Postsecondary education and credentials are key to economic mobility for individuals and economic competitiveness for our nation. Yet too many low-income adults and disadvantaged youth are locked out of the opportunity to earn credentials and are falling further and further behind. The Center advocates for better policies, more investment, and increased political will to address this national challenge. Learn more »

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Reengineer Education and Skill Development Systems: Federal, state, and local policies can help increase opportunity for low-income adults and disadvantaged youth by connecting education and training systems and funding innovative education and training strategies. Learn More »
Expand Student Financing and Supports: The nation needs robust student financing policies and student support services to ensure more low-income adults and disadvantaged youth complete postsecondary credentials. Learn More »
Increase Investment in Services and Capacity: States and communities can better serve more low-income youth and disadvantaged adults who seek postsecondary credentials by increasing investment in and coordination of funding for education and training. Learn More »
Strengthen Data and Accountability: Education and training systems should work together to better evaluate individual outcomes and improve services for low-income adults and disadvantaged youth. Learn More »

Dec 15, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

“CRomnibus” for FY 2015—What It Means for Low-Income People in Postsecondary Education and Training

By Amy Ellen Duke-Benfield and Katherine Saunders

On Saturday night, the U.S. Senate joined the House in passing a spending bill (referred to as the “CRomnibus,” a hybrid of a continuing resolution and an omnibus budget bill) for the remainder of the fiscal year through September 30, 2015, that would provide modest increases to student aid and workforce training programs, while unfortunately cutting Pell Grant funding (the largest federal grant program for low-income undergraduate students).

  • Pell Grants: Pell Grants received a $100 increase in the maximum annual award from $5,730 to $5,830 for the 2015-16 academic year. However, Pell Grant funding was cut by $303 million, $219 million of which will partially replace mandatory funds for private student loan servicers that were eliminated in a previous budget agreement. The cut will not lead to harmful eligibility changes to the program in the current academic year because the Pell Grant program is currently running a surplus. But, the program is projected to face a significant shortfall in FY 2016 and beyond. In the past, shortfalls have harmed non-traditional students because of eligibility changes that have included setting a cap on the number of semesters for receipt of Pell Grants and eliminating summer Pell awards. Cutting the program funding now, instead of saving the current surplus for future leaner years, sets a dangerous precedent for the program.
  • Ability to Benefit: This bill partially reinstates the ability-to-benefit (ATB) provision, which provides Pell Grant and student loan access to low-income students who lack a high school diploma or equivalent and who enroll in a career pathways program, enabling them to receive student aid by passing an exam or successfully completing six credit hours. The change goes into effect immediately, but the amount of Pell Grant for which ATB students will be eligible varies based on enrollment date. Those who enter a career pathways program before July 1, 2015, will be eligible for the maximum Pell Grant award of $5,830, while those enrolling after July 1, 2015, will be limited to only the maximum discretionary Pell Grant award of $4,860.
  • WIOA Title I Funding:  State grants for adult, dislocated workers and youth training and employment services were increased by a total of $36 million over the prior year’s appropriated level, with the increased amounts allocated to Governors’ reserve funds for statewide employment and training activities.
  • Adult Education:  The bill increases adult education state grants by $5 million over the prior year’s appropriated level, an increase of 0.9 percent.
  • Federal Work-Study:  Federal work-study (FWS) helps needy students obtain part-time employment to cover the cost of their education. FWS funding increased by $15 million over the prior year’s appropriated level, which will assist an additional 8,900 students.
  • Foster Youth: A box will be added to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to identify students who are foster youth or were in the foster care system, so that the U. S. Department of Education can use that information to notify students about their potential eligibility for student aid, including postsecondary education programs through the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program.
  • Minority-Serving Postsecondary Education Institutions (MSIs):  Programs to support MSIs received additional funding of $8.7 million over the prior year’s appropriated level, an increase of 1.6 percent.
  • Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) for Workers:  The bill extends the TAA programs through fiscal year 2015 with $710.6 million in funds expected to serve 17,300 new participants.


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