action on the Perkins Act since it became eligible for reauthorization in 2010.

This week, the Senate HELP Committee provided notice that they plan to consider a Perkins Act reauthorization bill on Wednesday, June 20th. In light of this recent development, National Skills Coalition submitted a set of recommendations to Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-SC) and Ranking Member Murray (D-WA), proposing ways to make the Act work better for students and employers in today’s economy. These recommendations urged the Committee to:

Connect CTE to Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) state workforce strategies

  • Under WIOA, states must submit a four-year plan to the Secretary of Labor outlining their workforce development strategy. Rather than requiring states to submit a separate plan for Perkins-Act programs, NSC recommends better aligning these complementary strategies through the use of unified or combined state plans.

Align CTE performance requirements with WIOA common indicators

  • A challenge that has persisted when it comes to streamlining federal education and workforce programs is an overall lack of common performance metrics. To address this issue, WIOA aimed to establish uniform indicators of success across core programs. NSC urges the Committee to apply these measures to postsecondary Perkins Act-funded programs.

Continue to encourage the development and implementation of sector partnerships across programs

  • WIOA was the first piece of federal legislation to require the use of industry or sector partnerships—which are formed when multiple employers in an industry choose to collaborate with other stakeholders to develop skilled worker pipelines—as a strategy for workforce development. CTE program administrators would serve as valuable sector partnership participants, given their dedication to increasing access to high-quality training for students. Therefore, NSC encourages the Committee to dedicate resources for sector partnership alignment across Perkins Act and WIOA programs.

Support the use of career pathways

  • A career pathway, as defined in WIOA, is a combination of classroom instruction, training and support services which help student persist and succeed in their programs of study. To ensure these comprehensive learning models continue to help students thrive, NSC maintains that Perkins Act programs should meet the definition of career pathways under WIOA and should be developed in partnership with local workforce boards.

Expand and support work-based learning models

  • Work-based learning—which can include apprenticeships, on-the-job training and internships—has been a main focus of federal workforce policy in recent years. Currently, CTE administrators are not required to ensure that students have access to work-based learning as part of their curriculum. NSC recommends providing funding for Perkins Act-programs to incorporate work-based learning strategies, which can better prepare students for the labor market.

NSC is grateful to the HELP Committee for their work to ensure our nation’s federal education and labor policies work for all students—and looks forward to continuing to provide input throughout the Perkins Act reauthorization process.

Posted In: Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Career and Technical Education

Gov. of Iowa calls for expansion of Pell grants to short term certificates

  ·   By Nicky Lauricella Coolberth
Gov. of Iowa calls for expansion of Pell grants to short term certificates

Today, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds called for the expansion of Pell grants to cover more short-term certificates in high-demand fields saying, “Iowans are eager for life-changing opportunities and employers want to hire them for good jobs that require postsecondary education or training, but less than a B.A.”   

NSC CEO Andy Van Kleunen joined Governor Reynolds along with leaders from Iowa community colleges, employers, and students for a press conference this morning. Andy praised Iowa’s Innovative GAP Tuition program, calling it a model for other states and the nation because it picks up where federal financial aid leaves off and enables students to attend short-term community college programs that lead to in-demand credentials. 

Andy also acknowledged Iowa’s Skills2Compete Coalition led by Central Iowa Works, United Way of Central Iowa and Kirkwood Community College for championing workforce and education programs (like GAP) that are responsive to the needs of today’s students and industries.

“Washington really needs to catch up to Iowa," Andy said. "Congress could extend Pell grants to people taking short-term programs by modernizing the Higher Education Act or by simply passing bipartisan Senate legislation – the JOBS Act – that would end Pell’s bias against students taking short term training."

To watch the press conference, click here. And read Andy's remarks here.

Andy also appeared on WHO’s News Radio 1040 in Des Moines this morning and spoke with host Jeff Angelo about how expanding Pell to short term programs would help the trades and growing industries in Iowa and across the country. You can listen to his radio interview here – by tuning in at the 19 minute mark.

The importance of expanding Pell to people seeking short term certificates was covered in outlets across Iowa, including Radio Iowa, North Iowa Today, Sioux City Journal, Southwest Iowa News, and St. Joseph News Press

Click here to see a joint press release from NSC and the Governor’s office.

Posted In: Career and Technical Education, Higher Education Access, Iowa
NSC calls for the modernization of the federal Pell grant program in new publication

In an economy where more than 80 percent of all jobs require education or training beyond high school and 50 percent of jobs can be classified as “middle-skill”—meaning they require more than a high school diploma but not a four-year degree—the demand for high-quality, short-term credentials is greater than ever.

Due to this growing trend, more and more individuals are enrolling in postsecondary education with a different set of objectives than first-time, full-time students between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five. In fact, an increasing number of students are pursuing higher education while balancing work and family obligations for the explicit purpose of finding success in the labor market. For these reasons, credentials achieved through short-term programs—which can include industry-recognized credentials or certifications, licenses and certificates—make up 24 percent of all postsecondary awards in the U.S. today.

Despite the growing utility of certificates for both individuals and employers in need of skilled workers, students who choose to enroll in short-term programs are typically ineligible for federal financial aid. Current law stipulates that students can only receive a federal Pell grant if they enroll in a program of study that is at least 600 clock hours of instruction over fifteen weeks and results in the attainment of academic credit. Because of this policy, students who wish to enroll in a short-term or noncredit program must either pay out of pocket to cover their costs or commit to an academic program that meets the Pell grant length requirements—even if it will not lead them to success in their chosen field.

In a new publication, National Skills Coalition calls for the modernization of our federal financial aid system so that it can truly meet the needs of today’s students and employers. The paper makes the case for this policy change by laying out the evolution of the postsecondary landscape, highlighting favorable outcomes of short-term programs, underscoring the role of sector partnerships in bridging the existing financial aid gap and highlighting the efforts of two states—Iowa and Virginia—to enroll students in programs that will lead to jobs in in-demand industries.

The publication culminates in a set of policy recommendations for extending Pell grant eligibility to high-quality, short-term programs that are at least 150 clock hours of instruction over 8 weeks, so long as they meet a set of quality assurance provisions. These provisions include: requiring eligible programs to lead to a credential that aligns with local or regional demand and has been verified by employers; mandating that eligible programs are approved by a state educational agency or similar entity and encouraging institutions to articulate short-term credentials with longer-term career pathways. It also proposes the adoption of a Community College Compact—a federal policy that would better support community and technical colleges as they work to equip students with the skills they need to succeed.

NSC’s new publication is consistent with the proposals highlighted in our Skills for Good Jobs Agenda—which was released in 2016 and updated earlier this year.

Posted In: Career and Technical Education
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