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Twelve community and technical college systems band together to call on Congress to adopt a job-driven Community College Compact for today’s students

Today, education leaders from twelve community and technical college systems across the country—including those in Arkansas, Connecticut, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington—sent letters to federal policymakers, urging them to make higher education policy more responsive to the needs of today’s students.

The letters, which were sent to Senate HELP Committee and House Education and Labor Committee leadership, call for the adoption of a job-driven Community College Compact; a set of postsecondary policy proposals developed by National Skills Coalition (NSC) and vetted by a range of stakeholders, including academic institutions, employers, community-based organizations and workforce development boards. If adopted by Congress, these policies would increase access to high-quality education and training programs, crucial support services and transparent information regarding postsecondary programs for students of all ages and backgrounds. Likely 2020 voters and business leaders also strongly support the Compact policies, as demonstrated by recent polling conducted by ALG Research on behalf of NSC.

Community and technical college leaders are voicing their shared support for the Community College Compact in light of the impending reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). The HEA, which is the most comprehensive federal law governing postsecondary institutions and programs, has been eligible for reauthorization by Congress since 2008. Senate HELP Committee Chairman, Lamar Alexander, and Ranking Member, Patty Murray, as well as House Education and Labor Committee Chairman, Bobby Scott, and Ranking Member, Virginia Foxx, have expressed interest in reauthorizing this sweeping legislation before the end of this Congress. Additionally, the White House has named the modernization of the Higher Education Act as one of its top priorities.

The letters urge federal policymakers to consider the following policy changes:

Eliminate the bias against working learners in need of federal financial aid

In today’s economy, approximately 80 percent of all jobs require some form of education or training, and more than 50 percent of jobs can be classified as “middle-skill”—meaning they call for more than a high school diploma but not a four-year degree. As a result, community and technical colleges are working to increase access to high quality, short-term programs that lead to in-demand credentials. However, most federal financial aid available today is reserved for students who are enrolled in programs of study that are at least 600 clock hours over 15 weeks—an outdated policy that fails to account for the training needs of individuals in our 21st century economy.

Therefore, community and technical college leaders are urging lawmakers to consider legislation—such as the Jumpstarting our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act (S. 839; H.R. 3497 ) led by Senators Kaine (D-VA) and Portman (R-OH) and 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)—that would expand Pell grant eligibility to students enrolled in high-quality education and training programs that are at least 150 clock hours of instruction over 8 weeks.

Make higher education and workforce outcomes data comprehensive and transparent

Since higher education is becoming more closely linked with finding success in the labor market, data about the outcomes of postsecondary programs should be available to students, parents, employers and policymakers. However, as community and technical college leaders note in their letters, existing legal restrictions on the collection of student-level data continue to hinder the accessibility of this important information.

To help provide consumers with better data and relieve institutions of duplicative reporting requirements, community and technical college administrators called for action on the College Transparency Act (S.800; H.R. 1766). Introduced by Senators Warren (D-MA), Cassidy (R-LA), Whitehouse (D-RI) and Scott (R-SC) and Representatives Mitchell (R-MI-10), Krishnamoorthi (D-IL-08), Stefanik (R-NY-21) and Harder (D-CA-10), this bipartisan bill aims to establish a secure, privacy-protected postsecondary student level data network administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), to which colleges would be able to safely and easily report their data. The data would then be available as a decision-making tool for current and prospective students—making it easier for individuals to improve their lives through education and training.

Ensure the success of today’s college students by strengthening support services

Due to the diversity of the student populations they serve, community and technical college leaders recognize the growing importance of support services such as career counseling, childcare and transportation assistance. While states and higher education administrators across the country are working hard to implement career pathway models that provide nontraditional students with the services they need to succeed in the postsecondary education system, their efforts receive little support at the federal level.

To address this issue, community and technical college leaders are calling for the consideration of the Gateway to Careers Act (S. 1117)—legislation introduced by Senators Hassan (D-NH), Young (R-IN), Kaine (D-VA) and Gardner (R-CO). This bipartisan bill would make federal funding available on a competitive basis to institutions that are working in partnership to serve students experiencing barriers to postsecondary access and completion.

Provide targeted funding for valuable partnerships between community colleges and businesses

Community and technical college leaders work with industry stakeholders every day to provide high-quality training and academic instruction to future workers through sector partnerships. However, Congress has not invested in these partnerships at a scale that would sustain economic competitiveness since the expiration of the Trade Adjustment Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program in FY 2014. The purpose of the TAAACT grant program, which allocated $2 billion in funding to states from FY 2011-2014, was to increase the capacity of community colleges to address the challenges of today’s workforce through job training for adults and other nontraditional students.

Due to the proven impact of community college-business partnerships, community and technical college leaders are calling for the consideration of legislation that would expand and support these collaboratives, an example of which is the Community College to Career Fund in Higher Education Act (S. 1612; H.R. 2920). Introduced by Senators Duckworth (D-IL), Smith (D-MN), Feinstein (D-CA), Durbin (D-IL), Shaheen (D-NH), Van Hollen (D-MD) and Representative Kelly (D-IL-02), this legislation aims to provide academic institutions and businesses with competitive grant funding so that they can continue to work together to deliver valuable educational or career training programs to students and workers.

Read the letter to the Senate HELP Committee and House Education and Labor Committee, as well as letters of support from Arkansas and Washington.

Posted In: Transportation, Federal Funding, Career and Technical Education, Sector Partnerships, Arkansas, Connecticut, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Virginia, Washington
Update: JOBS Act momentum continues with House introduction

Today, Representatives Cedric Richmond (D-LA-02), Andy Levin (D-MI-09), Steven Horsford (D-NV-04), Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH-16), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA-03), and John Katko (R-NY-24) introduced H.R. 3497, the Jumpstarting our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act, in the House. This bipartisan legislation is identical to S.839, the Senate version of the JOBS Act, introduced by Senators Kaine (D-VA) and Portman (R-OH) earlier this year. House introduction of this bill underlines the mounting support for extending federal financial aid to short-term education and training programs of high-quality—a policy change that 86% of voters are in favor of. National Skills Coalition applauds the efforts of House and Senate sponsors of this bill and looks forward to working with policymakers on both sides of the aisle to ensure its inclusion in a comprehensive Higher Education Act reauthorization bill.

More on the JOBS Act, from our blog post recognizing the Senate introduction back in March:

Visit our action center and download our fact sheet on the JOBS Act

The bipartisan JOBS Act led by Senators Kaine (D-VA) and Portman (R-OH) would modernize our nation’s higher education system by extending needs-based federal Pell grants to students enrolling in high-quality, short-term training programs offered by community and technical colleges. In today’s economy, 80 percent of jobs require some form of education or training beyond the high school level. Additionally, over half of all jobs can be classified as “middle-skill”—meaning they require more than a high school diploma but not a college degree. This demand for skills has driven more students, including non-traditional students, into the postsecondary education system than ever before, with the goal of getting the skills they need to compete in today’s economy.

Despite this well-documented need for skills, most federal financial aid made available to postsecondary students through the Higher Education Act (HEA) is reserved for programs that are at least 600 clock hours of instruction over a minimum of 15 weeks. This policy is at odds with the realities of today’s postsecondary education landscape, where many students, including workers looking to increase their skills, seek to enroll in sub-degree programs—such as those related to pipefitting, manufacturing and the electrical trades—that can lead to industry-recognized credentials. In fact, community college leaders have pointed out that the lack of federal financial aid for quality noncredit and short-term programs is preventing them from fully meeting the needs of students and employers.

To address this inequity, Senators Kaine (D-VA) and Portman (R-OH) introduced the JOBS Act once again this Congress, which would:

  • Expand Pell grant eligibility to students enrolled in quality short-term education and training programs offered by public institutions of higher education that:
    • Are at least 150 clock hours over 8 weeks of instruction;
    • Provide training aligned with the needs of employers in a state or local area;
    • Are offered by an eligible training provider as defined by Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA);
    • Award program completers with an industry-valued credential;
    • Satisfy any applicable prerequisites for professional licensure or certification;
    • Have been evaluated by an accrediting agency for quality and student outcomes; and
    • Connect to a career pathway when applicable
Posted In: Work Based Learning, Federal Funding
Multiple DOL announcements to expand Industry Recognized Apprenticeships with proposed regulations and grant announcements

Earlier this week, the administration took several next steps to expand their industry recognized apprenticeship programs (IRAPs), providing important guidance to states and practitioners implementing the new process.  

On June 24th and 25th, the Department of Labor (DOL) 

These announcements offer insight inside administration actions– the regulations offer new details into SREs and IRAP programs, but still need additional work to be operationalized, such as ensuring a role for small businesses in the process, requiring SREs collect and report on vital performance measures, and distinguishing the activities programs will be tasked with as compared to that of the SRE/oversight entity.  

At the same time, many of the systems awarded funds this week to implement the new program, represent forward thinking, effective community and technical colleges systems that lead their peers in establishing alignment between higher education and workforce programs. 

The new funding availability offers safeguards to ensure funding continues to go to good programs – applicants are required to show an “apprenticeship partnership” comprised of education and businesses and other workforce and education stakeholders in a local area. Applications also must include a plan for using funds to provide support services to program participants to ensure their success – often the biggest financial lift for entities attempting to expand programs to workers with the most need for these supports.  

Background on Industry Recognized Apprenticeship 

Since a 2017 Executive Order intended to create this new IRAP system, DOL convened a Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion, comprised of Governors, leaders from businesses and business associations, representatives of education providers and education associations, Labor leaders, and other interested stakeholders. The Task Force’s work culminated in a report to the President in May of 2018, that set forward several recommendations to expand apprenticeship, including aligning apprenticeship with educational opportunities, marketing opportunities to workers and providing business engagement assistance particularly in industries in which apprenticeship is not well utilized, and repeated a call for disinvestment in other workforce training strategies.  

Following the report from the task force, DOL released the first iteration of a Training and Employment Notice (TEN) that described the role of what the agency now calls Standards Recognition Entities (SREs), third party entities like business associations who will serve in an oversight role and recognize industry-recognized apprenticeship programs as meeting standards necessary to address business demand for skilled workers. The TEN released this week would update this 2018 TEN.  

In November of 2018, DOL solicited comments on the information it would collect from SREs, releasing a draft of the form an SRE would need to submit to DOL in order to be recognized for the SRE designation. NSC submitted a set of comments individually and in partnership with other national organizations, recommending DOL collect information that would empower small and mid-size companies to fully participate in the IRAP system, urging DOL to require SREs to release and disaggregate outcomes data and recognizing the importance of local, industry-led partnerships and career pathways to success of both business and workers in implementing a new work-based learning system.  

Over the past six months, Secretary Acosta has spoken optimistically about progress towards rolling out the new system, but this week’s series of announcements were the first tangible step of 2019.  

IRAP Proposed Regulations 

Published on June 25th in the Federal Register, DOL is soliciting comments due August 23rd on their proposed amendments to 29 CFR 29, the portion of the Code of Federal Regulations that currently governs registered apprenticeship programs. The proposed regs would largely leave existing regs untouched, except for adding provisions around IRAP.   

The proposed regulations explicitly recognize that industry recognized programs under would not automatically qualify for the priority status registered programs enjoy in other workforce and education programs, such as automatic eligibility for a state Eligible Training Provider List under WIOA or application of Davis-Bacon provisions as applied to programs registered under the National Apprenticeship Act. 

Standards Recognition Entities (SRE) 

The proposed regs detail who can become an SRE, including business associations, local agencies, educational institutions, community-based organizations, unions, labor management partnerships or a consortium of those entities. To qualify, entities must show expertise in an industry necessary to evaluate training, structure and curricula of programs and capacity to assess program quality, defined as ensuring programs meet the definition of industry recognized programs offered below. Programs would be recognized for five years.   

In the proposed regs, DOL recognizes that there may be hundreds of SREs across occupations, industries and regions and solicits comments on the best way to encourage diverse set of entities to seek recognition as SREs.  

Consistent with task force recommendations, and those from labor unions in the construction industry, DOL proposes limiting SREs from recognizing military or construction apprenticeships. DOL bases this restriction on the concentration of apprentices within these areas – 48% of registered programs are in the construction industry and 32% are military apprenticeships. DOL proposes sunsetting this restriction, such as in five years, as industry recognized programs grow and this representation across the two apprenticeship systems evens out across industries.  

Once recognized by DOL, these entities are tasked with reporting on completion of program participants and recognizing programs in a timely manner. SREs would be required to publicly release data on each program it recognizes:  

  1. Contact information for entity running the program 

  1. Number of apprentices enrolled 

  1. Completion rate  

  1. Median length of a program 

  1. Post-apprenticeship employment rate.  

The regulations solicit comment on the importance of DOL requiring SREs to collect, and make publicly available, additional data about recognized programs. Earlier guidance from DOL suggested intended alignment between data collection SREs would be tasked with and WIOA performance measures, but the proposed data collection in the draft regs would not rise to the standards of WIOA or those recommended in the past by NSC and our partners.  

DOL solicits comments on whether additional data, such as that on participants’ post-program earnings, should be released to enable DOL to evaluate program success and the most efficient approach by which SREs can collect this data and share with DOL.  

The regulations largely focus on the role of SREs, leaving the oversight of program structure and delivery to an SRE to evaluate. In some ways this furthers DOL’s goal of removing the federal government from oversight of a program, but it also creates a certain level of confusion over the role an SRE would play when compared with the entity running an industry-recognized program. For example, an SRE would be tasked with doing outreach to participants to ensure EEO opportunities for all workers in programs the SRE recognizes. In practice, however, it’s difficult to see the incentive for or ability of an oversight or accrediting entity in recruitment on behalf of a business or education provider, who would presumably have the connections in a community to reach a broader set of participants.  

DOL does recognize entities that help businesses or local areas implement or run programs may serve as SREs and requires SREs to submit information that this technical assistance role will not influence their role as an SRE, and solicits comments on how to best implement this firewall.  

Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Programs 

They proposed rule does, however, define the types of programs an SRE can recognize. To be eligible for recognition, a program must include:  

  1. Training for a job that “require[s] specialized knowledge and experience.DOL is soliciting comments on whether it should set a competency baseline for programs that meet this standard, and if the phrase, “progressively advancing” is an adequate definition of the types of skills someone would develop under industry recognized programs.  

  1. Structured work experience coupled with classroom or training related instruction necessary to earn industry-recognized credentials. DOL solicits comments on the effectiveness of SREs’ establishment of competency-based standards will provide enough guidance to industry-recognized programs to ensure programs have value.  

  1. An employment relationship during which an apprentice is paid at least minimum wage 

  1. Apprentice access to earning credit for training, where possible. And 

  1. structured mentorship opportunities.  

The proposed regs explicitly requires SREs to ensure programs adhere to all safety and equal employment laws, but require no specific action towards these goals, unlike higher standards required of registered programs under 29 CFR 29.  

The regulations also empower industry-recognized programs to access a streamlined process for applying as a registered program, however DOL recognizes the intention of the new program is to expand work-based learning opportunities to new programs and not to create a duplicative system.  

Funding Availability 

As discussed above, applications for the newly announced funding, Apprenticeships: Closing the Skills Gap grant program, are due September 24th 

DOL anticipates funding up to 30 partnerships up to $6 million. Applicants will be required to show participation of an “apprenticeship partnership,” with representatives from businesses, education providers and option partners such as joint labor-management partnerships, community organizations, workforce boards, community organizations and other education providers. This funding opportunity is consistent with the grants awarded this week under the Sector Strategies to Expand Apprenticeship grants, and includes an added recognition of the role a robust partnership can play in ensuring effective program expansion and development, consistent with NSC recommendations. Applicants are also required to include a description of support services – such as childcare and transportation – for which funds will be used and “convincingly demonstrate how these services will support apprentices in successfully remaining in and completing” programs, also consistent with NSC recommendations.  

Congressional Progress 

Just last week, the House passed a Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 funding bill that would limit the $200 million for apprenticeship to registered programs, voting down an amendment offered by Rep. French Hill (R-AK) to allow DOL to spend this funding to expand IRAPs.  

The Senate has not yet released a draft of their bill, but funding levels are unlikely to match those in the House version. Democrats will likely push for language that restricts funding to registered programs, consistent with that in previous appropriations bills.  

After initial momentum around a bipartisan apprenticeship bill last Congress, members have both been focused on other education and workforce priorities – like reauthorizing the Higher Education Act – and have been unable to reach further bipartisan consensus around a comprehensive package. Several smaller bills, including NSC priorities of supporting local, industry-driven sector partnerships and investing in work-based learning and support services as a component of an infrastructure package, have been introduced this Congress, though, and are markers for next steps in Congressional activity.  

NSC will submit comments on the regulations and will share a template of these comments for partners to personalize to your work in the coming weeks.  

Posted In: Federal Funding, Career and Technical Education
House subcommittee takes important first step toward meeting commitment to U.S. businesses and workers

 Earlier this week, the House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services and Related Agencies (L-HHS) Subcommittee released – and advanced to the full committee – their draft Fiscal Year 2020 (FY2020) spending bill, which would increase funding for workforce and education programs to or slightly above authorized funding levels.

This increase would represent the first time appropriators met their commitment to workers and businesses under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and fully funded a program that helps workers get the skills businesses need for 21st century jobs. This important investment would support vital workforce and education programs that have sustained consistent underinvestment for decades.

During the mark-up, Chairwoman of the full Appropriations Committee, Nita Lowey (D-NY), focused on the importance of investing in workforce development and education that matches workers with skills necessary to fill open jobs and both Republicans and Democrats touched on the importance of these programs.

These increases are in large part consistent with the Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce’s letter to House appropriators on FY2020 funding levels, on which National Skills Coalition joined more than 30 other national organizations to urge appropriators to adequately invest in workforce and education programming.

These increases are also 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.

Tell you members of Congress today – it’s time to meet the commitment made to businesses and workers and adequately fund workforce and education programs.

Department of Labor

The draft bill would increase funding for DOL by $1.2 billion, $709 million of which would fund programs under the Employment and Training Administration. It would fund Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title I Formula State Grants for Youth and Adults at slightly higher than authorized levels, and would increase funding across Adult, Dislocated Worker and Youth funding of more than $400 million. This increase would be the first time Congress funds state grants at authorized levels since WIOA passed with overwhelming support in 2014. Since 2001, WIOA Title I state formula grants have been cut by nearly 40%, so this increased to authorized levels is an important recognition of the important role the workforce system plays in meeting business demand and worker need.

The bill would add $2million to funding, up to $8 million, for Workforce Data Quality Initiative Grants and $90 million to apprenticeship funding, increasing it to $250 million for FY2020. The bill included increased funding for national programs under WIOA, including a $10 million increase for Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker programs and an increase of nearly $30 million, to $127 million, for YouthBuild.

The draft also included several of Democrats’ policy priorities. It would create a new $150 million national grant program, using Dislocated Worker National Grant funds, to support workforce development provided at community and technical colleges and would allocate $25 million of funding from the Reentry Program to support intermediaries helping returning citizens develop in-demand skills. From the $250 million for apprenticeship, the bill would allocate 20 percent of funds to local and national organizations to help expand programming and 50 percent of funding to states, consistent with the way DOL has spent this appropriation in previous years.

Department of Education

The Subcommittee draft would increase funding for the Department of Education by $4.4 billion, up to $75 billion. It includes a $37.4 million increase to Perkins Career and Technical Education state grants, funding them at $1.3 billion. Congress passed – with overwhelming support – a new CTE bill last year, Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, and this proposed increased comes after bipartisan support for increased investments in CTE in the FY2019 appropriations package. CTE programs have been cut by nearly 30 percent since 2001, and this proposed increase would help reverse the trend of disinvestment.

The bill would also increase Adult Education and Family Literacy Act State Grants by $22.6 million to $664,555,000. Adult Education funding has been cut by nearly 20 percent since 2001, and these increases would be vital to scaling services to more than 36 million Americans with low basic skills, including 24 million who are currently in the workforce.

The max Pell award would be increased by $150 dollars, bringing the total for the 2020-2021 school year to $5,285.

What’s Next

The House is moving forward with mark ups for appropriations bills, using top line numbers set by House Democrats earlier this spring in absence of a bicameral budget resolution, and the full appropriations committee is expected to hear the L-HHS bill, and announce each subcommittee’s official 302(b) allocation, as early as next week.

Senate Appropriators have suggested the Senate will not move forward on individual appropriations bills until the Senate and House are able to agree to a budget deal that will raise budget caps – and avoid sequestration – imposed by the Budget Control Act (BCA).

Leadership is continuing to work towards a two-year budget agreement to cover FY2020 and 2021, the final two years to which BCA will apply. This agreement could be – as it has been in years past – coupled with an agreement to raise the debt ceiling, for which the Department of Treasure announced earlier this week it will exhaust extraordinary measures to avoid reaching in late Summer. Linking budget and debt ceiling negotiations may make it easier for members of both parties to support a slight increase in funding above FY2019 levels, but final funding is unlikely to be as high as the numbers proposed in the House bill this week.

Tell your policy makers today – it’s time to meet your commitment to workers and businesses. Invest in workforce and education today!

Also this week, Secretary Acosta testified in front of the House Education & Labor (Ed & Labor) Committee on the Department of Labor’s (DOL) priorities for FY2020. In his testimony, the Secretary recognized multiple times that the U.S. has underinvested in middle-skill jobs – and pathways that don’t include a four-year degree.

NSC and our partners in the Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce will continue to advocate for critical investments in workforce and education and Congress continues the FY2020 appropriations process.

 

  FY 2020 – Authorized Levels Current Levels - FY 2019 FY2020 House Labor-HHS Subcommittee Change FY 2019-House L-HHS bill
Department of Labor
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Title I – State Formula Grants N/A $2,789,832,000 $2,967,360,000 N/A
WIOA Adult $899,987,000 $845,556,000  $900,000,000 $54,444,000
WIOA Dislocated Worker $1,436,137,000* $1,040,860,000 $1,103,360,000 $62,500,000
WIOA Youth $963,837,000 $903,416,000 $964,000,000 $60,584,000
Wagner-Peyser/Employment Service Grants N/A   $663,052,000 $680,000,000   $16,948,000
Workforce Data Quality Initiative grants N/A $6,000,000 $8,000,000 $2,000,000
Apprenticeship Grants N/A $160,000,000 $250,000,000 $90,000,000
DW N/AtioN/Al Reserve N/A $220,859,000 $370,859,000 $150,000,000
N/Ative American Programs $54,137,000 $54,500,000 $55,000,000 $500,000
Ex-Offender Activities N/A $93,079,000 $100,000,000 $6,921,000
Migrant and SeasoN/Al Farmworkers $96,211,000 $88,896,000 $98,896,000 $10,000,000
Youth Build $91,087,000 $89,534,000 $127,500,000 $37,966,000
Senior Community Service Employment Program N/A $400,000,000 $463,800,000 $63,800,000
JobCorps $1,983,236,000 $1,718,655,000 $1,868,655,000 $150,000,000
Trade Adjustment Assistance $450,000,000 $450,000,000 $450,000,000 N/A
Department of Education
Career and Technical Education State Grants N/A $1,262,598,000 $1,300,000,000 $37,400,000
Adult Education and Family Literacy State Grants $678,640,000 $641,955,000 $664,555,000 $22,600,000
Posted In: Federal Funding, Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce
Two National Skills Coalition-backed higher education bills land in the Senate

Yesterday, we reached a crucial milestone in our effort to modernize the Higher Education Act. Two bills that will work hand-in-hand to make higher education work better for students and employers were introduced in the Senate—the College Transparency Act and the Jumpstarting our Businesses to Support Students (JOBS) Act.

The goal of the College Transparency Act is to provide students with complete information about the success rates of all postsecondary programs—including those that are short-term—while the JOBS Act would expand federal financial aid to those short-term programs that are proven to be high-quality; a move that is supported by 86 percent of Americans. Together, these bills will give students, parents, employers and policymakers peace of mind when it comes to ensuring access and quality of postsecondary programs across all lengths and disciplines.

These bipartisan bills have been met with broad support across multiple stakeholder groups. 10 state higher education systems have signed onto a letter supporting these measures—which are in line with National Skills Community College Compact. Additionally, both bills are supported by several national organizations, including the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), Advance CTE, Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT), Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Jobs for the Future (JFF), National Council for Workforce Education (NCWE), and Young Invincibles.

A recent Business Leaders United poll of small and medium-sized businesses showed that small and medium-sized businesses overwhelmingly support more investment in skills training with 66% supporting making user-friendly data available so that employers can see which post-secondary programs are giving students the skills they need for existing jobs (CTA) and 64% supporting making federal financial aid available to anyone seeking skills training, not just those seeking college degrees (JOBS).

NSC continues to advocate for the inclusion of these complementary bills in any comprehensive Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization put forth by the House and Senate.

JOBS Act

Visit our action center and download our fact sheet on the JOBS Act

The bipartisan JOBS Act led by Senators Kaine (D-VA) and Portman (R-OH) would modernize our nation’s higher education system by extending needs-based federal Pell grants to students enrolling in high-quality, short-term training programs offered by community and technical colleges. In today’s economy, 80 percent of jobs require some form of education or training beyond the high school level. Additionally, over half of all jobs can be classified as “middle-skill”—meaning they require more than a high school diploma but not a college degree. This demand for skills has driven more students, including non-traditional students, into the postsecondary education system than ever before, with the goal of getting the skills they need to compete in today’s economy.

Despite this well-documented need for skills, most federal financial aid made available to postsecondary students through the Higher Education Act (HEA) is reserved for programs that are at least 600 clock hours of instruction over a minimum of 15 weeks. This policy is at odds with the realities of today’s postsecondary education landscape, where many students, including workers looking to increase their skills, seek to enroll in sub-degree programs—such as those related to pipefitting, manufacturing and the electrical trades—that can lead to industry-recognized credentials. In fact, community college leaders have pointed out that the lack of federal financial aid for quality noncredit and short-term programs is preventing them from fully meeting the needs of students and employers.

To address this inequity, Senators Kaine (D-VA) and Portman (R-OH) introduced the JOBS Act once again this Congress, which would:

  • Expand Pell grant eligibility to students enrolled in quality short-term education and training programs offered by public institutions of higher education that:
    • Are at least 150 clock hours over 8 weeks of instruction;
    • Provide training aligned with the needs of employers in a state or local area;
    • Are offered by an eligible training provider as defined by Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA);
    • Award program completers with an industry-valued credential;
    • Satisfy any applicable prerequisites for professional licensure or certification;
    • Have been evaluated by an accrediting agency for quality and student outcomes; and
    • Connect to a career pathway when applicable

NSC applauds Senators Kaine and Portman for working to modernize our nation’s higher education system and make it work better for students and employers.

College Transparency Act

Senators Warren (D-MA) and Cassidy (R-LA) and Representatives Mitchell (R-MI) and Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) introduced the College Transparency Act—a bipartisan bill aimed at helping students, policymakers, educators and employers make informed decisions when it comes to postsecondary education.

Currently, the HEA prohibits the Department of Education from collecting data on all postsecondary students. The Department’s existing College Scorecard only includes students receiving federal aid in the calculation of key metrics, like post-college earnings. This presents an incomplete picture of how well higher education and training programs are serving students.

The College Transparency Act proposes to overturn the outdated prohibition on data collection while putting a number of safeguards in place to protect student privacy. More specifically, the bill:

  • Overturns the ban on student-level data collection in the Higher Education Act;
  • Creates a secure, privacy protected student-level data network within the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) using strong security standards and data governance protocols;
  • Accurately reports on student outcomes including enrollment, completion and post-college success across colleges and programs;
  • Leverages existing data at federal agencies and institutional data by matching a limited set of data to calculate aggregate information to answer questions critical to understanding and improving student success;
  • Protects all students by limiting data disclosures, prohibiting the sale of data, penalizing illegal data use, protecting vulnerable students, prohibiting the use of the data for law enforcement, safeguarding personally identifiable information, and requiring notice to students and regular audits of the system;
  • Streamlines burdensome federal reporting requirements for postsecondary institutions;
  • Provides information disaggregated by race, ethnicity and Pell Grant receipt status to identify inequities in students’ success;
  • Requires a user-friendly website to ensure the data are transparent, informative, and accessible for students, parents, policymakers, and employers; and
  • Feeds aggregate information back to states and institutions so they can develop and implement targeted, data-informed strategies aimed at supporting student success.

The College Transparency Act represents broad consensus among students, colleges and universities, employers, and policymakers that a secure, privacy-protected postsecondary student data system is the only way to give students the information they need to make informed college choices.  National Skills Coalition looks forward to working with the sponsors of CTA to advocate for this important legislative change.

Posted In: Federal Funding, Work Based Learning
Despite focus from the administration, budget falls short on much needed investment in workforce and education programs

In the Presidential Budget Request for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, a portion of which was released yesterday, the administration calls for level funding for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title I formula grants, Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, and work-based learning programs, and proposes to expand Pell to short-term programs consistent with the bipartisan JOBS Act and NSC priorities. The budget also proposes large cuts to adult basic education programs and elimination of many WIOA national programs.

In a proposal that cuts overall Nondefense Discretionary funding by 5 percent from last year’s levels, Department of Labor and the Department of Education bear disproportionate cuts at 10 percent and 12 percent, respectively. Level funding for workforce programs may look like a win in that context. But many of these programs have been drastically underfunded for decades. As we enter the final year of authorized funding levels in WIOA, level funding for critical programs isn’t enough – it’s time for serious investments.

We can't compete if we cut. Check out our funding cuts fact sheet.

The administration has made workforce and education a high-profile issue, with last week’s inaugural meeting of the  American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, the administration’s Pledge to America's Workers, support from Senior Advisor to the President, Ivanka Trump, for last year’s passage of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act and their focus on creating a new Industry-Recognized apprenticeship system.

Throughout these efforts, the administration has expressed laudable goals that are consistent with NSC’s 2019 Skills for Good Jobs Agenda.

  • At last week’s inaugural advisory board meeting, Senior Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump focused on the importance of increasing workforce participation and connecting workers to good paying jobs.
  • At the same meeting, the president recognized the link between business growth and workers’ success, “…we want to have the companies grow. And the only way they’re going to grow is if we give them the workers.”
  • At a meeting with the President and Cabinet-level Secretaries last year, Ivanka Trump described the workforce as  “our country’s greatest national asset”

But, the administration’s enthusiasm for skills training and workforce development isn’t matched with the kind of robust investments our economy requires. Instead of investing, the administration has proposed consolidating and eliminating programs. After nearly two decades of disinvestment, workers and businesses need significant new investment in skills and retention supports today to support the workforce of tomorrow.

Today’s budget recommends level funding or cuts for some important programs at a time when increases are crucial to rectifying past cuts and when 93% of voters support increased public investment in skills training.

If we’re really going to help workers make ends meet and businesses grow – it’s time to walk the talk.   

 

A Deeper Dive

As expected, President Trump’s budget requests funding for Non-Defense Discretionary (NDD) programs at Budget Control Act (BCA) levels, about 5 percent lower than FY2019 spending. While Congress will likely, as in previous years, reject the harsh cuts President Trump proposes, members are likely to take note of his priorities: CTE, work-based learning and a repeated message around consolidating vital programs.

In recent years, Congress has reached two-year budget agreements setting top-line spending levels above those established in the BCA and is likely to do so again, later this year.

In the meantime, the House will move forward with their appropriations process, followed later by the Senate. With House Democrats in leadership for the first time in eight years, they’re likely to move forward with spending levels higher than the final budget agreement will enable. Their process, and the programs that receive the highest level of investment, however, offers insight into those they see as priorities in later bicameral negotiations.

Department of Labor

President Trump’s budget recommended a cut of 9.7 percent to DOL’s budget, stating that their highest priority is, “eliminating programs that are duplicative, unnecessary, unproven, or ineffective.”

Programs should be aligned, not eliminated.  This continued focus on consolidating workforce programs is detrimental to workers, businesses, and communities.

WIOA: The president’s budget requests level funding for WIOA Title I state formula grants and Wagner-Peyser Employment Service under Title III, a departure from the president’s initial request in FY2019 to cut programs by 40 percent. FY2020 is the final year for which the law includes authorized funding levels. Congress has never appropriated funding at those levels, and funding levels in FY2019 are 40 percent lower than funding in FY2001. A strong Congressional investment in WIOA in FY 2020 will be critical to continued innovation in states and local areas, especially as reauthorization conversations ramp up.

Despite the level formula funding request, the budget would cut or eliminate most of the national programs under Employment and Training Administration’s jurisdiction, except for apprenticeship grants. The proposal would cut $86 million from National Dislocated Worker national grants, $15 million from Reentry employment opportunities and $5 million from YouthBuild. It would eliminate funding for Indian and Native American Programs, Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers Programs and Workforce Data Quality Initiative grants.

 

Apprenticeship: The request proposes $160 million investment in apprenticeship, consistent with enacted FY2019 levels. The budget, however, asks for the funding to support the expansion of industry-recognized apprenticeship, a new system DOL is in the process of implementing.  The administration also proposes a doubling of the fees associated with H-1B visas, a portion of which go to DOL to administer job training programs to train workers for industries that currently use H-1B visas. The new funds would be targeted to expanding the administration’s new Industry-Recognized apprenticeship system, with 15 percent of funds going to career and technical education programs administered by the Department of Education.

DOL has solicited grant proposals from partnerships between educational systems and businesses to expand IRAP, which would be funded by previous years’ H-1B visa fees, but has yet to award these grants. The call to use these funds to support local, industry-driven partnerships expanding work-based learning is consistent with the bipartisan PARTNERS Act.  

Department of Education

The president’s budget recommends cutting 12 percent of Department of Education’s budget.

Pell Grants: The President’s budget calls for funding necessary to support a maximum Pell grant of $6,195 and repeats a call in their original budget request from last year to cancel $2 billion unobligated balances in the Pell Grant program. It also includes a proposal to modernize the Pell grant program to meet the needs of working students, a concept that has been supported by Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle and is consistent with the bipartisan JOBS Act. NSC is encouraged by the push to make postsecondary education more accessible for all students—especially considering that 86 percent of voters support making federal financial aid available for skills training.

Federal Work Study: The budget proposes to cut the Federal Work Study program by over 50 percent from current funding levels (from $1.1 billion to $500 million). The request justifies this substantial decrease by proposing to dramatically reform the FWS to support workforce and career-oriented training opportunities—including subsidized employment and paid internships—for low-income undergraduate students. This provision is consistent with the reforms made to the FWS program in the House proposed PROSPER Act.  The PROSPER Act, however, contained a $6 million increase for the FWS program to support this change.

CTE: Today’s budget recommended level funding for CTE state grants and a $20 million increase for CTE national programs. The budget, as discussed above, also includes a proposal to target 15% of their proposed increases in H-1B visa fees to Department of Education to allocate through formula grants to states and support career and technical education components of industry-recognized apprenticeship programs.  

Adult Education: Today’s budget recommends a cut of $150 million to the Adult Education and Family Literacy state grants, coupled with a $60 million increase in funding for national leadership activities. The administration would direct the leadership activities funds to support pre-apprenticeship programs to broaden the pipeline of workers with access to apprenticeship programs.

The proposed cuts to state grants outweigh the increase to national programs, seeming to undermine the administration’s goal of upskilling and reskilling the millions of Americans with basic skill needs.

The budget also proposes cutting the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant Program (SEOG), which supports low-income postsecondary students, and canceling the State Longitudinal data Systems grants that support state investments in educational data alignment.

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

The President’s budget requests a 12 percent cut to the HHS budget and continues calls to expand work requirements for recipients of Medicaid and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. While work requirements are relatively new to Medicaid programs, they have not been effective at connecting people to family-supporting jobs or lifting them out of poverty as used in TANF. They can be counterproductive, since they encourage workers to take low-wage jobs rather than building skills and credentials that can help them compete in today’s economy. There’s also no evidence that work requirements help meet employers’ need for skilled workers. 

The budget request does connect access to child care to workers’ ability to get a job or further education or job training, consistent with the bipartisan BUILDS Act and NSC priorities. The budget requests funding for a new $1 billion fund to support TANF recipient’s access to support for child care costs, however, appears to be created from savings associated with proposals to cut funding to TANF and the Emergency Contingency Fund and would not actually be additional funding to support child care costs.

Department of Agriculture

The budget proposes a 15 percent cut to the Department of Agriculture’s budget from FY2019 levels. The administration proposes expanded work requirements, something that was rejected by Congress during the recent Farm Bill reauthorization. As discussed above, NSC strongly opposes work requirements as they restrict recipients’ ability to access education and training necessary to move in to good jobs.

The proposal would cut overall funding to SNAP by more than $45 billion over 10 years if the proposal was enacted.

 

 

FY 2020 – Authorized Levels

Current Levels - FY 2019

FY 2020 President’s Budget Request

Change FY 2019-2020 Budget Request

Department of Labor

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Title I – State Formula Grants[1]

 

$2,789,832,000

$2,789,832,000

-

WIOA Adult

$899,987,000

$845,556,000

 $845,556,000

-

WIOA Dislocated Worker[2]

$1,436,137,000

$1,040,860,000

$1,040,860,000

-

WIOA Youth

$963,837,000

$903,416,000

$903,416,000

-

Wagner-Peyser/Employment Service Grants

NA

 

$663,052,000

$663,052,000

 

-

Workforce Data Quality Initiative grants

NA

$6,000,000

$0

-$6,000,000

Apprenticeship Grants

NA

$160,000,000

$160,000,000

-

DW National Reserve

NA

$220,859,000

$134,717,000

-$86,142,000

Native American Programs

$54,137,000

$54,500,000

0

-$54,500,000

Ex-Offender Activities

NA

$93,079,000

$78,324,000

-$14,755,000

Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers

$96,211,000

$88,896,000

0

-$88,896,000

Youth Build

$91,087,000

$89,534,000

$84,534,000

-$5,000,000

Senior Community Service Employment Program

NA

$400,000,000

0

-$400,000,000

JobCorps

$1,983,236,000

$1,718,655,000

$1,015,583,000

-$703,072,000

Trade Adjustment Assistance

$450,000,000

$450,000,000

$450,000,000

-

 

 

 

 

 

Department of Education

Career and Technical Education State Grants

NA

$1,262,598,000

$1,262,598,000

-

Adult Education and Family Literacy State Grants

$678,640,000

$641,955,000

$485,800,00

-$156,200,000

Posted In: Federal Funding
Senators introduce bipartisan “National Workforce Development Month” resolution

On September 18th, Senators Feinstein (D-CA), Hatch (R-UT), Baldwin (D-WI) and Enzi (R-WY) introduced a bipartisan Senate Resolution to designate September as “National Workforce Development Month.”

The resolution recognizes the importance of federal investment in workforce development programming that provides training, education and upskilling opportunities for workers and meets business demands. It also notes the “crucial role in supporting workers and growing the economy” workforce development programming plays.

Earlier this year, the Council of Economic Advisors released a report in part highlighting that the U.S. invests far less in workforce development programing than other developed countries. Over the past two decades, investments in these programs have decreased dramatically. Funding for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) has decreased by 40%, for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act by 32% and those in Adult Basic Education has decreased by 20%. In the past two years, Congress has slowly begun to reverse this trend and a package passed by the Senate just this week would include a $70 million and $25 million increase in funding for states for CTE and ABE, respectively. This same package would level fund most programming under WIOA, however, and the small increases to CTE and ABE do little to rectify decades of stagnant and declining funding for programs on which communities and businesses across the country rely.

This Senate resolution makes an important statement about the bipartisan support workforce development programming has among policy makers and is a good first step to adequately supporting the programming the resolution highlights.

In recognition of Workforce Development Month and in efforts to further engage policy makers on the importance of federal investments in vital workforce and education programming, the Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce will host a Congressional Briefing on Tuesday, September 25th, highlighting the importance of federal funding to support state’s and local areas’ capacity to meet worker skill needs and business demand, find the full invitation here.

Posted In: Federal Funding, Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce
Senate advances FY2019 Labor-HHS spending bill

*On September 26th, the House passed legislation that included the FY2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies bill. The President is expected to sign the package this week, an on time passage for the Labor-HHS bill for the first time in more than 20 years. In addition to funding for the Labor-HHS and Defense bills, it also includes a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government at current year levels for portions not covered by this package or a separate minibus passed earlier this fall. The CR will last through December 7th, and the House is expected to adjourn after this week through midterm elections.

_____

Earlier today the Senate advanced the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) spending bill. The bill reflects an agreement reached last week between conferees in both the House and the Senate and would largely level fund workforce programming under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) with increased funding levels for both Career and Technical Education and Adult Education state grants.

The bill tracks closely to the bipartisan spending package the Senate passed in August, which provides $200 million higher than the final FY 2018 Labor-HHS spending levels. With this increased allocation, the final agreement includes a $15 million increase in funding for apprenticeship grants, to $160 million for FY 2019, and small increases to both the Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker and Native American national programs. The bill also includes an almost $4 million cut to Employment Service grants to states.

Career and Technical Education state grants will receive $70 million more than in FY 2018, to $1.26 billion. This increase is consistent with the House’s proposed increase in their Labor-HHS bill and reflects broad bipartisan support for the newly reauthorized Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, signed in to law this summer. Adult Education and Family Literacy state grants also increased by $25 million over FY2018 levels to nearly $642 million in FY 2019. In their report language, conferees expressed concern about the administration’s proposed reorganization of the Office of English Language Acquisition and the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE).

The bill also increased the maximum Pell award for FY 2019 by $100 to $6,195.

The House is expected to pass the bill next week upon return from recess, allowing the President to sign the bill into law prior to September 30th, the end of FY 2018. If this happens, it will be the first time in more than twenty years Congress has completed the Labor-HHS bill on time.

NSC applauds appropriators for their work in advancing this important bill efficiently and for increases to important programs that will help states and local areas train workers to meet business demand. Through the Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce, NSC looks forward to working with appropriators to continue the trend of investment in vital workforce and education programming.

 

FY 2018 Omnibus

FY 2019 Labor-HHS Conference Report

Change from FY 2018-2019

Department of Labor

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Title I – State Formula Grants

$2,789,832,000

$2,789,832,000

-

WIOA Adult

$845,556,000

$845,556,000

-

WIOA Dislocated Worker

$1,040,860,000

$1,040,860,000

-

WIOA Youth

$903,416,000

$903,416,000

-

Wagner-Peyser Employment Service Grants

$666,413,000

$663,052,000

- $3,361,000

Workforce Data Quality Initiative Grants

$6,000,000

$6,000,000

-

Apprenticeship Grants

$145,000,000

$160,000,000

$15,000,000

DW National Reserve

$220,859,000

$220,859,000

-

Native American Programs

$54,000,000

$54,500,000

$500,000

Ex-Offender Activities

$93,079,000

$93,079,000

-

Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers

$87,896,000

$88,896,000

$1,000,000

YouthBuild

$89,534,000

$89,534,000

-

Senior Community Service Employment Program

$400,000,000

$400,000,000

-

JobCorps

$1,718,655,000

$1,718,655,000

-

Department of Education

Career and Technical Education State Grants

$1,192,598,000

$1,262,598,000

$70,000,000

Adult Education and Family Literacy State Grants

$616,955,000

$641,955,000

$25,000,000

Posted In: Federal Funding
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
DOL releases funding to expand apprenticeship and work-based learning

Earlier today, DOL announced the availability of $150 million in Scaling Apprenticeship Through Sector-Based Strategies grants to support partnerships between institutions of higher education and business associations’ work to expand apprenticeship and work-based learning in in-demand fields. The solicitation includes a strong focus on sector-based, industry-driven strategies that can expand business’ capacity to run work-based learning programs and diversify and broaden the pipeline of workers with access to and success in these programs.

Successful applicants will be eligible for $1-$12 million over four years and DOL anticipants funding up to thirty partnerships to support programs in IT, healthcare, advanced manufacturing, financial services and educational services. Each applicant will identify goals of serving between 800-5,000 apprentices, depending on the amount of funding for which they will apply.  

The solicitation today follows a 2017 Executive Order to Expand Apprenticeship in which the President tasked DOL with implementing a new system of industry recognized apprenticeships, in part by allocating funds under the H-1B visa account to support this expansion consistent with today’s solicitation. The EO also tasked DOL, Department of Education and Department of Commerce with convening a Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion. Meeting over the past year, the Task Force was comprised of Governors, business leaders, and representatives from industry associations, labor and community college. Their work culminated in a report to the President earlier this year with recommendations on expanding apprenticeship, reiterating the call for using H-1B funds to support this expansion.

In building on the EO and Task Force’s recommendations, today’s solicitation includes several critical allowable uses of funds consistent with NSC prioritiesbuilding partnerships to lower barriers to apprenticeship expansion for small and mid-sized companies, collecting data and measuring impacts of programs to ensure quality, providing support services like childcare and transportation that can improve success for a diverse pipeline of workers, funding pre-apprenticeship programs that can be a key onramp to apprenticeship for low-skill and underrepresented populations and upskilling incumbent workers.

The solicitation would require grants to go to partnerships between institutions of higher education (IHEs) and national industry associations or consortia of businesses. IHEs are crucial partners in apprenticeship programs and NSC released a report earlier today on the importance of supporting partnerships between community colleges and industry representatives. And while apprenticeship is certainly one program on which these partnerships can collaborate, NSC advocates for support for partnerships with a wide range of skills training goals.  

While crucial partners, higher education should be among numerous entities – including industry associations themselves, the workforce system, labor-management partnerships and community-based organizations – eligible for future funding to support the expansion of apprenticeships. Under the bipartisan PARTNERS Act, states would grant funding to local industry partnerships comprised of representatives from industry and education providers together with the workforce system, labor-management partnerships and other community partners. Today’s solicitation is consistent with the PARTNERS Act – and a strong first step in expanding local, robust, industry-driven partnerships that support work-based learning – but leaves room for further expanding the partners represented in these partnerships.

The solicitation also applies a definition of apprenticeship previewed in the Task Force on Apprenticeship’s report to the president which is likely to be the definition the administration continues to apply to Industry Recognized Apprenticeship. Under the definitions, programs would qualify for funding (and qualify as an “apprenticeship”) if they include the following components:

  1. Paid work-based component
  2. On-the-job training and mentorship
  3. Training-related instruction
  4. Culminating in an industry-recognized credential
  5. And including safety, supervision and EEO protections


This is a relatively robust definition that includes most of the components for which NSC, and our partners, have advocated. It certainly meets the definition we’ve advocated for work-based learning. It misses an important component that often distinguishes apprenticeship from other work-based learning programs, however – that a worker earns increases in wages as their skills increase. This wage and skill progression provides a predictable path for both workers and businesses at the foundation of apprenticeship.

Today’s solicitation comes in the lead up to a White House convening on job training, scheduled for Thursday July 19th. At least 15 business leaders, along with numerous other industry representatives and policy makers, will join the President as he signs an Executive Order on job training and are expected to announce a set of commitments to training workers. The Executive Order will direct agency leadership to form an inter-agency working group focused on job training, the National Council for the American Worker. It will also create an advisory committee for the administration comprised of representatives from businesses, postsecondary education, state policy makers and the philanthropic community.

Both strategies are consistent with NSC priorities, and we look forward to working with representatives in both capacity.

Given the administration’s calls to drastically cut workforce programs and a proposal last month to consolidate the Departments of Education and Labor, the administration’s continued focus on consolidating workforce programs raises concerns, however. Congress has rejected the administration’s proposals, providing much need funding increases for many workforce and education programs last year, and local and state workforce systems continue to implement innovative, industry-driven programming. 

NSC will continue to work with partners across the country and policy makers to support expanded access to work-based learning – including apprenticeship – and to ensure continued support for vital workforce and education programs that help meet business demand and worker need.

Posted In: Federal Funding, Work Based Learning
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