Opinion: Grow Economy by Modernizing Our Approach to College

"In the 50 years since the Higher Education Act was signed into law, students, workers, businesses and our economy have all transformed in response to the technological revolution that has swept the globe. Yet our nation’s approach to higher education seems to be stuck in neutral. It’s time for our federal education policies to catch up with the reality of today’s students, employers and job seekers in the new economy," Amanda Russel writes in an opinion article for the Des Moines Register

"In 2017, the National Federation of Independent Business found that 45% of small businesses in America were unable to find qualified job applicants to fill job openings.

There are more than six million job openings across the U.S. – a record high. Much of this workforce shortage is due to a serious middle-skills gap in growing sectors of our economy such as advanced manufacturing, health care, IT, logistics, transportation, construction, infrastructure and others. In nearly every region of the country, lack of trained, skilled workers has hamstrung businesses and stalled economic growth. At the same time, millions of working people are in low-wage, low-skill jobs without access to the training, skills and education they need for a career in these fields.

Good jobs in many of these sectors don’t require a four-year degree, but a certificate, credential or two-year degree. If we want to grow businesses, get people the skills they need to get their foot in the door and grow our economy, we’ve got to put short-term certificate programs and industry-recognized credentials on equal footing with traditional, four-year college degrees. The way to do that is by modernizing the Higher Education Act – in particular, the Pell Grant Program.

Since the 1980s, federal education funding like Pell Grants have supported traditional, four-year degrees, but not short-term certificate programs. This Pell Grant model was created before we were introduced to the Internet, email, smartphones or any of the technologies people are using on the job today.

Our approach to higher education needs to change with the times. We aren’t investing in the students who want to earn the very credentials that are most important to employers. For instance, Pell Grants can be used for four-year degrees in French Literature, but not necessarily for short-term certificates or occupational credentials for in-demand careers such as welding or advanced manufacturing. Our country should invest in both kinds of students. To thrive, our nation needs philosophers and computer numerical control machinists, central supply technicians and coders."

NASFAA's "Headlines" section highlights media coverage of financial aid to help members stay up to date with the latest news. Inclusion in Today's News does not imply endorsement of the material or guarantee the accuracy of information presented.


Publication Date: 1/11/2018

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