Resources & Publications

In Focus: State Postsecondary Policy

Aug 12, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

WIOA State Plans: Proposed Requirements and Opportunities for Action

By Judy Mortrude and Anna Cielinski

Last week, as part of implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), the U.S. Departments of Education (ED) and Labor (DOL), together with three other federal agencies, released a formal Information Collection Request that contains proposed required elements of states’ mandatory Unified Plans or optional Combined Plans. Comments will be accepted at until October 5, 2015.

An ICR is primarily intended to collect comments on the potential benefits and burdens of complying with federal collection of information. However, this ICR is notable because it offers an early look at  the elements states will have to include in their WIOA state plans, in advance of the Departments' expected operational guidance on planning.

Under Unified Plans, states are required to explain how they will implement WIOA’s six core programs: Title I Adult, Title I Youth, Title I Dislocated Worker, Title II Adult Education and Family Literacy, Title III Wagner-Peyser, and Title IV Vocational Rehabilitation. States can choose to expand the list of programs in the plan—creating a Combined Plan—by adding any of the optional 11 combined planning partners.*

State plans will be strategic—analyzing economic conditions, workforce characteristics, and workforce development goals—and operational, including descriptions of state operating systems and policies. Data alignment and integration will require developing a common intake process and the ability to track participation across all programs in the plan.

According to the ICR, the state planning process should yield “more comprehensive and integrated [education and training] approaches, such as career pathways and sector strategies, for addressing the needs of businesses and workers.” To accomplish that, states will need to build strong relationships across all of the core WIOA programs and any of the optional combined planning partners. 

The ICR also identifies priority of service requirements. State plans must go beyond strategies for the general population; they must expressly define coordination of services for individuals with barriers to employment, veterans, unemployed workers, and youth. There are also program-specific requirements. For instance, Title I Adult programs must provide priority of service “to individuals who are low income, public benefit recipients, or basic skills deficient,” while Title II programs must prioritize incarcerated populations likely to re-enter society within 5 years of program participation.

Plans will also include assurances that the state had “input into the development” and “provided an opportunity to comment” to a wide range of stakeholders, including the general public.

State plans are due to the federal agencies on March 3, 2016. In the coming weeks, CLASP will be releasing “Opportunities for Action,” a series of short topical memos with recommendations for WIOA state plans, local plans, policies and guidance, and budget choices that can realize the promise of WIOA for helping low-income youth and adults succeed economically. Do not miss this important opportunity to shape critical workforce development services in your region.

Career and technical education programs authorized under the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (20 U.S.C. 2301 et seq.);Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program (42 U.S.C. 601 et seq.); Employment and Training Programs under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Programs authorized under section 6(d)(4) of the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 (7 U.S.C. 2015(d)(4))); Work programs authorized under section 6(o) of the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 (7 U.S.C. 2015(o)); Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers Programs (Activities authorized under chapter 2 of title II of the Trade Act of 1974 (19 U.S.C. 2271 et seq.)); Jobs for Veterans State Grants Program (Programs authorized under 38, U.S.C. 4100 et. seq.); Unemployment Insurance Programs (Programs authorized under State unemployment compensation laws in accordance with applicable Federal law); Senior Community Service Employment Program (Programs authorized under title V of the Older Americans Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. 3056 et seq.)); Employment and training activities carried out by the Department of Housing and Urban Development; Community Services Block Grant (Employment and training activities carried out under the Community Services Block Grant Act (42 U.S.C. 9901 et seq.)); Reintegration of Ex-Offenders Program (Programs authorized under section 212 of the Second Chance Act of 2007 (42 U.S.C. 17532)).

May 29, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

Bipartisan House Bill Would Improve Postsecondary Data System, Help Low-Income and Underprepared Students Make Better Decisions

By Anna Cielinski

Last week, a bipartisan group of House members introduced H.R. 2518, the “Student Right to Know Before You Go” Act of 2015. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), would provide students, families, and policymakers much-needed information to improve postsecondary education decisions. H.R. 2518 is the House companion to S. 1195, a bipartisan Senate bill sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Marco Rubio (R-FL). If enacted, it would be a major step toward an improved federal postsecondary data system that could assist low-income and underprepared students.

The bill would provide an exemption from the ban on a student unit record system and leverage the existing Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) to provide more accurate and complete data on student retention, transfer, graduation, and employment outcomes at all levels of postsecondary enrollment. As a member of the PostsecData Collaborative, CLASP strongly believes students should have access to this information when making postsecondary education decisions.

As an advocate for low-income people, CLASP is pleased that much of the data would be disaggregated by Pell Grant status. This will help policymakers and researchers understand how low-income students are faring in postsecondary education, allowing them to target policy changes toward performance or outcome gaps between Pell and non-Pell recipients.

The bill also requires median annual earnings and employment metrics—disaggregated by program of study, credential received, institution, and state of employment—to be reported 2, 6, and 15 years after completion. CLASP has strongly supported responsible use of employment and earnings data while cautioning against unintended disincentives for institutions to enroll low-income and underprepared students.

We are especially pleased that the bill would provide for employment and earnings data at the program-of-study level. Low-income and underprepared students who are place-bound may have limited choices of institutions, but they can choose among many programs of study. This data would help students select programs based on proven earning potential.

While there is much to support in the bill, improvements could be made. For example, it appears that employment and earnings data would not be disaggregated by Pell Grant status under the bill as drafted. Policymakers may be concerned that further disaggregation from the program-of-study level could produce numbers of students too low to report for privacy reasons. That problem could be solved by giving the Secretary of Education authority to combine five years of students into one cohort, a practice already employed by state-run College Measures consumer information websites. CLASP looks forward to working with Congress to improve this important legislation.

Jan 12, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

The Promise of College: America’s Next Educational Milestone

By Anna Cielinski and Amy Ellen Duke-Benfield

Last week, President Obama proposed making two years of community college free. The plan, called America’s College Promise, would create a new federal-state partnership to eliminate tuition for “responsible” students—those who attend at least half-time, maintain a 2.5 GPA, and make steady progress toward completing their program. CLASP commends the Administration for placing college access and completion at the top of its agenda. The president’s proposal is an improvement on other programs that are designed to offer “free” community college tuition, because this new proposal would particularly benefit non-traditional students, including those who are older and those who attend college part-time. America’s College Promise would be especially valuable to non-traditional students because its funds could be used to help offset living expenses, which often are the greatest barriers for students who attend relatively low-tuition community colleges. The Administration estimates as many as 9 million students will benefit.

The proposal would cover both academic and occupational programs at community colleges, provided that the programs are “high quality.” The Administration characterizes high-quality academic programs as those that would fully transfer to a four-year college or university, while high-quality occupational programs would have high graduation rates and lead to in-demand credentials. In addition, according to the Administration, the funding would not supplant current Pell Grants to low-income students, but instead would serve as a “first dollar” contribution that pays for tuition and fees up-front, leaving any remaining Pell Grant funds to cover living expenses. This is a significant improvement over the existing plans in Tennessee and Chicago, which offer “last dollar” funding that does not benefit Pell Grant recipients whose Pell grant covers all or most tuition and fees. Living expenses are often the largest out-of-pocket expense for low-income students, and can be a major roadblock to attending college at all, or can lead to increased work hours or part-time attendance, both of which can have negative impacts on persistence and completion.    

The proposal also seeks to increase state investments in community colleges by requiring a state contribution to the effort. In states that choose to participate, federal funding will cover 75 percent of the average tuition and fees for community college, with states covering the remaining 25 percent in funding. By sending a clear message that community college can be “free,” this plan could expand awareness about the full array of financial supports available, which in turn could encourage more individuals to consider postsecondary education or job training who wouldn’t otherwise have thought that it was possible. 

The president’s plan is also an improvement because it includes part-time and older students. Part-time attendance is driven by factors including work and family responsibilities. Tuition assistance programs that are only available for full-time students fail to help the majority of community college students. In 2012, 59 percent of community college students attended part-time. However, we are disappointed that the Administration’s plan does not go far enough to include individuals who attend less than half-time, as studies have shown that most students attending less-than-half-time are doing so temporarily due to family demands or changes in work and school schedules. We commend the Administration’s proposal for including those who President Obama calls the “young at heart”—students of all ages, not only those who have recently graduated from high school. With 4 in 10 undergraduate students in 2014 age 25 or older, programs that restrict eligibility to recent high school graduates fall short in expanding access to today’s community college students.   

Overall, the president’s proposal takes a crucial step in the right direction. As with the movement a century ago for all students to complete high school, this new proposal has the potential to dramatically increase the expectation of postsecondary education or job training for all Americans, not just those who can afford tuition.  We look forward to hearing more about the president’s plan at the State of the Union address and reviewing the details in his budget request to Congress in February. We strongly encourage Congress to consider seriously the value of these investments.

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