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CommonSense Americans

Strongly Support Workforce Pell

Broad Endorsement of Greater Funding for Career-Connected Learning

2824 Responses, Updated 9:30 am Daily

Robust Support for Career-Connected Learning

Breakdown the data by party, state, income, education, race, and ethnicity. View the Results Dashboard.

CommonSense Americans overwhelmingly endorse greater federal support for Career-Connected Learning (CCL). The support is similarly high among Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, although members of each party don’t recognize how much the other party agrees with them. They also strongly agree that the $7 billion in support given to the more than 60% of Americans who don’t attain a four-year degree is too little relative to the $112 billion in support for the fewer than 40% of Americans who do attain a four-year degree.

Republicans and Democrats both underestimate the other side’s support

GOP Perception of DEM Support

Actual DEM Support

DEM Perception of GOP Support

Actual GOP Support

Most Americans Believe Career-Connected Learning Gets Too Little Support Relative to College

Federal Support for Education and Training After High School*

*  Federal spending on higher education: Student Aid, Federal Spending on CCL:  WIOA and Perkins V

Open-Ended Responses

Support for Career-Connected Learning

Michael B.

Democrat from Arizona

Melody T.

Republican from Kansas

Personally, I equate CCL to vocational-technical training. My ex-husband and I both graduated from vocational-technical school, and it enabled each of us to have a greater selection of job opportunities, as well as greatly increasing our income earnings.

Erik V.

Independent from California

John W.

Independent from DC

I have long advocated that high school students be given options that aren’t “just go get a college degree” all while taking on enormous debt and not having clear career direction. Trade vocations are key options to give high schools students. I don’t believe CCL should always replace a college degree, thus getting credits towards a degree is key. But allowing young adults to learn a key skill, earn money in the workforce, and then use that to save for a college degree that can advance their career later in a more focused manner without so much debt should be a much more common and advocated for path in our country.

Theodora K.

Democrat from Massachusetts

Mark W.

Republican from Michigan

In my working career I was able to initiate and sponsor two apprenticeship programs. One in Michigan, and one in Pennsylvania for Toolmaker apprentices. I firmly believe that, trade building is both necessary for America’s continued economical growth and a vital national security issue.

Judith H.

Democrat from Virginia

As a former high school special educator who taught students with reading or math disabilities, I saw that the professional academy classes offered to all students in the fields covered in this brief had amazing results. Students still in high school were able to start earning money as electricians, HVAC etc. There are many students after high school who would benefit from these programs, but I am leery of the for-profit schools. I would like to see much more support to junior or community colleges to have tuitions low enough to offer these programs to students. I would also like to see high school counselors encouraging students not interested in college or those who might prefer to work in trades to explore these areas of employment.

Paul M.

Republican from Ohio

The decades-long PELL and Bi-partisan emphasis on the importance of a traditional 4 year degree, has led to a critical loss of experienced, career “trades” personnel in the US, an over-reliance on foreign supplied goods and services and reduced lifetime incomes for those with only a HS Diploma or GED. For the US to obtain supply and service independence, members of Congress and the federal government must understand and accept that not all HS graduates are interested in attending traditional 4-year colleges and universities in order to pursue undergraduate and pist-graduate degrees…  We need EMTs, CNAs, LPNs, IT specialists, Biomedical Technicians, plumbers, electricians, building inspectors, construction workers, general bookkeepers, communications specialists, logistics specialists, property and supply technicians/managers, culinary arts professionals, geologic/geographic surveyors, cosmetologists, aestheticians…the list goes on and on!!

Michele R.

Independent from Nevada

Overwhelming Majority Supports Workforce Pell

In the questionnaire related to the brief, CommonSense Americans were asked:

Do you support or oppose extending the Pell Grant program to cover short-term workforce education programs?

There is widespread agreement among everyday Americans that Workforce Pell is an appropriate way to increase support for those who would benefit most from workforce education programs. Again on the question of Workforce Pell, Americans don’t realize how much they agree that Workforce Pell would significantly boost thousands of Americans ability to attain higher paying and more meaningful jobs.

Republicans and Democrats both underestimate the other side’s support

GOP Perception of DEM Support

Actual DEM Support

DEM Perception of GOP Support

Actual GOP Support
Breakdown the data by party, state, income, education, race, and ethnicity. View the Results Dashboard.

Open-Ended Responses

Support for Workforce Pell

Carolyn M.

Democrat from Illinois

Rochelle W.

Independent from Pennsylvania

In this day and age, the route to success is not always a 4 year degree. Sometimes it is a trade school and those students should be offered a PELL grant just like college-bound students. Also adults that decide to further their educations or pivot and change careers may not want to invest in 4 years of schooling, so this would be another avenue for them to gain the knowledge to do so.

Rin B

Republican from Utah

Dianne J.

Republican from Alabama

I feel that everyone should have an opportunity to get an education. Living in a poor rural area I see a lot of kids who have a lot of potential, but due to family circumstances, would not be able to afford educational programs after high school. I know several who have benefited from having access to a Pell Grant in career connected programs

Caron W.

Democrat from Iowa

I believe it’s difficult to set goals on how much a student is going to earn in a career. There are a lot of variables that can’t be manipulated (median earnings in the field, size of employers and what they can afford to pay, etc). There’s also a need for good benefits (health, dental, eye insurances and a way to build retirement savings). I see no reason not to use PELL grants for any kind of secondary education. It should be there to help people gain skills, whatever career they choose. Not everyone wants to go to college, yet they may still utilize grants and loans to get started…

Beverly A.

Independent from South Carolina

As a veteran Middle School teacher, I have taught many students who were bright and hardworking, but for whom a 4 year college degree was not a good fit. Some are simply not able to do the coursework. Others have no interest in it. These students would be much better served by programs that provide high quality training leading to a skilled trade that is in high demand. Yet there is often a financial barrier to getting the training they need. Please consider expanding the PELL program to support these students in gaining the skills and certification they need to fill jobs our country needs.

Janet D.

Independent from Massachusetts

I think this is very important. Secondary vocational/ technical training, paid for in part by a Pell grant, made a huge difference in my life and income. It also could have led to a college degree, paid for by my employer, had I chosen that route.

Dawne O.

Republican from Missouri

There are so many people getting degrees in areas that do not offer good pay, or even have jobs available. The only thing that is hurt by offering Pell grants a trade schools Is the loss of tuition to colleges that charge way too much in the first place. So adding competition to the education system will only help everyone in the long run. Colleges will need to be more competitive on price, as well as start to offer better programs.

Barbara C.

Democrat from North Carolina

I strongly support Pell grants for students who do not want to pursue a 4-year degree coming out of high school. Some of these students may later in life decide to continue their education but at the time of graduation, they want to learn a trade and be able to support themselves.

Linda M.

Democrat from New Jersey

We can provide more Americans the opportunity for upward economic mobility by supporting skills education. We have one of the highest levels of income inequality as well as one of the lowest levels of investment in career development programs. Passing Workforce Pell legislation will allow more Americans a path to higher-paying jobs. Evidence shows that workers can significantly grow their earning power through CCL programs. Investing in Career Connected Learning can only help to improve workforce productivity, benefiting the overall economy as well as the individual.

Paula U.

Republican from North Carolina

I think Pell grants should be available to technical students. I think there should be some mechanism to help students not take on debt for a program that will not give them access to better jobs and saddle them with more debt that they are unable to pay back. Since there are funds allocated in other bills, I think it is good to consider all of them together for funding and not increase the national debt to fund the grants.

Angie R.

Democrat from Arizona

The cost of a 4 year college degree has skyrocketed and too many students end up in debt that takes decades to repay. Giving Pell Grants to students pursuing career connected learning opens up opportunities for education and skills training that could lead to much quicker job placement and decreased debt for young people who want to better themselves and their job opportunities.

Concern that Quality Requirements

May be Too High

Want Quality Requirements that Don’t Overly Limit Access

Strong Majorities Support Three of Five Approaches to Quality

Members of CommonSense American strongly agree that it’s crucial to ensure that Pell Grants only support programs that cost-effectively place them in higher paying jobs. Strong majorities support outcome performance requirements, administrative approval criteria, and requiring that career-connected learning programs can count for additional credentialing in the future. Considered in isolation from other quality requirements, opinions about excluding for-profits are much more divided. There is wide opposition to excluding totally online programs for Workforce Pell eligibility.

Outcome Performance Requirements

Support for Completion and Job Placement Rate Requirement

Slightly More Support for 60% than 70% Completion and Job Placement Rates

Outcome Performance Requirements

Strong Support for Earnings Requirements

Do you support or oppose establishing minimum earnings requirements?

Evenly Divided Views About Requirements Beyond the Gainful Employment Rule

Do you support or oppose establishing minimum earnings requirements beyond the new Gainful Employment rule?

Gainful Employment Rule – About Right

Do you think that the new Gainful Employment rule is too stringent, about right, or too lax?

Too Lax


About Right


Too Stringent


Support for Adding Earnings Requirements Beyond Gainful Employment Rule

Administrative Approval Criteria

72% Think There Should be No More than 5 Administrative Criteria

What do you think is the maximum number of the seven administrative criteria that should be used to have the best balance between quality and access?


No More Than


Administrative Criteria

Ranked Administrative Criteria

Ranked from 1 (best) to 7 (worst)

Rank Order Criteria Average Rank
1 Meets applicable state requirements for professional licensure (Criteria 4) 3.24
2 Leads to a federally recognized postsecondary credential (Criteria 1) 3.24
3 Offered by an institution on the state and local Eligible Training Provider List (Criteria 2) 3.67
4 At least half of the tuition and fees go to educational spending (Criteria 7) 4.02
5 Administrative determination that the program provides training in “high-skill, high-wage, or in-demand industry sectors or occupations for the state and local area (Criteria 3) 4.18
6 No administrative adverse action in past five years (Criteria 5) 4.71
7 Provides Career Counseling (Criteria 6) 4.98

Support for Excluding For-Profits Flips

With Addition of Other Quality Requirements


W/o Quality Reqs

If no other quality requirements are in place, do you support or oppose excluding all programs offered by for-profit institutions from Workplace Pell Grant eligibility?

63% vs 37% Support – Excluding For Profits w/o Quality Requirements. View Data Dashboard


W/ 7 Admin Reqs

If the seven additional administrative approval requirements are in place, do you support or oppose excluding all programs offered by for-profit institutions from Workforce-Pell Grant eligibility?

43% vs 57% Oppose – Excluding For Profits w/ 7 Admin Requirements. View Data Dashboard


W/ Partial Outcome Reqs

If the 70% course completion and job placement rate requirement, as well as the Gainful Employment Rule minimum earnings requirement, are in place, do you support or oppose excluding all programs offered by for-profit institutions from Workforce Pell Grant eligibility?

 43% vs 57% Oppose – Excluding For Profits w/ Partial Outcome Requirements. View Data Dashboard


W/ Full Outcome Reqs

If the full set of outcome performance requirements are in place, do you support or oppose excluding all programs offered by for-profit institutions from Workforce Pell Grant eligibility?

39% vs 61% Oppose – Excluding For Profits w/ Full Outcome Requirements. View Data Dashboard


W/ 7 Admin and Full Outcome Reqs

If the seven additional administrative criteria and the full set of outcome performance requirements are in place, do you support or oppose excluding all programs offered by for-profit institutions from Workforce Pell Grant eligibility?

 36% vs 64% Oppose – Excluding For Profits w/ 7 Admin and Full Outcome Requirements. View Data Dashboard

Open-Ended Responses

Views on For-Profits

Support for excluding for-profits in all cases

Michelle W.

Independent from California

I am adamantly opposed to the use of public money to line the pockets of those who run for-profit schools. These schools let anyone in, qualified or not, collect tuition, make their money, and graduate debt-laden students with few marketable skills.

Betty W.

Democrat from South Carolina

All people don’t want to go to college. Some have preferences and abilities that fit alternative training and education. Quality offerings are essential. My son was taken in by a for-profit institution, quitting without finishing, stuck with a large debt and not provided with the counseling and support promised when he enrolled.

Bernard L.

Republican from Texas

I think the much better performance of community colleges vs for-profits supports limiting access to those types of programs.

Opposition to excluding for-profits if other requirements are in place

Heather M.

Independent from Arizona

Even if a student does not get a Pell grant, you should advertise programs with the “Pell stamp of approval” to help entice students to best-chance-of-success programs and increase the education level altogether. Start to weed out the ineffective / unaccredited programs in general. The time and resources put into validating education programs is important work even without grant offering. That’s a reason I think even for profit schools should be included.

Ralph I.

Democrat from Virginia

Let’s extend Pell grant eligibility in programs which offer career counseling, demonstrate a reasonable graduation rate, and place students in better paying jobs. Also, let’s avoid burdening those programs with administrative requirements beyond collecting and reporting data on program outcomes. And let’s not prohibit for-profit or online programs which can demonstrate success.

Rin B.

Republican from Utah

David M.

Republican from Utah

We should support all learning methods that improve the skillset and quality of the workforce – not just “college” education. Outcome is the most important factor. States may not be offering programs for all skills in a particular geography – if for-profit centers teach these skills – welding, CAD, or whatever and they have a good record of having participants complete the program and gain employment using the skills they learned – the for-profit centers should receive the same assistance as “non-profit” instructional centers. They should show a record of percentage that complete the program and gain employment using the skillset learned.

Michele R.

Independent from Nevada

Bennet G.

Democrat from New Jersey

Instead of fully banning for-profit programs from the funds, why not just give them administrative requirements? This would allow the good ones to survive and be funded, without putting an unnecessary burden on non-profit programs.

John W.

Independent from DC

Karen W.

Democrat from North Carolina

I think we need to try a lot of things to try to reduce poverty, and this seems like one of the things. This kind of course is being emphasized in my community, at the local community college, and I hear that it is helpful to students and employers. I don’t like the idea of applying it to for-profit course providers; …However, if you decide to leave in a lot of those rules about outcomes, then I think a for-profit that demonstrates all the outcomes is probably OK. Or maybe you could make those rules about measuring outcomes just apply to for-profits.

Jim K.

Republican from Ohio

There needs to be some assistance to people who do not want a college education but want to learn a skill. The middle class needs consideration here. It would also help skilled non college workers have more satisfaction with their jobs. For profit programs should be included if they meet the requirements of earning more than the cost of the institution.

Monty K.

Republican from Oklahoma

CCL is vital to decreasing the number of families requiring support from charities and governmental programs. Outcome based criteria for the educational provider is critical but the criteria should apply equally to both privately and government funded institutions as well as for profits. As a society we shouldn’t care how it gets done just that gets done in the most efficient manner possible.

Dee J.

Democrat from Alabama

It’s a great idea. We need well trained vocational workers. I don’t necessarily oppose for profit schools per se as long as they are held to rigorous standards and have state and or federal oversight to avoid the recent diploma mill and school closing without providing state standard education issues we have had.

Christopher K.

Independent from California

Regarding the exclusion or inclusion of for-profit institutions, I think ideally this support of Pell Grant funding should be geared towards non-profits only. That said, the more requirements and restrictions that are attached to this legislation, the more strongly I feel that for-profit institutions be included. My reasoning is thus: a highly regulated and bureaucratic program (if this were to become so with so many requirements attached) would not ultimately be as successful. I believe non-profits struggle a lot more and would not have a high chance of staying in operation the more requirements there are; conversely, for-profit institutions would (in my mind) be better equipped to adapt and stay in operation longer under a heavily regulated environment.

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