Proposed Pell Grant Expansion for Short-Term Training Programs

Proposed Pell Grant Expansion for Short-Term Training Programs
Susan Dutca-Lovell

Lawmakers are considering extending Pell Grants to people who pursue short-term training in order to land better jobs, faster. Federal student aid in the form of Pell Grants can currently be used for college degrees and qualifying certificate programs.

Proponents of the Pell Grant reorientation, also known as JOBS Act, contend that it would exclude for-profit institutions and provide an "overdue change to better tailor the design of the federal aid system to the demands of adult students." Critics, on the other hand, worry that the restructure would take financial support away from low-income students who are pursuing college degrees, especially without "more clear findings of the potential payoff for short-term credentials." Although the current Pell Grant is available to 15-week certificate programs, the new model would extend to programs as short as eight weeks. The Pell Grant expansion would be particularly helpful to adults and families, who are increasingly signing up for shorter-term career and education training.

The expansion of Pell Grants to short-term programs would help students land better jobs more quickly and not "after several semesters or a years-long commitment to earning a college degree." There is a "need to broaden our definition of higher education to include quality career and technical programs," according to co-sponsor of the JOBS Act. Leading businesses such as IBM support Pell Grants for short-term programs and in Congress, the bill has garnered support from both political sides. "The only way to a good-paying job cannot be a four-year degree," claimed chair, president and CEO of IBM, Ginni Rometty.

The federal government spends roughly $130 billion on student aid programs each year, including Pell Grants, student loans and work-study. However, billions in free federal Pell Grant money have been left unused in the past due to students not completing or submitting the FAFSA. In your opinion, should Pell Grants be extended to short-term programs? Why or why not?

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