Washington, D.C. -- Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-California) and Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-Florida) introduced the Expanding America’s Workforce Act of 2017.
Introducing the legislation, Congressman Hunter – a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce said, “Millions of Americans are seeking to gain the skills needed for well-paying careers. We need to modernize the Higher Education Act to meet the specific needs of these students. It is an essential step to rebuilding America’s Middle Class and providing a new era of opportunity for these students.”
Congressman Hastings emphasized the proposal’s importance in serving the diversity of today’s student population. “A quality education is critical to the realization of the American Dream. We are blessed to live in a country that has historically worked to ensure that every child has access to a free, public education. However, postsecondary education in some instances is still in need of improvement. I believe that we should be working across the aisle in Congress to support bipartisan measures, which will help to create greater access for students seeking a postsecondary degree to have more opportunities in the job market.”
Since last November, leaders engaged in postsecondary career education from across the nation worked to develop a series of recommendations connecting the Higher Education Act to jobs. In doing so, they emphasized that today the Higher Education Act serves as our nation’s primary source of support for careers requiring some level of postsecondary education. The proposal includes four key items:
Short-Term Workforce Pell Grants:
A key element of the legislation is to provide a pathway for students to engage in short-term programs of 8 to 12 weeks by creating a new “Short-Term Workforce Pell Grant”. Many adults who obtained undergraduate degrees over 10 years ago may need new training to re-enter the workforce in today’s technology-based workplace, where there are many jobs to be attained. Under the proposal, if students are financially eligible for such awards, a previous degree would not prevent eligibility. In addition, individuals who have not completed high school can receive a Short-Term Workforce Pell Grant to attend an eligible program to prepare them to enter the workforce.
Connecting Apprenticeships to Academic Degrees:
The act calls upon the Secretaries of Education and Labor to develop comprehensive articulation agreements that enable students to achieve academic credit for apprenticeship programs as the first step in their career ladder.
Enhancing Transfer of Credit:
Recognizing the continuing problems of student credit transfer, this proposal makes an important first step by mandating that identical academic programs of the same level, if approved by the same accreditor shall be automatically transferable between institutions unless schools request an additional assessment to prove competency. The Secretary is required to monitor such implementation and provide a report on the acceptance/rejection of credit transfers and the specific reasons stated by the school rejecting such transfers.
Students, like veterans returning to school, may be eligible to enroll in Competency-Based Education programs approved by an institution’s accreditor, with now-enshrined eligibility for Title IV assistance.
Steve Gunderson, the president and CEO of Career Education Colleges & Universities commended Congressman Hunter and Congressman Hastings for their leadership in introducing this legislation. “We had over 70 of our nation’s best career education experts help identify the key elements necessary to make the Higher Education Act a relevant tool to create job skills leading to real jobs, real wages and a real place in America’s Middle Class. This proposal is an important first step in our nation addressing the need for 46.5 million new skilled workers by 2024.”