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Statement

JFF Urges Approval of Pell Grant Expansion for Short-Term Programs

December 6, 2023

At a Glance

The Bipartisan Workforce Pell Act would expand federal Pell Grant eligibility to include high-quality, short-term credential programs. This would be a monumental step toward creating more accessible and equitable education-to-career pathways for learners and workers in this country, and Jobs for the Future (JFF) urges lawmakers to consider the bill soon.

Contributors
Jobs for the Future
Practices & Centers

Jobs for the Future (JFF) applauds the introduction of the Bipartisan Workforce Pell Act, which would expand federal Pell Grant eligibility to include high-quality, short-term credential programs, and urges lawmakers to consider the U.S. House of Representatives bill soon.  

Permitting students who participate in short-term credential programs to apply for Pell Grants, the main source of federal education grants for people from low-income backgrounds, is a monumental step toward creating more accessible and equitable education-to-career pathways for learners and workers in this country. It would also play a significant role in helping to achieve JFF’s North Star: in 10 years, 75 million people facing systemic barriers to advancement will work in quality jobs. 

Short-term credentials are an important currency in today’s labor market. While 30 million quality jobs do not require a bachelor’s degree, many do require short-term education or training beyond high school, such as a certificate or other occupational credential. But without financial aid, many learners and workers can’t afford short-term programs. At the same time, employer demand for skilled labor has outpaced supply in many sectors. Even if every unemployed worker started a job today, 3 million roles would remain unfilled in the U.S. economy, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 

To address this systems failure, Congress must invest significantly in rapid reskilling opportunities that create on-ramps to quality, high-demand jobs for students from low-income backgrounds. The House lawmakers’ proposal would open doors for countless learners, drive much-needed innovation in our higher education system, and foster a more resilient and skilled workforce that is better equipped to compete in the global economy. 

Importantly, the bill includes guardrails to ensure a strong return on students’ and taxpayers’ investment in continuing education. Short-term education programs have proliferated in recent years with little oversight. The bill contains provisions that establish minimum program quality standards, hold providers accountable for student outcomes, promote labor market alignment, and provide students and their families with the information they need to choose programs that suit their career goals.  

JFF urges the House Committee on Education and the Workforce to take up the legislation quickly. The bill was introduced by Committee Chair Virginia Foxx (R-NC), ranking member U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), and U.S. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA). We look forward to continued engagement with policymakers as the bill moves through the legislative process.  

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