ASSOCIATION FOR CAREER & TECHNICAL EDUCATION®
On Tuesday, February 2, Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) introduced the Working Students Act in the U.S. House of Representatives, a companion bill to a version previously introduced in the Senate by Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). The bill would adjust the income threshold for eligibility for Pell grants, a form of need-based financial aid under the Higher Education Act, to better reflect the needs of the 66 percent of students working full- or part-time to put themselves through postsecondary education.
Under the current system, federal law allows students to earn a certain amount of income through employment, known as the Income Protection Allowance (IPA), without impacting the amount of Pell aid they are eligible for. However, many students’ earnings exceed the existing threshold, which negatively affects their eligibility for financial aid – functionally penalizing them for working to support themselves while enrolled in postsecondary education. The Working Students Act would increase the IPA threshold by 35 percent, which would provide needed relief for these student populations.
ACTE applauds Rep. Duckworth and Sen. Baldwin’s work to support working students nationwide, and has endorsed the legislation. We encourage ACTE members and CTE advocates to share their support for the bill on social media using the hashtag #workingstudents, and to include this image in their outreach:
Posted by Sean Lynch on 02/03/2016 at 02:25 PM in HEA, Postsecondary Issues | Permalink
Today, President Obama and his Administration announced two new proposals that would expand the Higher Education Act’s (HEA) federal Pell Grant program, which supports low-income students pursuing postsecondary education with financial aid.
The first, called “Pell for Accelerated Completion,” would support students seeking to conduct their studies during the summer by expanding the academic year to include a third semester of Pell eligibility. Currently, many full-time students exhaust their annual Pell eligibility during the traditional school year and cannot continue their studies into the summer. By adding a third semester of Pell eligibility, the proposal would help more students to complete their studies efficiently and progress toward their career goals.
The Administration’s second proposal would seek to encourage students to complete their studies efficiently by offering an increase of $300 for students who complete at least 15 credits per semester. By incentivizing students’ participation in full course loads, the Administration hopes that more students will finish their education quickly and accrue less debt.
Year-round Pell eligibility has long been a priority among education stakeholders and leaders, including Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Lamar Alexander and ACTE. The Administration’s proposals, however, would need to earn Congressional approval before they can be enacted. You can learn more about ACTE’s recommendations for HEA and financial aid here.
Posted by Sean Lynch on 01/19/2016 at 04:56 PM in Executive Branch, HEA, Postsecondary Issues | Permalink
With the presidential and congressional election in full swing, the second half of the 114th Congress will be dominated by campaign politics. Despite the election-year partisanship, there are some outstanding education policy issues that may make an appearance in 2016.
The implementation of the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) will be an important issue in K-12 education. The U.S. Department of Education has already put out a formal request for information for stakeholder input and recommendations on implementation of ESSA’s Title I regulations and issued a letter notifying states of several initial steps regarding ESSA implementation and transition. Expect a flurry of regulations and guidance on ESSA, including its CTE provisions, from the feds in the coming year.
As for education legislation, the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) will be a continued priority in the House and Senate. Simplifying student financial aid programs and reducing the cost of higher education will be key themes in forthcoming reauthorization bills. Congressional Republicans will continue to oppose the department’s gainful employment regulations and other higher education regulations, and will likely use HEA reauthorization to block those efforts. The Senate, in particular, may follow a similar path on HEA as it did with ESSA—crafting a bipartisan proposal to gain support from both sides of the aisle.
It is unclear when Congress may begin to seriously consider the reauthorization of the Perkins Act. Both chambers have been working toward Perkins reauthorization over the past year, but other issues may still take priority in 2016. The passage of ESSA and WIOA does increase the possibility of reauthorization legislation this year, particularly if progress stalls (or moves very quickly) on HEA.
With the passage of the two-year budget deal and the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 omnibus appropriations bill, Congress will be able to focus its attention on funding for FY 2017 in the coming months, with hopes of more regular order in the budget and appropriations process. The new budget cycle will again begin with the release of the President Obama’s FY 2017 budget request on February 9, which will be the last budget of his Administration. The House and Senate will unveil their own funding proposals throughout the spring and summer. Despite a slight increase in discretionary spending levels, the Republican majorities in both chambers will likely push for greater fiscal austerity. The CTE community will continue to advocate for a greater investment in Perkins!
Be sure check out the CTE Policy Watch Blog for regular updates on all the policy activity to come in 2016. We also invite you to join us in Washington on February 29-March 2, at this year’s National Policy Seminar!
Posted by Mitch Coppes on 01/08/2016 at 11:42 AM in Advocacy Resources, ESEA, Executive Branch, Federal Funding, HEA, NPS, Perkins | Permalink
Today, the Technical Education and Career Help (TEACH) Act was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill, sponsored by Reps. Alex Mooney (R-WV), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Rod Blum (R-IA), Pete Aguilar (D-CA), Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), Ami Bera (D-CA), Bruce Poliquin (R-ME) and Congressional CTE Caucus Co-Chair Jim Langevin (D-RI), is a companion to the Creating Quality Technical Educators Act previously introduced in the Senate.
ACTE has endorsed the legislation, which would help to promote recruitment and training for new CTE educators and stem the growing tide of teacher shortages that pose challenges to administrators and students alike. It expands eligibility to the Teacher Quality Partnership Grant program under the Higher Education Act to partnerships between local educational agencies and postsecondary teacher preparation programs to encourage the recruitment and training of future CTE teachers, and provides them with ongoing mentorship and professional development once they enter the classroom.
“It is critical that we encourage new professionals to enter the CTE teaching field and provide them with the support they need to succeed in their role,” said ACTE Executive Director LeAnn Wilson in a statement on the bill. To learn more about ACTE’s work on HEA reauthorization and priorities for the bill, click here.
Posted by Sean Lynch on 12/16/2015 at 02:51 PM in Educator Development, HEA | Permalink
Recently, the U.S. Department of Education announced a series of actions it will take on the nation’s accreditation system for postsecondary institutions. The role of accrediting bodies in assessing program quality at institutions, including community colleges, area CTE centers and other postsecondary CTE institutions, affect access to federal student aid programs. The Administration’s executive actions are being promoted as part of an effort to improve the quality of the accreditation process through greater transparency and an increased focus on student outcomes.
The department will update and simplify its own online accreditation resources, which will include the accreditation status of postsecondary institutions, an overview of the accreditation system and its requirements, and information on each accreditor's standards for evaluating student outcomes. Additionally, the department has made available a compilation of performance data for institutions, including student loan default rates, completion rates and post-school earnings, organized by accrediting agency. This will provide easier access to performance information on all the institutions under the authority of each accreditor. Though these actions are relatively limited in scope, the Administration also called on Congress to grant it the authority to set and enforce student achievement standards that accreditors would use in evaluating institutions. Congress specifically prohibited the department from taking such action in the 2008 Higher Education Act reauthorization. Read our recent comments on accreditation in HEA reauthorization here.
Posted by Mitch Coppes on 11/12/2015 at 01:39 PM in HEA, Postsecondary Issues | Permalink
On Monday, November 9, Reps. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Ryan Costello (R-PA) introduced the CTE Opportunity Act, a bipartisan bill to increase access to federal financial aid under the Higher Education Act for students pursuing short-term postsecondary CTE programs that lead to industry-recognized credentials. The legislation has also gained the support of the House CTE Caucus, and is cosponsored by caucus Co-chairs Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA). Such programs are among the fastest growing CTE opportunities in the nation, and can connect students with the skills and certifications they need to access in-demand, high-wage careers.
ACTE Executive Director LeAnn Wilson endorsed the bill in a formal letter to the sponsoring representatives. In her statement, she said:
“As you know, postsecondary education that leads to industry-recognized credentials is increasingly becoming a valued pathway to career success for America’s students. Unfortunately, these postsecondary CTE students enrolled in short-term programs do not currently have access to critical federal financial aid programs that will empower them to pursue their goals... the CTE Opportunity Act ensures that this vital federal support will be available to students enrolled in short-term CTE programs through financial aid.”
ACTE encourages members and CTE advocates to voice their support for this common-sense legislation on social media. Rep. Duckworth’s staff have developed the below graphics for use in posts about the bill, and suggest supporters use the hashtag #CTEopportunity.
Posted by Sean Lynch on 11/11/2015 at 11:31 AM in CTE Caucus, HEA, Postsecondary Issues | Permalink
On Thursday, November 5, Reps. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) and Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) introduced the Jumpstart Our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act, a companion bill to the version previously introduced in the Senate by Sen. Tim Kaine and cosponsored by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH). The legislation would expand eligibility to Pell Grants, a form of need-based financial aid that assists low-income and disadvantaged individuals, to students pursuing short-term job training programs at postsecondary institutions including community colleges and area CTE centers.
The legislation would support students pursuing programs that are at least 150 clock hours of instruction over at least eight weeks, and which culminate in a recognized postsecondary credential. ACTE endorsed both the House and Senate versions of the legislation, and released a statement from Executive Director LeAnn Wilson saying:
"The JOBS Act takes an important step toward building a workforce that will drive American economic success in the 21st century... I am proud to voice ACTE's support for this legislation, and I want to extend my thanks to Reps. Richmond and Lawrence for their efforts. By connecting low-income students with the federal aid that they need to pursue CTE through short-term job training programs, we can give them a jump start on their careers while helping our employers find qualified professionals."
ACTE will continue to advocate for this legislation and other bills that further our members' priorities.
Posted by Sean Lynch on 11/10/2015 at 05:09 PM in HEA, Postsecondary Issues | Permalink
In late October, the Department of Education released new guidance on the implementation of the recently reinstated “Ability-to-Benefit” (ATB) option for awarding federal Pell grants. ATB was partially restored in December 2014 after being eliminated in 2011. It now allows students without a high school diploma to access federal student aid funding if they are enrolled in career pathways programs and obtain six postsecondary credits or pass an exam.
ATB is an important option for adults who have not completed high school but could benefit from financial aid, but the new requirements have not been fully implemented in many places. One of the most common questions asked by institutions has been, “What is a career pathway program”? The new guidance specifies, that for the purposes of Pell eligibility, a “career pathway” program must:
However, there is no approval process for these career pathways at the federal level, and each institution is responsible for the documentation that verifies a program meets these requirements.
Additional details are provided in the Q and A about the concurrent enrollment requirement, and about transitioning students to full Pell grants.
Restoring ATB completely remains a priority of ACTE during the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, but in the meantime, we hope this guidance will help to provide clarity on this complex provision.
Posted by Alisha Hyslop on 11/06/2015 at 10:03 AM in Executive Branch, HEA, Postsecondary Issues | Permalink
This week, the U.S. Department of Education officially announced its new Educational Quality through Innovative Partnerships initiative to promote partnerships between postsecondary institutions and “nontraditional” education and training providers. Under its experimental site authority, the department will waive certain eligibility requirements for federal student aid programs, specifically the rule barring Title IV participating postsecondary intuitions from partnering with nontraditional providers to offer content and instruction for 50 percent or more of an educational program. The pilot project is intended to provide postsecondary institutions with greater flexibility to collaborate with short-term training programs, online education providers and other types of programs that are not currently able to offer student financial aid—opening access to such innovative programs for low-income students. Eligible partnerships must also identify a third-party entity to independently review and monitor program quality (postsecondary institutions must receive the approval of their accrediting body as well). To be considered for participation, a letter of intent must be submitted to the department by December 14. The full notice is available here.
Posted by Mitch Coppes on 10/16/2015 at 03:11 PM in HEA, Postsecondary Issues | Permalink
Last week, a bipartisan group of Senators took steps to strengthen pathways to the classroom for new CTE teachers by reintroducing the Creating Quality Technical Educators Act. The legislation, introduced by Senate CTE Caucus Co-chairs Tim Kaine (D-VA), Rob Portman (R-OH) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), would create new opportunities for schools to recruit and train professionals for critical CTE educator positions that schools nationwide struggle to fill. By expanding eligibility to the Higher Education Act’s (HEA) Teacher Quality Partnership Grants for partnerships of high-need secondary schools and postsecondary CTE teacher preparation programs, the legislation would create new teacher residency programs that bring new professionals into CTE classrooms and ensure that they are prepared for success.
"The Association for Career and Technical Education applauds Senators Kaine, Portman, Baldwin and Capito for the reintroduction of the Creating Quality Technical Educators Act," ACTE Executive Director LeAnn Wilson said in her statement endorsing the bill. "Their efforts will pave the way for the development of a new generation of educators, while helping to address our nation's critical shortage of CTE professionals... We urge Congress to adopt this legislation as part of a comprehensive reauthorization of the Higher Education Act."
The legislation utilizes existing funds under HEA, and requires that a needs assessment is conducted of participating secondary institutions to ensure that grant recipients will fulfill the needs of local communities. Furthermore, the legislation would deliver ongoing support for these new teachers by providing mentorship and professional development opportunities in addition to pedagogical and technical training. To learn more, click here to access the full press release on Sen. Kaine’s website.
Posted by Sean Lynch on 10/12/2015 at 12:24 PM in CTE Caucus, Educator Development, HEA, In the News, Postsecondary Issues | Permalink
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