In Focus

Jul 1, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

Senate Appropriations Bill Reduces Funding for Education and Training Programs Critical for Low-Income Students

By Lauren Walizer

On June 25, on a party-line vote, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bill to fund the U.S. Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education for fiscal year (FY) 2016, which administer the education and workforce programs that serve low-income people. The Senate majority bill, much like last week’s House bill, squanders opportunities created by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and inflicts major damage on low-income people’s education and training prospects. The bill compounds the problem of low spending caps created by the sequester with further cuts to crucial programs. This includes:

  • Cutting $331 million from Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) employment and training programs, including $41 million from WIOA Title I Youth activities and $40 million from adult employment and training activities. This is roughly 11 percent and 10 percent, respectively, below the levels Congress authorized in last year’s workforce reauthorization. At these spending levels, WIOA cannot fully fulfill its promise of expanding education and training opportunities for low-income and other vulnerable individuals. However, the bill would better align WIOA and Title IV student aid by replacing the current definition of an eligible career pathway program in the Higher Education Act with the definition in WIOA.
  • Rescinding $300 million from the Pell Grant program in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. Although this does not immediately remove any students’ eligibility for Pell or reduce recipients’ awards, it does accelerate the timing of an expected Pell funding shortfall, which is estimated to occur in FY 2018.
  • Cutting nearly $40 million from Federal Work-Study, reducing its appropriation to $949.7 million. With the corresponding reduction in matching funds, this translates to a nearly $47.4 million reduction in aid available to students, including $9.6 million to independent students and $9.5 million to dependent students whose families earn less than $24,000 annually.
  • Cutting more than $29 million from Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG), reducing its appropriation to $704.1 million. With the corresponding reduction in matching funds, this translates to a nearly $40 million reduction in aid available to students, including $16.2 million to low-income students who qualify for the automatic-zero Expected Family Contribution and $8.5 million to students who attend less than full time.
  • Cutting $29 million from the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA) and an additional $6 million from AEFLA national leadership activities. Removing resources from this program, which is both necessary to improve adults’ foundational skills and already severely underfunded, is a mistake. The reduction in funding for leadership activities is especially detrimental at this critical time when the 2014 bipartisan passage of WIOA places new requirements on adult education programs. The initial implementation period, occurring right now, is when leadership is most critical.
  • Eliminating First in the World grants, for which $60 million was available in 2015. These grants are awarded to institutions to develop and replicate program supports or other strategies that increase persistence and completion among low-income and nontraditional students. Building a reservoir of knowledge about the supports that are most effective for these students is invaluable to ensuring they achieve their postsecondary goals.
  • Eliminating the Child Care Access Means Parents In School (CCAMPIS) program, for which $15 million was available in 2015. CCAMPIS offers child care services to low-income parents on college campuses using a sliding-fee scale. By providing access to affordable, reliable child care, CCAMPIS enables student-parents to persist in their studies and complete postsecondary credentials.

The Senate majority bill, which begins with sequester caps and makes even deeper cuts, would weaken programs that address the underlying causes of poverty. President Obama has vowed to veto any budget that does not lift sequester caps, rightly recognizing the consequences of disinvestment and making it highly unlikely this bill will move forward. CLASP urges Congress to pass an appropriations bill that helps low-income and nontraditional students access and complete postsecondary education and training and move successfully into the workforce.

Jun 23, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

Minority Credential Attainment: Data Show that Field of Study is Make-or-Break for Minority Credential Earners

By Manuela Ekowo

Minorities are less likely than other working-age adults to obtain a postsecondary credential according to the most recent Census data and other data on U.S. credential attainment. Postsecondary education is critical to succeeding in today’s economy. By 2020, two-thirds of jobs will require a degree or certificate. However, not all credentials are created equal; some are more coveted by employers than others. That makes it essential for students, especially minority students, to choose fields of study that provide in-demand skills and lead to good jobs.

While a college degree can help workers advance in the economy, non-degree credentials also have value in the labor market. The value of degrees and non-degree credentials depends on the field of study. Moreover, a student can earn a non-degree credential or a degree and still not have the skills employers are looking for. Recent Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) data show that credential attainment in the U.S. doesn’t assure that credential holders have the knowledge, skills, and abilities employers need. Both employers and students suffer when workers are inadequately equipped with the skills that employers and our economy demand.

Because minorities tend to disproportionately earn more non-degree credentials than degrees, it is essential that they attain the credentials that have high value and acquire the skills and competencies necessary to be competitive in the labor force.

According to U.S. Census 2013 data, the highest credential attained by the majority of Americans is a high school diploma, and fewer than a third have earned a bachelor’s or higher as their highest level of degree attainment. The Lumina Foundation’s A Stronger Nation Through Higher Education report illustrates that 19.8% of U.S. adults have a bachelor’s degree as their highest level of education. However, blacks and Hispanic Americans earn high school diplomas and bachelor’s and advanced degrees at even lower rates. 

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Jun 12, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

Connecting Credentials to Improve Economic Mobility

By Evelyn Ganzglass

CLASP, in partnership with Lumina Foundation and more than 40 other organizations, is cosponsoring a national dialogue on how to transform our nation’s highly diverse and fragmented education and workforce credentialing system into one that is student-centered and learning-based. In such a system all learners would be able to combine high-quality credentials ─ from badges and certifications to apprenticeships and certificate programs, and all the way through associate and bachelor level degrees and beyond –to fit their needs. Credentials and their value would be easily understandable to inform learners’ education and career planning, including job transitions. Employers would trust credentials as they seek the skilled employees they need to compete globally because credentials would be up-to-date and validated to stay relevant to employer needs and would accurately represent the competencies possessed by credential holders. 

Creating a more interconnected credentialing system with clear pathways to credentials is important to expand opportunity for all people, especially low-income youth and adults seeking to advance in education and their careers. Many go into debt to earn short-term certificates or other credentials that have little value in the labor market and aren’t transferrable within either the education system or the labor market. Watch a recent Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity interview with Jamie Merisotis, President of Lumina Foundation, in which he discusses the social and economic-equity imperative of creating a more interconnected credentialing system.

We urge you to participate in this conversation in any or all of the following ways: 

  • Sign up to participate in one or more of the upcoming themed online conversations on specific topics related to creating a more connected credentialing system. Click here to see a list of initial online discussion opportunities and to sign up to participate in those of interest. Participation for each is capped at 25 people to ensure those participating can be heard. More sessions will be added if demand warrants.
  • Visit the just-launched “Connecting Credentials” website (www.connectingcredentials.org) to respond to questions about: credentialing-related challenges facing students, employers, workers, and policymakers; how a transformed system would have to function to accrue real benefits for these users; and what steps each of the stakeholders could take to create a learning-based, student-centered system.
  • Take advantage of the website’s (www.connectingcredentials.org) robust collection of research and resources on credentialing in the U.S. These resources include CLASP’s  Scaling Stacking Credentials and Giving Credit Where Credit is Due papers, along with a summary of data on credentials. You can also access the Connecting Credentials website from the new credentials page on CLASP’s website. 
  • Provide feedback on how the just-released “Connecting Credentials: A Beta Credentials Framework” (www.connectingcredentials.org) can be improved to serve as a platform for yet-to-be-developed tools/applications that can be used for connecting credentials and using competencies as the common currency to enhance transparency, comparability, portability, and equity in the credentialing marketplace. The Corporation for a Skilled Workforce (CSW) and CLASP developed this beta framework and are conducting further research to improve its utility for learners, employers, and credential providers.

CLASP and CSW are co-managing the National Dialogue in partnership with Lumina Foundation. To provide input or get more information, please contact Evelyn Ganzglass, Senior Fellow at CLASP, eganzglass@clasp.org.

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