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2. Excluding Totally Online Programs

The Jobs to Compete Act aims to ensure quality in part by excluding totally online programs from Short-Term Pell eligibility. The JOBS Act and the PELL Act both allow totally online programs that meet their other quality requirements. 

Case For 

Supporters of prohibiting exclusively online programs argue these programs are particularly prone to being poorer in quality. For example, they cite the study on for-profit performance published in the Journal of Human Resources. That study found earnings and employment outcomes were even poorer for students enrolled in for-profit certificate programs if the majority of the program was online.  

Proponents of the totally online exclusion also argue the direct hands-on training critical for many workforce education programs cannot be effectively delivered online. For example, they suggest it’s impossible for a student in a program to become a plumber, electrician, or welder to get the needed hands-on training online.

Case Against

Opponents argue online programs are among the most cost-effective for students. Often by paying only $1,000 – $5,000, a student in an online program can obtain a credential that will get them a higher-paying job. They argue an additional accessibility advantage is that the online program schedules are more flexible. Much of the work can be done at a time and place convenient to the student and doesn’t require the added time commitment of commuting. They argue these considerations make the access tradeoff that comes with eliminating totally online programs especially stark.

Opponents suggest that the fact that some types of programs aren’t appropriate for 100% online training doesn’t mean that all online programs should be prohibited. In fact, fully online programs may be quite appropriate for programs in growing fields like cybersecurity, IT, finance, and software development whose core skill sets involve high levels of computer and technological fluency. The other approaches to quality assurance, they suggest, should be able to screen out programs that can’t be done effectively online.