Virginia Senator Tim Kaine and Congressman Bobby Scott say congress may finally be on the verge of approving federal Pell Grants for students in short-term workforce training programs. Advocates say expanding access to the grants will help millions of Americans afford the training they need to secure better jobs. Pell grants currently are reserved for students enrolled in academic degree programs.
“This would be a game-changer for working adults who struggle to pay their bills paycheck-to-paycheck,” said VCCS Chancellor Glenn DuBois, who has pushed for “workforce Pell” for years. “Scraping together the money they need up-front to enroll in workforce training – even for reduced out-of-pocket programs like our FastForward courses – has been a major barrier. Allowing these students to access federal Pell Grants would be terribly important.”
DuBois was on hand Tuesday for a roundtable discussion of the topic at Virginia Peninsula Community College (formerly known as Thomas Nelson CC). Sen. Kaine and Rep. Scott, who have shepherded the Pell Grant legislation through congress, both said they are optimistic the measure might gain final passage sometime this spring.
“I think we have a strong chance of getting this passed,” said Kaine. “And the cherry on top would be getting workforce Pell approved before Chancellor DuBois retires at the end of June.” Kaine said proposals to extend Pell grants to workforce students have been before congress since 2014 but have run into legislative roadblocks.
“We’ve seen that graduates of VCCS workforce training programs report big wage increases, and the challenge is to make sure that more people are able to take advantage of those kinds of opportunities,” said Scott.
Participants at the roundtable included major employers in Virginia’s tidewater region, who said they are eager to hire workers with updated skills, especially with major expansion of work in the fields of shipbuilding, health care and off-shore wind energy production.
Learn more by reading the American Association of Community College position paper on workforce Pell.