Today, a gap in federal law means students cannot leverage Pell Grants to attend programs that are 8 to 15 weeks long, even when these programs are proven to boost students’ economic outcomes. Expanding the applicability of Pell Grants to help cover the cost of high-quality, short-term job training programs holds enormous potential to make critical training and support more accessible for millions of people in America – strengthening local economies and improving economic mobility.
What’s essential is that programs eligible for short-term Pell dollars lead to sustainable, inclusive, positive impact – for workers and businesses.
That’s why America Forward recently wrote a letter to Congressional leaders in support of “recent efforts … to expand access to Pell Grants for high-quality, short-term workforce-focused programs with demonstrated labor market value, and to share our recommendations regarding program design.” We are tremendously encouraged that Congress is taking up this important issue, and believe the door is open for programmatic priorities that can help maximize the value for students.
The recent letter was co-signed by several America Forward Coalition organizations with deep experience “deliver[ing] or help[ing] facilitate programs with a track record of providing economic mobility in high-need fields – ranging from information technology to manufacturing to healthcare.” Co-signers included the Colorado Equitable Economic Mobility Initiative (CEEMI), Per Scholas, Project QUEST, Propel America, Social Finance, Inc., Third Sector Capital Partners, and Year Up, Inc.
Our recommendations to Federal policymakers focus on the need to support innovation and programmatic flexibility, while maintaining a focus on outcomes. We think that outcomes-based quality measures – like earning-based measures – should be a central component of any expansion of short-term Pell. We also think eligibility should extend to any program with demonstrated effectiveness — including programs not otherwise eligible for Title IV funding, online-only programs, and other innovative approaches that meet the needs of workers and businesses.
And, in order to ensure that Pell Grant funds support both innovation and impact, we encourage lawmakers to prioritize key measures related to data, transparency, and program alignment. This includes building (or updating) the necessary infrastructure to support standardized, relevant data that is accessible to “stakeholders across the system – ranging from prospective students to providers engaging in navigation support, performance management, and evaluation activities,” including job placement data. It also means facilitating strong linkages between short-term Pell programs and “other federal education and workforce programs, such as the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, SNAP Employment & Training, and the Perkins Act, to foster a more cohesive system.”
With these priorities in mind, we feel strongly that Federal policymakers can capitalize on the momentum towards expanded short-term Pell Grant applicability and open up multiple new, high-quality pathways to the workforce that will support individuals, families, and entire communities across the country. You can read our full letter to policymakers here.
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