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- Skills Mismatch
Last week, Senator Landrieu introduced the Jumpstart Our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act of 2014 (S. 2033), legislation to extend Pell grant eligibility to students enrolled in certain short-term job training programs.
Under current law, only occupational training programs lasting a minimum of 16 weeks and providing at least 300 hours of instructional time are eligible for Pell. The JOBS Act would grant Pell eligibility to occupational training programs that are a minimum of eight weeks in length and 150 hours of instructional time.
Critically, the JOBS Act would ensure that students enrolled in noncredit courses leading to a credential would be able to access Pell to pay for those courses. Five million community college students were enrolled in noncredit courses in 2009, accounting for about 40 percent of all community college enrollments. More than half of noncredit courses offered by community colleges are occupational, vocational, or technical training programs, and are often developed directly with employers seeking skilled workers. Students enrolled in these programs—and others enrolled in Title IV eligible community-based organizations that also provide occupational training—are typically ineligible for Pell grants under current law.
Occupational training programs offered at community colleges and Title IV eligible community-based organizations play a critical role in ensuring workers have the skills they need to succeed in the labor market and that employers have the skilled workers they need to compete in the global economy. Unfortunately, current limitations on Pell eligibility too often mean low-income students enrolled in occupational training programs are ineligible for critical tuition assistance. The JOBS Act will propel Pell into the 21st century by making it more accessible for low-income workers and more effective for employers seeking to fill middle-skill jobs.
National Skills Coalition strongly supports the JOBS bill, and appreciates Senator Landrieu’s efforts to make Pell more accessible for working adults.