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House Republicans Unveil Updated Short-Term Pell Legislation

By Hugh T. Ferguson, NASFAA Senior Staff Reporter

Republican leaders on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce unveiled legislation that would allow students enrolled in certain short-term programs to qualify for Workforce Pell Grants.

The measure, Promoting Employment and Lifelong Learning (PELL) Act, follows previous efforts to adjust the program through more sweeping legislation aimed at revamping the student loan system, along with other parts of the federal student aid system.

The PELL Act, introduced by Rep. Elise Stefanick (R-N.Y.), a member of the committee as well as the Republican Conference chair, specifically would extend Pell Grant eligibility to students enrolled in programs of 150 to 600 clock hours, or an equivalent, offered over the course of eight to 15 weeks.

The bill would put in place a number of requirements for programs to meet in order to qualify for Workforce Pell Grant usage, including being in operation for more than one year, being aligned with the requirements of in-demand industry sectors or occupations, having a completion rate of 70% or better within 150% of normal completion time, having a job placement rate of at least 70%, and being evaluated by an accreditor who can ensure students will be qualified for employment upon completion. 

The Department of Education (ED) would be required to publish the costs and outcomes of participating programs on the College Scorecard. This data would include the length of the program, the number of students enrolled, the percentage of students who enroll and complete the program, the percentage of students who are employed within 180 days of completing the program, as well as the percentage of individuals who have completed the program, and the percentage of those completers whose median earnings within three years of the program end date have median wages that exceed 150% of the poverty line.

Programs would be prohibited from participating in the Workforce Pell Grant program if the value-added earnings measured three years after program completion (the difference between the median earnings of students receiving federal financial aid and 150% of the federal poverty line for a single individual) do not provide a positive return on investment.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), who serves as chairwoman of the committee and a leading cosponsor of the bill, argues that these provisions will enable prospective students to enroll in high-quality, short-term programs that will enable them to access readily available careers. 

“Americans are seeking flexible, short-term learning options that lead to career advancement,” Republican committee members wrote in releasing the legislation. “Taxpayer dollars need to be more effective in aligning education opportunities with our workforce needs. The PELL Act will help do just that. Connecting workers with the skills job creators seek will help workers, families, and the economy flourish.”

 

Publication Date: 1/30/2023


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