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Crucial higher education bill introduced in Senate to round out Community College Compact

Last week, Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), joined by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Tina Smith (D-MN), introduced the Community College to Career Fund in Higher Education Act (S. 1612) in the Senate. This important bill aims to support crucial partnerships between community colleges and businesses—allowing for increased access to high-quality education and training options for students seeking 21st century skills.

The introduction of the Community College to Career Fund in Higher Education Act means that all four National Skills Coalition’s Community College Compact policies have been introduced as legislation. The Community College Compact is a set of four higher education policy recommendations informed and vetted by workforce development practitioners. These policies were designed to be collectively considered by Congress as they work to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA)—a sweeping federal policy governing postsecondary programs and student financial aid that has not been updated since 2008.

The Community College to Career Fund in Higher Education Act would authorize the Secretaries of Education and Labor to make competitive grant funding available to community and technical colleges that commit to partnering with workforce development stakeholders to give students more access to skills. To be approved for funding, community and technical colleges are required to submit an application to the Secretaries detailing the education and workforce training programs or activities that will be offered under the grant, how these programs or activities will meet the needs of employers and students in the area, and the methodology by which the success of these programs will be measured.

Under the legislation, grant recipients are permitted to use funds to offset the cost of a range of activities, including expanding articulation agreements, enhancing student support services, building linkages between secondary education or adult education and literacy programs, and developing or improving education and training programs that lead to recognized postsecondary credentials. Grants made by the Secretaries under this bill can last up to five years.

Federal funding for valuable industry partnerships has been lacking since the expiration of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program in 2014. We applaud Senator Duckworth’s efforts to strengthen these partnerships at the federal level—a policy change that will lead to student and employer success in today’s economy.

Given the skill needs of students and employers in today’s economy, where 80 percent of jobs require some form of education or training beyond the high school level, the modernization of our nation’s higher education policy through the adoption of Senator Duckworth’s bill as well as the balance of the Community College Compact bills is more important than ever before. Notably, the Compact’s policies are overwhelmingly supported by voters and business leaders who want to see higher education change for the better. 

In addition to Senator Duckworth’s bill, the policy proposals that make up the Community College Compact are:

Extend federal financial aid to high-quality, short-term programs by passing the JOBS Act (S.839)

Many students today are enrolling in postsecondary education in pursuit of the skills and credentials they need to successfully compete in today’s economy. However, this does not mean that employers are solely looking to hire candidates with two or four-year degrees. In fact, more than half of all jobs today can be classified as “middle-skill,” meaning they require a high school diploma, but not a college degree.

Despite this reality, students are required to enroll in postsecondary programs that are at least 600 clock hours over 15 weeks of instruction in order to qualify for crucial federal financial aid, including needs-based Pell grants. This policy leaves students enrolling in shorter-term programs behind, despite these programs leading to employer-valued credentials.

To address this inequity, Senators Kaine (D-VA) and Portman (R-OH) introduced the JOBS Act, which would allow students enrolling in postsecondary programs that are at least 150 clock hours over 8 weeks of instruction to qualify for Pell grants—so long as the programs meet the quality assurance criteria outlined in the legislation.

Increase the transparency of postsecondary education and workforce data by adopting the College Transparency Act (S. 800, HR 1766)

Currently, the Higher Education 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.

To address this, 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. 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.

Dedicate federal funding to career pathways by passing the Gateway to Careers Act (S. 1117)

To help meet the needs of these students, community and technical colleges along with their industry partners have been working to establish and strengthen career pathways—21st century learning models that combine support services with academic instruction. 

Despite the value of career pathways, there is a lack of targeted federal funding to help sustain and strengthen them. As a solution, Senators Hassan (D-NH), Young (R-IN), Kaine (D-VA) and Gardner (R-CO) re-introduced the Gateway to Careers Act—a bipartisan bill first introduced in 2018 that makes grant funding available on a competitive basis to institutions that are working in partnership with industry stakeholders, community-based organizations and other entities to better serve students experiencing barriers to postsecondary access and completion.

National Skills Coalition applauds the introduction of these bills and looks forward to working with policymakers to advance them through the legislative process.

Posted In: Higher Education Access
Strengthening career pathways for working students: Gateway to Careers Act will help students overcome barriers to postsecondary education

In today’s economy, 80 percent of jobs require some form of postsecondary education and training, yet students, especially nontraditional students, often face barriers to higher education due to a lack of vital support services—including basic skills instruction, transportation and childcare and comprehensive career counseling.

To help meet the needs of these students, community and technical colleges along with their industry partners have been working to establish and strengthen career pathways—21st century learning models that combine support services with academic instruction. NSC has long supported investing in postsecondary career pathways and have highlighted them as part of our Skills for Good Jobs Agenda. Additionally, 10 state higher education systems have endorsed increasing federal funding for career pathways and recent polling shows that 81 percent of Americans are in favor of government funding for support services that will help students finish skills training programs.

Despite the value of career pathways, there is a lack of targeted federal funding to help sustain and strengthen them. As a solution, Senators Hassan (D-NH), Young (R-IN), Kaine (D-VA) and Gardner (R-CO) re-introduced the Gateway to Careers Act—a bipartisan bill first introduced in 2018 that makes grant funding available on a competitive basis to institutions that are working in partnership with industry stakeholders, community-based organizations and other entities to better serve students experiencing barriers to postsecondary access and completion.

More specifically, the Gateway to Careers Act would authorize a new grant program in the Higher Education Act entitled the “Career Pathways Grant Program,” for distribution to eligible career pathway partnerships. As defined by the legislation, career pathway partnerships can consist of:

  • An educational institution, including a two-year public institution of higher education, an area career and technical education school that provides postsecondary level instruction or a consortium of these entities;
  • One or more workforce development partner, including a local board, an industry association, and/or a community-based organization;
  • A Secondary or Adult Education Partner—such as a local education agency, an eligible provider as defined by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), or a career and technical education agency as defined by The Perkins Act.


Career pathway partnerships would be able to use this grant funding for:

  • Creating or expanding dual-enrollment opportunities for secondary students or disconnected youth;
  • Implementing evidence-based strategies that help adult and other nontraditional students access skills and recognized postsecondary credentials;
  • Providing direct support services such as childcare, transportation, mental health and substance use disorder treatment, assistance in obtaining health insurance, and assistance in obtaining federal nutrition and/or housing benefits;
  • Allocating emergency grants to help students who are facing financial hardships;
  • Offering career pathways navigation and case management services;
  • Other activities identified by eligible institutions as necessary to support the development of implementation of career pathway programs.


Additionally, partnerships receiving grant funding would responsible for reporting their program outcomes to the Secretary of Education on a yearly basis.

NSC applauds Senators Hassan, Young, Kaine, and Gardner for making career pathways a priority and encourage Congress to consider the inclusion of the Gateway to Careers Act in any Higher Education reauthorization bill.

Posted In: Higher Education Access
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
Community college leaders from 10 states endorse fundamentals of NSC’s Community College Compact in letters to Senate HELP Committee

On July 16, 2018, leaders of 10 community college systems across the country—including those in Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Virginia—sent letters to Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander and Ranking Member Patty Murray, urging them to modernize federal higher education policy to better reflect the needs of today’s community college students. The letters emphasize the importance of adopting a job-driven Community College Compact—a set of policy proposals developed by National Skills Coalition with the input of a range of stakeholders; including academic institutions, employers, community-based organization and workforce development boards.

In today’s economy, 80 percent of all jobs require some form of postsecondary education or training—a reality that has led to an influx of individuals enrolling in the higher education system with a different set of objectives than first-time, full-time students. Community colleges serve approximately 9 million students every year of all ages and backgrounds; most of whom can be classified as non-traditional. These individuals often work full or part time, are parents to dependent children, and/or fall in the age range of 28-40.

Given the significant role they play in preparing students for the workforce, community college leaders took the opportunity to outline their shared priorities and urge federal lawmakers to:

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

As our economy continues to change, more skilled workers are needed today than ever before. 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, many community colleges are aiming 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 college leaders urged lawmakers to consider legislation—such as the Jumpstarting our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act (S. 206) led by Senators Kaine (D-VA) and Portman (R-OH)—that would expand Pell grant eligibility to students enrolled in employer-approved 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 college leaders noted 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 college administrators called for action on the College Transparency Act (S. 1121, H.R. 2434). Introduced by Senators Hatch (R-UT), Warren (D-MA), Cassidy (R-LA) and Whitehouse (D-RI) and Representatives Mitchell (R-MI) and Polis (D-CO), 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 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 college leaders called for the consideration of the Gateway to Careers Act (S. 2407)—legislation introduced by Senator Hassan (D-NH), along with Senators Kaine (D-VA), Shaheen (D-NH) and Reed (D-RI). This 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 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 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 college leaders called on lawmakers to pass legislation that would increase the resources available for these collaboration models —such as the Community College to Career Fund Act (S. 2390). Introduced by Senators Duckworth (D-IL), Smith (D-MN), Kaine (D-VA) and Feinstein (D-CA), this bill would authorize competitive grant funding, allowing academic institutions and businesses to work together to deliver valuable educational or career training programs to students and workers.

The voices of these and other community college leaders across the country are undeniably important, as Congress looks to reauthorize the Higher Education Act for the first time since 2008. While the House and Senate have not passed Higher Education Act legislation this Congress, action is expected early next year. To view the letter, click here.

Posted In: Higher Education Access, Sector Partnerships, Adult Basic Education, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Virginia
Indiana students visit NSC, ask their reps to #MakePellWork

Recently, a group of students from Indiana’s Ivy Tech Community College-LaFayette Campus stopped by NSC's office to prepare for meetings with their members of Congress.

These students are part of Ivy Tech’s Associate Accelerated Program (ASAP), which provides high-school graduates with small group classes and dedicated instructors that help them navigate the coursework, develop productive study habits, and tackle issues at home that may affect their studies. For Ivy Tech, this learning environment has resulted in a higher retention rate. Students participating in the program are required to attend school full time, not work, and continue living with their parents or guardians. Most of them qualify for federal and state grants that cover their tuition, including Pell grants. 

NSC’s Senior Policy Analyst Katie Brown and National Network Manager, Jessica Cardott provided students with federal advocacy training in preparation for their visit to D.C. As part of these remote classes, the students learned how to talk about their own experience in navigating financial aid for a career-driven education and discussed how modernizing the Pell grant system and postsecondary data policy could have make this experience easier – all to prepare the students for conversations with their Members of Congress.

NSC hosted the students during their time in D.C, for a final advocacy lesson and “mock” hill visits where they practiced their messages and talking points prepare for meetings with their representatives. During this time, NSC also provided the students with best practices for keeping the momentum going and elevating their conversations on the Hill once back in Indiana.

Posted In: Higher Education Access, Indiana

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

White House budget promotes some workforce priorities, but includes drastic cuts to key programs

  ·   By Kermit Kaleba, Katie Spiker, and Katie Brown
White House budget promotes some workforce priorities, but includes drastic cuts to key programs

On February 12th, the Trump Administration released its Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Presidential Budget Request, providing a mixed bag of funding increases and cuts across a range of federal workforce, education, and human services programs.

The annual budget request comes at an unusual moment in the Washington calendar, with Congress still trying to finalize spending levels for FY 2018. Congress last week passed a two-year bipartisan budget agreement that would raise defense and non-defense budget caps for the next two years by nearly $300 billion, including increases to non-defense spending caps of $63 billion for FY 2018 and $68 billion by 2019. Last week’s agreement also authorized a stopgap Continuing Resolution to keep the government funded through March 23rd as lawmakers work to complete FY 2018 spending decisions under the increased caps.

Because the President’s budget released today was developed before last week’s budget deal, it does not include funding at levels that are consistent with the new caps; instead, the Administration is touting broad cuts to non-defense programs – a total of $3 trillion over ten years – as a highlight of the FY’19 budget. While Congress is unlikely to adopt the President’s recommendations in their current form, today’s budget does put additional pressure on appropriators to consider at least nominal reductions in funding to discretionary programs under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, despite strong bipartisan support for these critical programs.

The budget request does include some good proposals around workforce and education, including a recommendation to expand Pell grants to short-term programs and additional funds for apprenticeship. The White House also released an addendum to their previously prepared budget request, in response to last week’s Congressional budget agreement, in which the administration appears to recommend spending an addition $1.3 billion in FY 2019 non-defense discretionary funds on WIOA formula grants – effectively overriding the $1 billion proposed cuts in the original budget request.

The budget request and addendum continue an inconsistent narrative from the administration on the importance of workforce and education programs. The proposed cuts aren’t surprising given an administration focus on eliminating federal workforce and education programs, and yet the President has touted the importance of job training as recently as his State of the Union a few weeks ago and proposed a renewed focus on expanding apprenticeship in his infrastructure principles released just this morning.

NSC continues to advocate for adequate investment in key workforce and education programs and the consistent inconsistency from the administration only reinforces the importance of weighing in with your policy makers to ensure they understand how vital workforce and education programs are to your communities, your work, and the President’s priorities.

Department of Labor. Overall, the President’s budget calls for $9.4 billion in funding for DOL, a cut of 21 percent relative to current funding levels. While recognizing the millions of workers in need of training and openings with U.S. businesses, the budget frames these cuts in the context of an effort to “consolidate and reorganize Federal workforce development programs.”

 The request calls for cuts of approximately $1.08 billion across the three state formula grants under Title I of WIOA. The formula funding levels in the request represent about a 40 percent cut, which NSC and Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce have detailed would a devastating impact on local areas provision of WIOA funded services. These cuts are exacerbated by other cuts proposed in the request – the administration would eliminate the Indian and Native Americans national grant program, the Senior Community Services Employment Program (SCSEP), the Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker program, and Workforce Data Quality Initiative grants. The administration would direct the Secretary of Labor to set aside 1.5 percent of WIOA adult formula funds to support Indian and Native American programs and justifies the elimination of SCSEP because adults served under that program could be eligible for programming funded by WIOA adult formula dollars.

The administration requested a nearly 40 percent cut to the Wagner-Peyser Employment Service under WIOA Title III, and proposes refocusing Job Corps programs on older youth.

Despite their overall reduction in requests for workforce funding, the administration continued their focus on apprenticeship requesting $200 million for expansion of the new “Industry-Recognized” apprenticeship program created by the President’s Executive Order last summer, specifically to health care, information technology, and advanced manufacturing jobs.

The budget request includes full funding at authorized levels ($450,000,000) for the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Training program, proposing a legislative adjustment that would “refocus” TAA training on apprenticeship and work-based learning strategies.

The budget request also includes $130 million in funding for Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessments (RESEA), consistent with an extension of the program included as part of the February 9th bipartisan budget agreement.

Department of Education. Under the President’s proposed budget, The Department of Education is funded at $59.9 billion—which equals an $8 billion or 12% overall reduction from the 2018 annualized Continuing Resolution (CR) level. This request includes the cancellation of $1.6 billion in unobligated balances in the Pell Grant program, although the FY’19 addendum would not include this rescission.

Higher Education Act:

Pell Grants – Under the President’s budget, discretionary funding for Pell grants is maintained at a level of $22.5 billion. Combined with mandatory funding, the maximum award for FY’19 stands at $5,920 per-student, per-year. While the budget contains no financial changes to the Pell grant program, it does propose expanding Pell eligibility to high-quality, short-term programs that provide students with a credential, certification or license in an in-demand field. This suggested policy change is in line with the Higher Education Act reauthorization principles released by the White house late last year.

NSC has consistently advocated for the extension of Pell eligibility to short-term programs that are proven to be rigorous and of high-quality. This priority is reflected in our Skills For Good Jobs Agenda  and is embodied in Congress by the JOBS Act—bipartisan legislation introduced by Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH). Although the President’s budget does not contain specific policy guidelines, NSC is encouraged by the push to make postsecondary education more accessible for all students.

Federal Work Study – The budget contains a significant 75% cut to the Federal Work Study (FWS) program. The request justifies this substantial decrease by proposing to dramatically reform the FWS to support workforce and career-oriented training opportunities for low-income undergraduate students rather than “subsidizing employment as a means of financial aid.” This provision is consistent with the reforms made to the FWS program in the House proposed PROSPER Act, which would reauthorize the Higher Education Act if signed into law. The PROSPER Act, however, contained a $6 million increase for the program.

Adult Education: Notably, the President’s budget proposes a 15% cut to adult education state grants which are authorized under WIOA Title II—a number that is consistent with last year’s suggested cuts. These grants help provide foundational skills and English literacy instruction to over 1.5 million individuals. If enacted, these cuts would be detrimental to individuals in need of foundational skills to succeed in our 21st century workforce.

Career and Technical Education (CTE): In stark contrast to the President’s 2018 budget request which proposed a 15% cut to CTE state grants, his 2019 proposal contains level funding ($1.1 billion) for CTE—and refers to this funding as an important component of the President’s job creation agenda.

The budget proposes a range of program eliminations under the Education Department, most notable the elimination of the Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (SEOG) which support low-income postsecondary students, and the cancellation of the State Longitudinal Data Systems grants that support state investments in educational data alignment.

Department of Health and Human Services

The Administration’s budget proposal for Health and Human Services proposes legislative changes to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program that would result in cuts to the current block grant program of about ten percent relative to current levels (from $16.3 to $15.1 billion) and would eliminate the TANF contingency fund, resulting in combined cuts of about $10 billion between 2019-2023. However, the budget also includes some proposals that may help to support better connections to education and training, including a proposed requirement that states spend at least 30 percent of combined federal and state funds on work, education, and training activities; work supports, including child care; and assessment/service provision for TANF eligible families. The budget also proposes to replace the current caseload reduction credit with an “employment credit” that rewards states for placing individuals in work; eliminating the separate two-parent work participation rate; and allowing states to count individuals who do not meet the monthly work participation requirements to count for partial credit towards a state’s overall requirements. It is unclear whether Congress will seriously consider changes to TANF this year, but this language does appear to be consistent with a broader Administration focus on expanding work requirements for low-income individuals on public assistance.

Department of Agriculture

Unlike last year, the President’s budget does not include proposals to shift a significant percentage of overall costs for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) onto states. However, the budget does propose some legislative changes to SNAP, including restricting state waivers for time restrictions on Able-Bodied Adults without Dependents (ABAWDs) to counties with at least ten percent unemployment; eliminating the “15 percent” exemption that allows states to exempt certain ABAWDs from time limits; and a proposal to convert part of the SNAP allotment from electronic benefits into USDA “Food Packages.” The budget would cut overall funding for SNAP by more than $200 billion over the next ten years if all proposed changes were enacted.

National Skills Coalition strongly opposes the cuts to workforce, education, and human services programs proposed in the FY 2019 Presidential Budget Request. At a time when U.S. businesses continually cite to the need for skilled workers to compete in a global economy – and when millions of workers need training to reach these skill levels and get and keep family-supporting jobs – we must invest in vital workforce, education and human services programs. Disinvestment harms our local communities, businesses and workers. NSC calls on Congress to reject the President’s proposals and continue our bipartisan commitment to investment in skills. 

 

 

FY 2019 – Authorized Levels

Current Levels – FY 2017 Omnibus

FY 2019 Presidential Budget Request

Change from Current – 2019 Budget Request

Department of Labor

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Title I – State Formula Grants

$3,293,978,000

$2,709,832,000

$1,629,522,000

-$1,080,310,000

WIOA Adult

$881,303,000

$815,556,000

$490,370,000

-$325,186,000

WIOA Dislocated Worker

$1,406,322,000

$1,020,860,000

 

$615,485,000

-$405,375,000

WIOA Youth

$943,828,000

$873,416,000

$523,667,000

-$349,749,000

Wagner-Peyser/Employment Service Grants

NA

$671,413,000

$416,315,000

 

-$255,098,000

Workforce Data Quality Initiative Grants

NA

$6,000,000

$0

-$6,000,000

Apprenticeship Grants

NA

$95,000,000

$200,000,000

$105,000,000

DW National Reserve

NA

$220,859,000

$51,000,000

-$169,859,000

Native American Programs

$530,000

$50,000,000

$0

-$50,000,000

Ex-Offender Activities

NA

$88,078,000

$78,324,000

-$9,754,000

Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers

$94,214,000

$81,896,000

$0

-$81,896,000

YouthBuild

$89,196,000

$84,534,000

$58,960,000

-$25,574,000

Senior Community Service Employment Program

$463,809,605

$433, 535,000

$0

-$433, 535, 000

Trade Adjustment Assistance

$450,000,000

*

$450,000,000

-

Department of Education

Career and Technical Education State Grants

NA

$1,117,598,000

$1,117,598,000

-

Adult Education and Family Literacy State Grants

$664,552,000

$581,955,000

$486,000,000

 

-$95,955,000

Federal Work Study

NA

$1,093,997000

$221,492,000

-$872,505,000

*Actual outlays for TAA for 2017 were $391,419,000. The program is authorized for up to $450,000,000 and the 2019 Presidential Budget Request includes funding up to the authorized level.

Posted In: Federal Funding, Career and Technical Education, SNAP Employment and Training, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Higher Education Access, Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce
Senators Hassan, Kaine, Shaheen & Reed introduce the Gateway to Careers Act

On February 8th, Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH), along with Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Jack Reed (D-RI) introduced the Gateway to Careers Act—legislation aimed at supporting career pathways for nontraditional students through dedicated federal grant funding. The grants, 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.

Today, 80% of jobs in the U.S require some form of postsecondary education and training, yet many Americans are unable to enter the higher education system due to a lack of direct support services, including basic skills instruction, transportation and childcare, and comprehensive career counseling. This opportunity gap often leaves individuals without the skills they need to succeed in today’s labor market. In response to this, educational institutions along with industry partners have been working to establish career pathways — 21st-centurylearning models that combine support services with academic instruction. Despite their value, there is currently no dedicated federal funding for these pathways.

The Gateway to Careers Act would help bridge this gap by:

  • Authorizing a new grant program in the Higher Education Act entitled the “Career Pathways Grant Program,” for distribution to eligible career pathway partnerships. As defined by the legislation, career pathway partnerships can consist of:

    • An educational institution, including a two-year public institution of higher education, an area career and technical education school that provides postsecondary level instruction or a consortium of these entities;
    • One or more workforce development partner, including a local board, an industry association, and/or a community-based organization;
    • A Secondary or Adult Education Partner—such as a local education agency, an eligible provider as defined by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), or a career and technical education agency as defined by The Perkins Act.
    • Defining the allowable uses of the grant funding allocated to these eligible institutions, which include:

      • Creating or expanding dual-enrollment opportunities for secondary students or disconnected youth;
      • Implementing strategies that help adult and other nontraditional students access skills and recognized postsecondary credentials;
      • Providing direct support services such as childcare, transportation, mental health and substance use disorder treatment, assistance in obtaining health insurance, and assistance in obtaining federal nutrition and/or housing benefits;
      • Allocating emergency grants to help students who are facing financial hardships;
      • Offering career pathways navigation and case management services;
      • Other activities identified by eligible institutions as necessary to support the development of implementation of career pathway programs.


Additionally, partnerships receiving grant funding would responsible for reporting their program outcomes to the Secretary of Education on a yearly basis.

NSC has long supported investing in postsecondary career pathways to ensure that all students have the chance to succeed in today’s labor market and have highlighted them as part of our Skills for Good Jobs Agenda. We applaud Senators Hassan, Kaine, Shaheen and Reed for making career pathways a priority and encourage Congress to consider the inclusion of the Gateway to Careers Act in any Higher Education reauthorization bill.

Posted In: Higher Education Access

PROSPER Act moves forward in the House

  ·   By Katie Brown
PROSPER Act moves forward in the House

Update: The House Committee on Education and the Workforce marked up and passed the PROSPER Act just before midnight on December 12, 2017, by a party-line vote of 23-17. A little over 60 amendments were offered—most of them by Democrats—and under 20 were incorporated into the final bill.

Approved Amendments:

  • Representative Ron Estes (R-KS) introduced an amendment that would allow institutions to use a portion of their federal work-study dollars to identify and expand opportunities for apprenticeships. The amendment passed by a party-line vote of 22-17. Democrats opposed the measure because it would not require the apprenticeships to be registered with the federal government. Notably, Rep. Bonamici (D-OR) said she would have preferred to consider an amendment that contained language from the bipartisan PARTNERS Act—a work-based learning bill she introduced with Rep. Ferguson (R-GA). NSC has been a vocal supporter of PARTNERS.
  • Representative Glenn Grothman (R-WI) introduced an amendment that would modify the definition of “competency” in the underlying bill and streamline the accreditation review of Competency-Based Education (CBE) programs. The amendment passed by a party-line vote of 22-17. Democrats opposed the measure due to a lack of quality assurance measures.

Failed Amendments of note:

  • Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) introduced an amendment that would have inserted the text of the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act (H.R. 2451) into the PROSPER Act. H.R. 2451, introduced by Senate and House Democrats in May, contains many of NSC’s priorities for HEA reauthorization and would expand access to Pell grants in several ways, including by expanding Pell to short-term programs in language that is consistent with the bipartisan Jumpstart Our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act (S.206). The amendment failed by a party-line vote.

The PROSPER Act, in its current form, extends Pell eligibility to short-term programs that are at least 300 clock hours of instruction over 10 weeks but includes no employer engagement to ensure that these programs are aligned with industry needs. Several organizations, including Higher Learning Advocates and AdvanceCTE joined NSC in members of the House and Senate to advocate for the inclusion of JOBS Act language in any final HEA reauthorization.

  • Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) offered an amendment that would have included the text of the College Transparency Act (H.R. 2434) and overturned the student unit record ban. Despite the fact that the CTA is bipartisan in both the House and Senate and enjoys the support of multiple higher education stakeholders, the amendment failed by a party line vote.
  • Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) offered and withdrew an amendment that he dubbed the “Know Before You Go” amendment. The measure would have required the Commissioner of Education Statistics to create a new higher education data system using secure multiparty computation technologies that institutions of higher education as well as the Secretaries of the Treasury, Defense, and Veterans Affairs and the Commissioner of Social Security are required to submit individual-level data into. This amendment marks yet another push to improve data systems in Higher Education. It was not considered.
  • Rep. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Rep. Espaillot (D-NY) offered amendments in support of DREAMers. Rep. Grijalva’s amendment would have inserted the text of the bipartisan DREAM Act (H.R. 3440) into the PROSPER Act, while Rep. Espaillot’s amendment would have made DREAMer students eligible for federal student aid. Both amendments failed by party-line votes.

 

Posted In: Higher Education Access
NSC Calls for Postsecondary “Career Pathways Support Fund” in New Paper

In an economy where more than 80 percent of all jobs require some form of postsecondary education or training, expanding access to high quality workforce programs at community and technical colleges is increasingly critical to our nation’s economic competitiveness. However, our current federal higher education policy doesn’t do enough to support the needs of working adults and other non-traditional students who need postsecondary skills and credentials to get and keep family-supporting jobs. In a new issue brief released today, National Skills Coalition proposes a new $500 million Career Pathways Support Fund that would allow community and technical colleges to provide critical academic, counseling and support services that help low-income and other non-traditional students succeed in job-driven education programs.

Today’s college students are increasingly diverse: more than 70 percent of all undergraduates are classified as “non-traditional,” and roughly 40 percent of college students are over the age of 25. Many of these students are balancing school attendance with work and family obligations: at community colleges, 22 percent of full-time students and 41 percent of part-time students are also working full-time, and 30 percent of community colleges are parents. These changing demographics mean that we need to be rethinking the kinds of supports that postsecondary institutions offer to better align with the realities of working adults, including strategies to accelerate time to completion, career counseling, and wraparound services like child care and transportation assistance to help students.

Our new issue brief highlights examples of three states that are tackling these issues head-on, including the Career Pathways Initiative in Arkansas, the Pathways for Academic Career and Employment (PACE) program in Iowa, and the Basic Skills Plus program in North Carolina. The paper also provides an overview of current federal efforts to support parents and other adult students, which have not kept up with the growing demands of today’s college enrollees.

With Congress looking to begin discussions around reauthorization of the Higher Education Act this fall, NSC calls for lawmakers to consider creating a new dedicated fund that supports community and technical colleges who are providing career pathways programs aimed at working adults and other non-traditional students. This new Career Pathways Support Fund – which is part of NSC’s broader Community College Compact proposal outlined in our Skills for Good Jobs Agenda - would encourage qualifying institutions to partner with employers, adult and secondary education providers, and other stakeholders to ensure that participants are able to obtain industry-recognized credentials while also receiving necessary support services. We also urge Congress to pair the new Career Pathways Support Fund with increased investments in financial aid for working students, consistent with the bipartisan JOBS Act, and strengthen support for partnerships between community colleges and local and regional industries. 

Posted In: Higher Education Access, Arkansas, Iowa, North Carolina
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