Several bipartisan proposals would increase accessibility to training and education that is more directly connected to careers than most college degrees. There is an increasing consensus that these bills would meaningfully boost the nation’s economic prosperity and result in more people working in better paid and more rewarding occupations for three reasons. First, alternatives to four-year college degrees currently have far less federal investment. These alternatives, like vocational and technical training and apprenticeships, can lead to financially and professionally rewarding occupations, including as a plumber, electrician, truck driver, automotive repair technician, certified nursing assistant, and IT professional. Second, the rising costs of college degrees saddle students with levels of debt that can be overwhelming. Third, the demand for well-trained professionals in many of these areas is going unmet, limiting economic growth.
Specific proposals include:
- Extend Pell Grant Funding—Make credit and non-credit programs eligible that are shorter format than college degrees, are aligned with local labor market needs, and lead to credentials recognized by employers and approved by state authorities (A Pell grant provides federal support for students that doesn’t have to be repaid. Eligibility is based on financial need and education cost, with the maximum grant currently at $7,395)
- Extend Use of “529” Education Savings Accounts—Make skills training, credentialing, and certification programs eligible for spending from these accounts that have major tax advantages to encourage saving
- Enhance Apprenticeship Programs—Expand access to and lower the cost of apprenticeships through increased state tuition assistance funding for registered federal programs that combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction, including college courses, to prepare workers for highly skilled careers
- Apprenticeship College Credits—Allow workers to earn credits for completed apprenticeships