Higher ed, training opportunities for UI beneficiaries

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The U.S. Education and Labor departments on Monday announced a renewed joint effort to help individuals using unemployment insurance (UI) — especially those displaced from their jobs due to Covid — to connect with postsecondary education and job training opportunities.

As part of the initiative, the Education Department (ED) has updated prior guidance to financial aid administrators at colleges and universities about their authority to use “professional judgment” for individual financial aid applicants and adjust recently unemployed applicants’ income to zero.

“This action has helped ensure that students receive the maximum benefit to which they are entitled toward their postsecondary education,” ED said in a release. 

Meanwhile, the Department of Labor will alert state workforce agencies that UI recipients are in many cases eligible for postsecondary education funding like federal student aid at higher education institutions. 

“I am heartened that through these changes, the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor are helping unemployed Americans have the chance to go back to school, gain new knowledge and skills, and access opportunity through higher education,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to furthering this invaluable cross-agency partnership and to seeing the ways that more Americans can benefit from it.” 

ED also has created a new landing page to help UI beneficiaries identify offerings at colleges that are also eligible training providers under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. 

The department said this action renews a similar effort undertaken in 2009 by the Obama administration, when more than 20 million individuals received information about their potential federal student aid eligibility.

“Subsequent research into the effectiveness of that initiative indicated that eligible individuals who received information about their potential Federal Pell Grant eligibility were 40% more likely to enroll in a postsecondary program,” ED said.

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