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Reynolds says the financial aid should be available to low-income students in programs offering a professional certificate for high-demand jobs like welders, computer technicians or certified nursing assistants.
“Right now, students can only receive a Pell Grant if they enroll in a for-credit program over at least 15 weeks or one semester, so the shorter for-credit and non-credit programs are not included in those options,” Reynolds says.
National Skills Coalition CEO Andy Van Kleunen says Pell Grants are the “primary” financial help that’s available to low-income students, however all but five percent of Pell Grants go to full-time students seeking a four-year degree.
“Not only is this federal approach outdated, it’s just plainly unfair to working students who don’t have time to take a long-term degree program, but who still need some financial assistance to help them keep their jobs or advance their careers,” Van Kleunen says.
Iowa Valley Community College chancellor Chris Duree says his college has short-term certificate programs that help students qualify for a job in a manufacturing plant or a health care facility, but students enrolled in those programs don’t qualify for Pell Grants.
“The time has come to update federal financial aid policies to be better aligned with the needs of today’s students and employers,” Wynes says. “This can start with making the Pell funding available for the short-term programs that all of our community colleages have available and already in place.”
Governor Reynolds used her weekly news conference to highlight the issue. A bipartisan bill in the U.S. Senate would “modernize” how the Pell Grant is used, according to Reynolds.