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May 25, 2017  |  PERMALINK »

States Seek to Coordinate TANF & WIOA, But Progress is Slow

By Anna Cielinski

Many states have high interest in coordinating Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), but progress has been slow, according to new research from CLASP.

During early implementation of WIOA, CLASP surveyed TANF and WIOA agency leaders about their level of coordination between programs. Most states reported that coordination was a goal but not yet implemented. Coordinating TANF & WIOA: High Interest, Slow Progress During Early Days of WIOA presents findings from the survey as well federal and state policy recommendations to improve coordination and better serve low-income people.

Low-income parents who participate in TANF need better, more accessible job training and support services to obtain family-sustaining work. To accomplish this, it’s important to coordinate TANF’s employment programs with federal workforce development services under WIOA.

In our survey, almost every respondent said increased coordination could improve the quality of workforce programs available to job-ready TANF recipients. In particular, coordination would provide closer connections to the labor market and increase program efficiency through reduced duplication. Most respondents expressed the opinion that their state was moving toward increased coordination.

CLASP has identified 10 strategies that, according to research, lead to additional coordination. In our survey, we asked which, if any, states were currently using. The ones mentioned most frequently were having a shared job search resource room and braiding funding streams. The least-cited strategies were team case management and assigning a single staff member to perform case management for both programs. Many respondents said that some, but not all, workforce areas used a given strategy. Some strategies—particularly those requiring technology changes—were cited as long-term goals that were years away from being implemented.

Across states, respondents consistently noted that incompatible performance measures impede collaboration. WIOA uses outcome measures, like employment and earnings, while TANF uses a different type of measure called Work Participation Rate (WPR). The WPR is a process measure; it only indicates whether participants were present at countable activities for the required number of hours. It doesn’t measure whether TANF activities led to employment or improved earnings. In order to receive credit toward the WPR, states must monitor and document all hours of participation. This distinction has been well-documented as a barrier to coordination between TANF and workforce systems.

To learn more about these and other issues, read Coordinating TANF & WIOA: High Interest, Slow Progress During Early Days of WIOA.

May 24, 2017  |  PERMALINK »

Slashing the Budget on the Backs of Low-Income Students and Workers

President Trump’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) proposes drastic and harmful cuts to vital employment, education, and training services that enable low-income youth and adults to improve their skills and succeed in the workforce. The budget would make extreme cuts to critical student aid programs, workforce training programs for low-income students, and other key federal supports for people pursuing the postsecondary education and credentials that provide an important pathway out of poverty.

Decimates Key Financial Supports for Low-Income Students

  • The budget removes $3.9 billion from the Pell Grant program, which already covers less than 30 percent of the average cost of college attendance. More than 7.7 million low-income students depend on Pell Grants to help cover tuition. Among them, 55 percent have family incomes of $20,000 or less (the poverty threshold for a family of three). Cancelling such a large part of Pell’s funding threatens legal commitments to provide Pell Grants to every eligible student who applies. Because Congress has unique accounting rules for Pell’s need-based guarantee, reductions in the total Pell budget would require future cuts in either grant amounts or student eligibility policies. Such restrictions would further harm low-income students, compounding the damage done to the Pell Grant program in 2011, the last time there was a shortfall. Notably, the president’s budget expresses support for year-round Pell Grants, which allow low-income students to receive one-and-a-half Pell Grants over a school year to help pay for attendance in three semesters, or year-round. However, this provision in the budget is unnecessary because year-round Pell Grants were restored beginning July 1, 2017, by the final FY17 Appropriations Act that passed earlier this month.
  • The president’s budget cuts student aid by $5.2 billion. Student aid programs are already insufficient to meet the financial need of today’s students. Low-income students attending postsecondary education face greater challenges than ever. Because more and more employers are demanding education and training beyond high school, students find themselves in the difficult position of needing postsecondary training that is increasingly unaffordable. Even without these cuts, students have significant unmet need, with students of color particularly affected. In 2011-12, 57 percent of Black students in community colleges received Pell grants; however, 82 percent still had a remaining unmet financial need averaging $5,000. Three-quarters of students from Asian, Hispanic, and Native backgrounds also have remaining unmet need. 
  • The proposal also seeks to eliminate Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG), which help cover college costs each year for more than 1.6 million students with the greatest need, nearly all of whom also receive a Pell Grant [click here for a table showing how many students in your state would lose SEOG grants under the president’s proposal].
  • The budget would slash $488 million from the Work-Study program, eliminating employment opportunities for more than 300,000 low-income students working their way through college, about 25 percent of whom have an income below $12,000 annually [click here for a table showing how many students in your state would lose Work-Study jobs slots under the president’s proposal].  
  • The budget also harms students with dependent children by eliminating the Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) program, which provides $15 million in federal funds to offer child care services so students can attend class and stay on track in their postsecondary educations.

Adds Even More Stress for Borrowers Already Struggling with Repayment

  • The budget would end subsidized student loans, which benefit low- and moderate-income borrowers by stopping the accrual of interest while students are in school. This leads to a lower overall loan burden once the borrower begins repayment. Because 6 in 10 independent students who obtain these loans have incomes of $20,000 or less, subsidized loans are a particularly important resource.
  • The budget would end debt forgiveness for students who go into public service careers. Under this program, individuals who choose to take lower-paying jobs in the public or non-profit sector can have their federal student loans forgiven after 10 years. This program offers students with low or modest incomes the opportunity to pursue their career passion without drowning in student debt by opting to pursue jobs that provide vital direct services to low-income communities as teachers, librarians, public defenders, public safety officers, emergency medical technicians, and other crucial service providers. More than 550,000 student loan borrowers are currently enrolled in this program and many more could be eligible because they have chosen careers that could qualify for debt forgiveness.
  • One positive proposal in the budget would consolidate the current student loan repayment options to two, replacing the five existing income-driven repayment plans with a single plan and maintaining the existing standard repayment plan. The new income-driven plan would allow federal student loan borrowers to repay their loans at a rate of up to 12.5 percent of their discretionary income for 15 years, after which their loan(s) would be forgiven. If this were enacted, low-income borrowers could receive forgiveness from student-loan debt 5 or 10 years sooner than under existing income-driven repayment plans.

Impedes Economic Mobility for Youth and Adults with the Greatest Barriers to Employment

CLASP urges the House and Senate to reject Trump’s budget. Instead, Congress should continue strong federal investments to help low-income Americans succeed in today’s—and tomorrow’s—economy by supporting adequate FY18 appropriations for our nation’s fundamental education and workforce programs.

View estimated proposed cuts by state for:

May 10, 2017  |  PERMALINK »

ASAP—A Promising Model for HEA Reform

By Lauren Walizer

In our recommendations to reform the federal Higher Education Act (HEA), CLASP has identified specific improvements that would better support today’s low-income, nontraditional students. We advocate for making aid responsive to today’s postsecondary students, transforming education delivery to support student success, and leveraging outcome information to aid in decision making. In the first in a series of briefs on Opportunities for Addressing Postsecondary Student Poverty in the HEA, we examine the potential of the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) model. The ASAP initiative combines free tuition for participating students with a network of student supports—from providing transportation assistance to offering student assistance like counseling and post-completion job placement support. Together, these elements focus college programs on the whole student’s experience and chances of success in college, rather than solely emphasizing either initial enrollment or post-program outcomes, which are too often prioritized in isolation. After success in community colleges in New York and Ohio, the ASAP model will soon expand to other institutions.

ASAP combines several innovative policy ideas, such as free college on a “last dollar” basis (which ensures all students have their tuition and fees paid for after grant aid is credited). Students are required to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the completion of which, on its own, has been shown to increase persistence. The ASAP initiative also encompasses a holistic approach to supporting students by providing free textbooks and subsidizing student transportation costs, investing in more intensive counseling and guidance on course sequencing, and enabling students to take remedial coursework concurrently with credit-bearing classes so they don’t get trapped in remedial education.

Providing both last-dollar tuition and student supports to ASAP participants requires an initial investment greater than what colleges would ordinarily make. But the combination of these student-focused resources has led to increased rates of student persistence, graduation after three years, and subsequent enrollment in four-year institutions. Over time, on a per-student completion basis, the cost per graduate at the City University of New York (CUNY) was 11 percent less than the cost of its current level of services.

The policy brief recommends building student supports further into the HEA, both on its own and in conjunction with a ”college promise” program model that covers the price of college tuition and fees. The brief also encourages efforts to help students with more comprehensive financial supports.

Read the report here>>

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