Jul 22, 2010 | Permalink »
House Subcommittee Approves FY 2011 Education Funding to Assist Low-Income Students
By Marcie W.M. Foster and Amy Ellen Duke-Benfield
The U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education recently approved a bill that is consistent with the President’s FY 2011 budget request for key education programs that can help low-income adults access and complete postsecondary education.
Although this bill is only the first step in the federal appropriations process, it sends an important message that the nation needs targeted education and training investments so more low-income students and workers can access education and training to help them gain skills needed in our recovering economy.
Most notably, the bill increased funding for Pell Grants, which more than eight million low-income students rely on each year for tuition-related expenses, by almost $5.7 billion. This increase would cover the looming funding shortfall and is necessary to ensure students continue to receive aid.
Unverified reports indicate that other student aid programs did not fare as well. Gear Up, TRIO, Federal Work-Study, and the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants received flat funding or modest increases, and the bill eliminated the Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnerships (LEAP) Grants program.
The subcommittee approved $1.9 billion for career and adult education, equal to the President’s budget request. According to reports, President Obama’s request for funding for the adult education portion of these funds was also matched at $612 million, which reflects a decrease of $16 million from the previous fiscal year. While this decrease is unfortunate, it’s important to note that last year’s appropriations included a one-time increase to correct for several years of federal accounting errors that prevented states from receiving the total funding that they were entitled to under the budget.
Recent findings show that, due to insufficient funding, the number of individuals on adult education waiting lists has doubled since 2008, and the problem is expected to continue until Congress increases appropriations for adult education. A recent report from the National Council of State Directors of Adult Education (NCSDAE) found that just $160 million in additional appropriations would allow states to serve those currently on waiting lists.
The Senate is expected to markup the bill before the August recess.
Jul 20, 2010 | Permalink »
Shifting Gears Initiative Helps Adults Gain Skills, Access to Employment
By Anna Suhring and Marcie W.M. Foster
The labor market continues to place growing emphasis on postsecondary education and training, but many workers struggle to gain the skills valued by employers in today's economy. Even among adults who enroll in postsecondary education and training programs, many fail to complete the requirements necessary to gain needed credentials.
In a new publication, Shifting Gears: State Innovation to Advance Workers and the Economy in the Midwest, CLASP Senior Fellow Julie Strawn describes how six Midwestern states are pursuing state policies that will help more low-skilled adults achieve postsecondary access and success.
Though each state's policy agenda is tailored to its individual workforce needs, the report focuses on two innovative approaches common to many of the Shifting Gears states. One strategy involves creating new pathways to postsecondary education and credentials by breaking up longer programs into shorter-term certificates that build to a degree, prioritizing sectors that offer the best opportunities for employment, and offering classes at different times and locations. A second approach focuses on creating "bridge" models that combine basic skills instruction with occupational training focused on workforce readiness and preparation for specific sectors of the job market.
Through its focus on state policy change, Shifting Gears is helping Midwest states to serve more low-skilled adults by better developing clear pathways to marketable credentials and connecting basic skills services more closely to what adults need for college and career success. In addition, states in the initiative have connected such reforms to broader work in expanding student support services and creating partnerships with employers and economic development efforts.
About Shifting Gears: The Joyce Foundation's Shifting Gears works to strengthen state postsecondary, adult basic education, and workforce development systems so that more low-skilled workers gain the education, skills, and credentials needed to advance and succeed in our changing economy. Visit the Shifting Gears web site.
Jun 21, 2010 | Permalink »
Without Training, Low-Skill Workers Face Serious Labor Market Challenges
By Anna Suhring
Earlier this month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released new unemployment numbers that, at first look, seem encouraging. The economy grew during the month of May, creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs. Upon closer examination, however, it is clear that the nation's job growth is tenuous at best.
Analysts note that much of the job growth is due to temporary Census positions. Furthermore, despite the emergence of new jobs, the national unemployment rate is 9.7 percent, a figure that has changed little since the beginning of the year and a figure that hovers around generational highs.
Worse, long-term unemployment is at its highest level since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics began keeping track of the statistic. Today, more than 7 million workers have been out of work for six months or more. For low-income, low-skill people and minority workers, the unemployment situation is far worse. These populations have unemployment averages 25 to 50 percent higher than the national average.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, the U.S. labor market has 7.4 million fewer jobs today than it did at the beginning of the recession in December 2007. Even if jobs growth maintained the average pace of the last three months, it would take nearly two years to restore all the lost jobs, according to EPI.
But simply creating jobs won't solve some underlying, structural labor market issues.