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WORKFORCE/HIGHER ED: Original Murray Amendment to Expand Education, Retraining, Included in Spending Bill

Jun 11 2014

WORKFORCE/HIGHER ED: Original Murray Amendment to Expand Education, Retraining, Included in Spending Bill

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA),  member of the Labor, Health, and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee applauded the inclusion in the subcommittee’s bill of a provision she authored to restore Pell Grant eligibility to adult students without a high school diploma who are enrolled in adult and post-secondary education, as part of a career pathway program. This provision, commonly known as ability to benefit, increases opportunities for low-income adults seeking new skills and job re-training, and helps reduce the “skills gap.”

“Any student who wants to pursue higher education should have that chance, but many adults who want to build their skills simply can’t afford it. This provision would expand opportunities for those men and women who want to further their education and skills,” said Senator Murray. “Strong, proven career pathway programs, that combine adult and post-secondary education with effective job training can make all the difference for men and women seeking new skills, new jobs, and new opportunities to succeed in this country. And the ‘ability to benefit’ provisions have been key to the success of integrated education and training programs, like I-BEST in Washington state.”

Historically, Pell Grants have been available to adults enrolled in career pathway programs, but that federal funding was cut in 2012, prompting Senator Murray to first introduce legislation to reinstate it. Recent studies show that students in these programs outperform similar students in earning college credits and certificates, and in persisting to program completion and good jobs.  To qualify for aid, adults students must demonstrate their “ability to benefit” from postsecondary education.

Washington state’s Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training Program (I-BEST) is a national model for programs to help students build job skills and attain degrees and credentials. Models based on I-BEST are now used in dozens of states around the country, and have been shown to increase post-secondary completion by streamlining basic education skills with job-training.