New federal proposals would place an Associate’s Degree, the first two years of a four year Bachelor’s Degree or employment driven Technical Certificates within the reach of over 9 million potential students. With more jobs every year requiring a minimum of some college these proposals, when implemented, will provide students with the skills they need to be competitive in the job market.
Student Cost and Requirements? Tuition will be eliminated and some states will implement programs to help students with, or possibly waive, the cost of books and certain transportation needs. At this time there is no mention of income-related eligibility for these programs. To comply with the requirements of this program, students must carry at least a half-time schedule, maintain a 2.5 GPA, and have continuous progress toward completion of the program. SAT, ACT type scoring and high school GPA do not seem to factor into the requirements.
Who Benefits? With the dual purpose of the programs, college and technical, a diverse population will benefit. Students emerging from high school, working older students able to only take part time classes and those seeking to upgrade their employment opportunities or learn a new trade are some of the targeted student groups.
How Will the Initiative be Implemented? Both federal and state funding will contribute to these programs. Three-quarters of the average community college cost will come from federal funding and those states choosing to participate will cover the remaining funds, eliminating tuition for those eligible. With over 1,100 community colleges providing 40 percent of current college enrollment, this is a good partnership for future post-secondary education enhancement. States must also invest in higher education by coordinating the readiness of high schools, community colleges, and four-year institutions; thus reducing the need for remediation and repeated courses as students move on to finish their degree programs. With a majority of the funding based on performance instead of enrollment, community colleges will need to provide academic programs fully transferable to universities and local public four-year colleges. Non-transferable college courses are ineligible for funding. Through the American Technical Training Fund, programs having good employer partnerships which provide work-based learning opportunities, can implement accelerated training and accommodate part-time work schedules, will be awarded funding. Tech training schools and community colleges can create these programs focused on helping workers gain skills in growing fields based on employer needs. Initially, plans are to fund the opening of 100 new tech based centers with a limited amount available for start-ups in future years. Grants of various sizes will be available for pilot programs, promoting business partnerships and expanding effective programs based on graduation rates, job placement and increased wages of successful students.
2015 will bring changes to the student loan and education programs. Some programs, such as the successful Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grants program, are set to end while new programs like the College Ratings Program come online. Federal student loan rates will be based off of the 10 year treasury rate, Pell Grants will increase from $5,730 to $5,830 for the 2015-2016 school year and an expanded Pay as You Earn plan will possibly help up to 5 million borrowers. As federal and state governments continue to work with businesses, post-secondary institutions, non-profits and other organizations to improve education, more and more opportunities will be available for the majority of those wishing to further their education.