News Releases

WORKFORCE/HIGHER ED: Murray-Authored Provision to Expand Education, Retraining Included in 2015 Spending Bill

Dec 10 2014

Omnibus includes Ability to Benefit provision to increase opportunities for low-income adults seeking new skills and job re-training

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced that the Ability to Benefit provision will be included in the annual spending bill.  The provision restores 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. Ability to Benefit increases opportunities for low-income adults seeking new skills and job re-training, and helps reduce the skills gap.

“The ‘ability to benefit’ provisions have been key to the success of integrated education and training programs, which we’ve seen firsthand from programs like I-BEST in my home state of Washington,” said Senator Murray. “Including this provision is an important statement from Congress that we remain focused on strong, proven career pathways programs that help men and women seeking new skills, new jobs, and new opportunities to succeed in this country.”

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 these investments are especially important for low-income students and that students in these programs outperform those in similar programs 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.