The drumbeat to extend Pell Grant eligibility to quality, short-term workforce development programs continues to grow louder.
On Friday, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Virginia), the ranking member (and former chair) of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, released the House Democrats’ bill to permit so-called short-term or workforce Pell. The committee’s Republicans released their version in January, and proponents in the Senate — led by long-time supporter Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) — re-introduced their bipartisan proposal in January. (See the side-by-side analysis of the House Republican and Senate bipartisan bills by the American Association of Community Colleges [AACC].)
Scott’s bill comes as advocates — from community colleges to business organizations — cite the expansion as an important pathway for good-paying jobs and careers. For adults, short-term Pell would make affordable programs that can quickly open job opportunities. For employers, it would open a pipeline for much-needed skilled workers.
Scott said the Jobs to Compete Act is especially important as the federal government has steadily decreased investment in workforce development programs while the costs of those programs have increased. In 2021, the average amount spent on adults participating in Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act programs — the country’s main workforce development law — was $2,128, even though many high-quality, short-term training programs can range in cost between $1,000 and $10,000, Scott said in a release.
“The difference between the amount covered and the full cost often keeps students and workers from participating in short-term training programs,” he said.
AACC is among the organizations pleased to see Congressional interest in the issue.
“AACC members have been very clear that workforce Pell is a priority,” said Martha Parham, AACC’s senior vice president for public relations. “Community colleges provide programs and services to students that are learning the skills needed to fill the nation’s workforce pipeline. These programs are relevant, accessible and affordable but without access to Pell grants, many potential students are left behind.”
What’s in Scott’s bill
According to a fact sheet from committee Democrats, the bill would, in part:
• Expand Pell eligibility to students enrolled in high-quality workforce programs between 150 and 600
• Require workforce programs to demonstrate to the U.S. Education Department (ED) that they prepare their students for “gainful employment,” through earnings requirements including showing that program graduates: (1) earn at least more than a high school graduate in their state; and (2) have an earnings gain of at least 20%.
• Require workforce programs to prepare students for high-skill, high-wage or in-demand jobs.
• Ensure credits earned in stackable workforce programs are transferrable, as applicable.
• Require institutions to demonstrate that they use at least half of their revenue from tuition and fees specifically for instructional spending.
• Ensure prospective students have access to key program outcome data and enrolled students have access to educational and career counseling.
• Ensure that only students in programs eligible for workforce Pell grants can receive short-term Direct Loans.
• Require workforce programs to be included on the eligible training providers list, as defined in WIOA.
• Create a data-sharing agreement between ED and the Department of Labor to share outcome metrics data.