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Workforce Pell Opens Pathways to Successful Careers

Today, the United States has more than 10 million job openings and more than six million unemployed individuals. Yet America’s skills gap is not new. The problem is that colleges and universities are not adequately preparing students to enter the workforce. Asking students to spend tens of thousands of dollars on postsecondary education, then making them essentially start from scratch upon entering the workforce, is a ludicrous system that must be changed.

Pell Grants are seen by many as a reliable tool to offset the costs of postsecondary education for low-income students. Unfortunately, the Pell Grant can only be used for traditional postsecondary programs. This limits opportunities for students who would prefer to attend a short-term program to receive quickly a valuable workforce development opportunity.

Pell Grants were designed to allow students in financial need to get an education—but only a particular type of education. Under the current system, a bachelor’s degree in fine arts is considered worthy of financial assistance while a credential in an in-demand industry, like carpentry or welding, is not. This is illogical and counterproductive. We should be doing everything possible to prepare young people for the workforce instead of putting bureaucratic and financial roadblocks in their way. It’s time to start thinking outside of the box.

That’s why Republicans’ Responsible Education Assistance through Loan (REAL) Reforms Act proposes the Workforce Pell, a short-term grant meant to help students entering career-focused credentialing programs. The Workforce Pell would ensure grant money goes to programs that deliver results for students. Using the Workforce Pell, students could participate in apprenticeships in an increasing number of industries—industries that often pay more than ones requiring a college degree.

President Biden’s student loan bailout reiterated that too many students are getting baccalaureate degrees from programs with little to no return on investment. It’s time to encourage students to invest in educational programs that do have a payoff. Workforce Pell Grants will help students do just that.
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