2024 NPS Background Materials
Department of Education
Short-term Pell Grants
The Pell Grant was established in the Higher Education Act of 1965 to expand access to four-year colleges for students who may not otherwise be able to afford a postsecondary education. While the program has since been expanded to other postsecondary opportunities such as associate degrees and some certificates, shorter-term programs under 600 clock hours are not covered by Pell. These programs offer in-demand certifications, skills and credentials that can lead to better wages and career prospects. Additionally, these short-term programs play a critical role in narrowing the nation’s skills gap so that employers can find workers who possess the qualifications and training needed to fill these in-demand positions.
The primary bipartisan legislation to expand Pell grant eligibility to short-term programs is the JOBS Act, which has been re-introduced and negotiated every Congress since 2014. While this legislation has yet to pass, it has gained broad bipartisan support through careful negotiation. ACTE has publicly supported this bill and actively advocates for its passage.
In addition to the JOBS Act, there have been a number of other bills introduced to address expanding Pell to short-term programs. Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced the Bipartisan Workforce Pell Act in December 2023. In this bill, state workforce boards, accreditors and the Department of Education (ED) would determine whether programs would be eligible for Workforce Pell Grants, including by verifying whether they provide a return on investment for students. Also, ED would have to verify that programs maintain completion and job placement rates of at least 70 percent. Short-term programs would also have to show state workforce boards that they provide education for high-skill, high-wage or in-demand occupations.
The JOBS Act (S. 161/H.R. 793) was re-introduced in February of 2023 and remains the most widely supported and bipartisan legislation for short-term Pell expansion.
However, the Bipartisan Workforce Pell Act (H.R. 6585) is the bill that is currently moving through Congress. In December, the House Education and Workforce Committee took up the bill, and it passed out of committee in a bipartisan 37-8 vote. The Members of Congress who voted against the bill cited the provision that allows for-profit institutions to have eligibility as the main reason for their opposition. While the timeline is unclear, it is expected that the full House of Representatives will take this bill up soon, and it is expected that this bill can pass the House.
- Press Release: Stefanik, Scott, Foxx, DeSaulnier Legislation Tackles Workforce Gaps
- Press Release: Kaine & Braun Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Help More Americans Access High-quality Job Training, Get Good-Paying Jobs
- Press Release: Rep. Bill Johnson Introduces JOBS Act Legislation to Address Job Shortages
- ACTE Short Term Pell Infographic
Higher Education Act
The Higher Education Act (HEA) was first passed in 1965 and serves as the governing federal legislation for most postsecondary education issues. This law administers most of federal student aid, addresses teacher preparation and recruitment, collects data on colleges and universities, and enforces laws around privacy and civil rights. HEA was last reauthorized in 2008, making it long overdue for an update. The 2008 reauthorization made changes in student loan discharges for disabled people, combating copyright abuse, cost transparency, and other policies.
There have been numerous attempts to reauthorize HEA in recent years, however, none have come to any fruition. Given skyrocketing national student debt, both parties have sought to make proposals that address college affordability in different ways. Most recently, House Republicans introduced the College Cost Reduction Act (H.R. 6951). The main purpose of this bill is to address the rising cost of college and student loan debt, but this bill also provides Postsecondary Student Success Grants and eases requirements for students to transfer credits.
Currently, there is little to no hope of an HEA reauthorization in 2024 due to a lack of bipartisan consensus and competing priorities. That said, some Democratic members have introduced more piecemeal legislation that would reauthorize individual titles of HEA. For example, Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC) re-introduced the EDUCATORS for America Act (S. 1341 /H.R. 2992) last year to attempt to reauthorize Title II of HEA, which addresses educator quality, recruitment, and retention.
The National Apprenticeship Act (NAA) is a federal law that authorizes registered apprenticeship programs.
Apprentice programs in the U.S. were largely unregulated until 1934. After passage of the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), industry, trade unions and the National Recovery Administration cooperated to fashion various “industry codes” to govern competition, wages, working conditions and quality of products and services.
In 1937, the Congress passed the National Apprenticeship Act, also known as “the Fitzgerald Act.” The Act established a national advisory committee whose task was to research and draft regulations to establish minimum standards for apprenticeship programs. The Act was later amended to permit the United States Department of Labor to issue regulations protecting the health, safety and general welfare of apprentices, and to encourage the use of contracts in the hiring and employment of them. The National Apprenticeship Act is administered by the Employment and Training Administration in the Department of Labor, but the underlying statute has not been significantly updated in years.
A reauthorization of the bill is currently making its way through Congress. Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced S.2122, the National Apprenticeship Act of 2023, last year. This bill would provide resources for small- and medium-sized employers to develop their own apprenticeship programs, create rural demonstration grants for low-density areas with labor shortages, streamline the apprenticeship application process and provide resources for program sponsors to attract participants with employment and populations that have not-traditionally enrolled in apprenticeship programs.
The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions scheduled a markup for this bill last summer, but it was cancelled at the last minute. No further action has been taken on this bill.
There has also been significant attention from the Administration on apprenticeships, with new regulations being proposed in January in absence of a congressional reauthorization. We will be responding to these regulations soon.
- Bill Text: The National Apprenticeship Act of 2023
- Press Release: Baldwin, Murkowski Introduce Bill to Modernize and Expand Apprenticeships Programs to Meet 21st Century Workforce Needs
- Additional Summary of The National Apprenticeship Act of 2023
- National Governors Association Report – Advancing Apprenticeship: Opportunities for States and Business to Create and Expand Registered Apprenticeship Programs
- Summary of Hearing on Skills-Based Learning
- ACTE Policy Watch: Vice President Harris Delivers Remarks for National Apprenticeship Week
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) is the primary federal legislation governing federal workforce development programs. It is designed to help job seekers access employment, education, training, and support services to succeed in the labor market and to match employers with the skilled workers they need to compete in the global economy. The latest reauthorization, signed into law in 2014, emphasized an increased coordination and cohesion among federal workforce development programs, including Perkins, instead of them working independent of one another. They accomplished this by aligning the language of definitions, requiring that postsecondary CTE institutions be a local infrastructure partner, and giving states the option to do a combined state plan that meets the planning requirements for WIOA’s core programs and at least one other federal program, among others. WIOA superseded the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 and amended the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, the Wagner-Peyser Act, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Programs under WIOA are authorized through FY 2020, which means they expired starting October 1, 2020, although they remain funded through the appropriations process. Both parties in Congress have acknowledged the importance of WIOA programs and expressed desire to reauthorize the legislation. Late last year, Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Ranking Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced H.R. 6655, A Stronger Workforce for America Act. The bill would comprehensively reauthorize WIOA and make significant changes to core aspects including eligible training providers lists.
Specifically, this bill requires that 50% of the adult and dislocated worker funding toward upskilling workers through individual training accounts (ITAs), streamlines the eligible training provider list requirements to focus on outcomes and ensure eligible programs are aligned with the skill and hiring demands of employers, establishes a demonstration authority to provide several states and local workforce boards the flexibility to reimagine their workforce system, and facilitates skills-based hiring by validating workers’ competencies gained through prior experience and authorizing state and local boards to provide technical assistance to employers on implementing skills-based hiring practices.
On December 12, the House Education and Workforce Committee took this bill up and approved the legislation in a bipartisan 44-1 vote. The bill is awaiting a vote by the full House of Representatives.
Currently, no comprehensive WIOA reauthorization has been released in the Senate, but discussions are underway.
- Aligned by Design: WIOA and CTE
- CRS Report: The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and the One-Stop Delivery System
- Employment & Training Administration: WIOA Overview
- CTE Policy Watch Blog: WIOA Blogs
- Bill Text: A Stronger Workforce for America Act
- Press Release: @EdWorkforceCmte Leaders Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Strengthen America’s Workforce
- Additional Summary of A Stronger Workforce for America Act
- CRS Report on A Stronger Workforce for America Act