Policy & Advocacy


Mary Gardner Clagett
Director, National Workforce Policy
617.728.4446 x406

Policy at Jobs for the Future

Jobs for the Future’s policy team is tracking, analyzing, and providing input into many fast-moving items in Washington, DC, right now. JFF's policy experts also work to provide policy insights to federal and state policymakers that encourage the expansion of proven practices and support innovation in secondary, postsecondary, and workforce pathways.


Every Student Succeeds Act

• JFF was a signatory on a letter to U.S. Senate urging senators to vote against a bill that would rescind the common-sense regulations to implement the accountability provisions of the bipartisan ESSA. Read the letter.
• JFF's joint recommendations on ESSA, reported on in Education Week.
Senate ESEA Bill Advances with Wins for Personalized Learning
• JFF Joins 22 Partner Organizations in Calling for Innovative Assessment Flexibility in ESEA Reauthorization
• JFF's Recommendations to Senate HELP Committee Chairmain Alexander’s draft ESEA reauthorization bill

Higher Education Act

Policy Alert: Read our Recommendations for the Reauthorization

Ability to Benefit

In 1976 the Ability to Benefit provision was added to the Higher Education Act allowing students without high school degrees to become eligible for federal financial aid so long as they had the “ability to benefit” from postsecondary training. Beginning July 1, 2012, students were required to have a high school diploma or its equivalent in order to receive federal financial aid. In December 2014, Congress partially restored the Ability to Benefit provision of the Higher Education Act. Under this provision, otherwise-eligible students who do not have a high school diploma or its recognized equivalent, but who are enrolled in eligible career pathway programs, may qualify for federal financial aid, a critical resource in students' ability to access and succeed in postsecondary education. 

• Learn more about Ability to Benefit and view our webinar held with CLASP.

• Policy Alert: Guidance on Partial Restoration of Ability to Benefit for Students in Career Pathways Programs

Senators Portman and Warner have introduced a bill, Go to High School, Go to College Act, to amend the HEA to increase college access for low-income students through Pell grants for those enrolled in early college high schools. JFF Vice President Joel Vargas comments on the bill.

First in the World

JFF submitted comments on the Proposed Priorities, Requirements, Selection Criterion, and Definitions for the First in the World Program. This program addresses President Obama's goal that America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

Pell Grant Proposals

Jobs for the Future has proposed, as part of the Experimental Sites Initiative of the U.S. Department of Education, to use Pell Grant funding in innovative ways to expand postsecondary opportunities to low-income young people.

• Approved Proposal: Pell Grants for High School Students Taking Early College Coursework
• Proposal: Pell Grants for Postsecondary Students without High School Diplomas or GEDs in Career Pathways Programs

• JFF Applauds Inclusion of Early College in Every Child Achieves Act of 2015

Workforce Development

Reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act

• JFF joined forces with CLASP and New America Foundation to submit recommendations on for reauthorization of the Perkins Act

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

• JFF submitted comments on the WIOA Notices of Proposed Rulemaking in conjunction with CLASP, NYEC, and other youth-supporting organizations to propose changes to work to alleviate youth unemployment.
• Read our blog about WIOA and Ability to Benefit

State Policy Work

Jobs for the Future’s experts work in regions throughout the country to remove policy barriers to designs that improve outcomes for all students.

Scaled Community College Reform

JFF provides a comprehensive suite of technical assistance, resources, and policy guidance to support state scale up of campus-based efforts that can help millions of community college students graduate and earn a livable wage. Our resources and services are designed to help all the key state actors create the policy conditions within which community colleges can implement evidence-based, institution-wide innovations.

Students at the Center Deeper Learning Research Series

Increasingly, policymakers are engaged in important debates and decisions that will determine our effectiveness in increasing educational and economic opportunity and productivity for all learners. Students at the Center has launched a second aligned and integrated effort to coalesce and make accessible the evidence base on effective learning strategies and deeper learning outcomes. This undertaking is particularly geared toward building knowledge in formats that policymakers can draw upon to keep deeper learning outcomes front and center as they engage in the real-time debates and decisions that will enable our schools to create a highly competent and productive workforce and engaged citizens for the 21st century.

Policy Bulletins: A New Era for Educational Assessment, The Role of Digital Technologies in Deeper Learning, Deeper Learning and the Power of the WorkplaceCivic Education and Deeper Learning

Learn more about the Deeper Learning Research Series.

Policy at Jobs for the Future

Current policy and advocacy efforts include support for evidence-based innovations across our three areas of work:

Secondary Education Policy

Synthesizing research, evidence, and input from practitioners and policymakers at the local, regional, and state level, JFF works to inform critical national debates on what works to prepare all students—particularly underrepresented youth—for college and career success. Promising practices we support in our policy efforts include Early College Designs and college- and career-readiness transition models, such as dual enrollment; Back on Track Through College dropout recovery pathways; and grades 9-14 career pathways. These policy efforts are part of our Preparing for College and Careers work.


Higher Education Policy

Our Postsecondary State Policy team is actively encouraging the development of community college reforms that accelerate completion and credentials, and contributing to the critcal national debates on improving postsecondary outcomes. Our efforts drive policies to support community college-level career pathways for underprepared youth and adults. These policy efforts are part of our Earning Postsecondary Credentials work.


Workforce Development Policy

We design and promotes policies to help states and communities enact and sustain the workforce training programs that demonstrate the most promise. We work to promote regional workforce system collaboration and innovation. We sythesize research, evidence, and input from practitioners to inform national debates, such as about the skills gap. These policy efforts are part of our Advancing Careers and Economic Growth work.


More policy-related publications, blog posts, and other resources can be found below.

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About Our Areas of Work
We organize our work into three areas to help low-income youth & adults:

Policy & Advocacy

Blog Posts

News & Media