Last week, both Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN), and Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) introduced The Pell Flexibility Act of 2019, companion bills aimed at allowing the Pell Grant to be used by students enrolled in short-term skill-based programs on a pilot basis. NASFAA has signed on in support of this bill.
The purpose of the pilot program is to test the viability of expanding Federal Pell Grant eligibility to short-term career and technical education programs at institutions of higher education while under strict monitoring from the Department of Education (ED), to help determine appropriate Pell Grant awards for students enrolled in these programs, and to ensure that eligible programs provide rigorous and high-quality instruction or training that prepares students to enter or advance within a specific occupation or occupational cluster.
The pilot program would extend eligibility for a Pell Grant, referred to as a Job Training Federal Pell Grant, to students enrolled in a program that is more than 320 clock hours, but less than 600 hours in length. Eligible programs would have to meet strict standards including providing “rigorous and high-quality instruction or training that prepares students to enter or advance within a specific occupation, or occupational cluster.”
Any institution could apply to be part of the demonstration, and would be allowed to submit up to eight of their short-term career and technical programs to be included. Institutions applying to take part in the demonstration would have to prove their short-term programs meet certain standards including an explanation of how they meet the needs of employers or industries in their state or region based on needs assessments, employment projections or recommendations of local workforce investment boards and state agencies, that represent the institution’s state or region. In choosing pilot participants, ED will consider the school and program’s financial responsibility and administrative capability, job placement rates in the relevant field of study in the region and state, the needs of the region and state, and the support of the faculty and institutional leadership.
The bill would allow ED to select up to 100 institutions of higher education to participate and the program would run for a period of five award years.
ED would be required to evaluate each demonstration program enacted annually, by looking at measures including, job placement and retention rates of participating students at certain time based thresholds, if the program diverted students who would have normally attended a four-year program into a short-term program, if participants sought a higher credential or degree after completing the short-term program, and the percentage of program completion.
Publication Date: 4/12/2019