News Releases

HIGHER ED: Murray Amendment Opens Financial Aid Access to Students in Proven Career Pathways Programs

Jun 14 2012

Murray amendment will allow students in proven programs to continue to be eligible for Title IV aid, including Pell grants, if they can demonstrate their "ability to benefit"

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray included an amendment in the FY 2013 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill that will make sure that students in proven career pathways programs won’t be cut off from the federal aid they depend on to continue their education. The appropriations bill, including Murray’s amendment, passed the full Appropriations Committee today.

“This amendment will make sure students in high quality career pathway programs won’t be cut off from the federal financial aid they need to continue their education and train for a career,” said Senator Patty Murray. “It doesn’t make sense to punish students we know would benefit from post-secondary education and training, and this amendment will make sure we don’t. This amendment is good for students working hard to upgrade their skills and get better jobs, and it’s good for businesses looking for skilled workers.”

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012 eliminated the “Ability to Benefit” (ATB) option for Title IV federal student aid, hindering the ability of proven career pathway programs across America to help low-skilled students advance. 

Senator Murray’s amendment ensures that low skilled students can continue to benefit from effective and efficient career pathway programs by allowing students who are co-enrolled in adult and postsecondary education as part of a career pathway program to continue to be eligible for Title IV aid, including Pell grants, if they can demonstrate their “ability to benefit” from postsecondary education through one of the three previous ATB tests. The amendment is fully paid for by clarifying congressional intent regarding non-profit student loan servicers to reduce costs to the federal government.  

We are grateful to bipartisan Senate leaders for their efforts to restore Ability to Benefit provisions for I-BEST students to access the Pell Grant program,” said Charles N. Earl, Executive Director of the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. “Over the next five years, an additional 15,000 to 20,000 low-income adults in Washington state will gain the post-secondary credentials necessary for higher-skilled jobs. They will then bring home wages that support their families. We commend Senator Murray for her commitment to ensuring these students are able to continue to access critical federal student assistance.”

“Community college CEOS commend Senator Murray for her commitment to ensuring that this critical community college population will continue to receive federal assistance,” said Dr. Walter G. Bumphus, President and CEO, American Association of Community Colleges. “Without access to Pell Grants and other funds, many of these students would be unable to attend college. Restoring their aid eligibility for key career programs will enable them to get the postsecondary skills they need to succeed in today’s workforce, which helps to improve the economy for all.” 

“Community colleges are working with businesses to meet their demand for workers with postsecondary credentials,” said J. Noah Brown, President & CEO, Association of Community College Trustees. “Career pathway programs represent a proven strategy for students wishing to attain concurrently basic skills education, while honing their specific job skills for high-demand fields. We commend Senator Patty Murray’s leadership and support for maintaining access to Pell Grants for students who depend upon career pathway programs. “