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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, which administer the education and workforce programs that serve low-income people, for fiscal year (FY) 2016. 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 26, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

Department of Education: College Ratings System Will Focus on Helping Students Make Better Decisions

By Anna Cielinski

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Education announced that its multi-year effort to create a federal college ratings system will focus on providing consumer information to students, rather than comparing colleges through ratings or high-stakes accountability tied to federal student aid eligibility. This is a shift from the Administration’s earlier plans and follows over a year of advocacy by CLASP.

Later this summer, the Department will release “new, easy-to-use tools that will provide students with more data than ever before to compare college costs and outcomes.” According to the Department, the tool “will take a consumer-driven approach, providing information to help students to reach their own conclusions about a college’s value.”

Since January 2014, CLASP has made a number of recommendations to the Department on the college ratings system (previously known as the Postsecondary Institution Ratings System, or PIRS). We have offered written comments, testimony, a briefing paper on implementing a system that empowers students while avoiding unintended consequences, a briefing paper on the importance of presenting workforce outcomes, and comments on the Department’s draft framework. We appreciate seeing many of our suggestions reflected in the Department’s plans.

CLASP strongly supports the Department’s focus on leveraging information about college access, success, and outcomes to help low-income and underprepared students make better decisions about where to pursue their postsecondary education and training. By choosing not to tie ratings to student aid eligibility, the Department has addressed our concern that using student outcome measures for accountability would have unintended consequences, such as incentivizing institutions to serve fewer low-income and underprepared students.

We hope the Department will follow its plan to use labor market outcomes in the system. Earnings and employment information is important to students, who increasingly see college as a road to better wages. Low-income and nontraditional student who may be place-bound by work and family obligations—an increasing share of postsecondary students—may not have many choices of institutions. Employment data at the program-of-study level will allow these students to make an informed choice of program of study, increasing their chances of earning a family-sustaining wage. The Department is uniquely positioned to bring together existing data sources to provide employment and earnings results for institutions and programs of study.

Using program-of-study-level earnings data for the purpose of consumer information is consistent with states’ recent usage. Along with College Measures, a number of states have successfully created consumer information websites with graduates’ earnings disaggregated by program of study. However, with regard to accountability, only one of the 30 states with outcomes-based funding formulas for higher education uses graduates’ earnings. We hope the Department will take the lessons learned by the states as it develops its tool.

Jun 22, 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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