Yesterday's Education and the Workforce Committee hearing
covered the importance of improving workforce development programs and increasing accountability in postsecondary education.
With more than 11 million unfilled jobs in the United States, and more than six million Americans unemployed, Republican lawmakers pointed out the importance of addressing the skills gap. “[W]e need to ensure our nation’s system of education and workforce development can provide the skills that individuals will need to succeed in our ever-changing economy,” said Republican witness Monty Sullivan
, President of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System and President of Rebuilding America’s Middle Class.
With so many Americans out of the workforce, Dr. Sullivan added “With relatively low labor force participation rates, we have a significant pool of untapped talent stranded in this economy.”
One of the best ways to address the nation’s skills shortage is expanding Pell Grants. Mr. Sullivan stated “The single most important step Congress can take in helping address our nation’s skill shortage is to immediately authorize the use of Pell Grants for workforce programs. Students need the shortest and least expensive pathways to employment with opportunities for advancement throughout their lives.”
This is why Chairwoman Foxx coauthored H.R. 496, the Promoting Employment and Lifelong Learning (PELL) Act, which expands educational and credentialing opportunities for workers looking to gain skills in high-demand fields.
Postsecondary education reform is necessary. College costs increased faster than nearly any other good or service in the economy. Since 2000, tuition and fees increases have nearly tripled the rate of inflation. As Republican witness Scott Pulsipher, president of the Western Governors University stated “underlying the student loan crisis are sky-rocketing costs” and reminded Members that tuition “increased 180% since 1980 (adjusted for inflation).”
This isn’t the only problem. Far too many college programs leave students with debt they cannot repay or a degree they cannot use in the labor market. Mr. Pulsipher added: “nearly one-third of four-year institutions leave their students with zero economic return after accounting for the cost of attendance.” Lawmakers agreed young people should not be pushed to obtain degrees that do not have a positive return on investment.
Rep. Lisa McClain (R-MI) pointed out the importance of increasing transparency and accountability in financial aid letters to improve the college decision-making process. “Last Congress I introduced the College Cost and Transparency act and the Student Protection Act… which I will be reintroducing this Congress,” she said. “I think transparency and honesty and knowing what you're getting into is critical for the student, as well as the parent as well as the colleges,” Rep. McClain added.
Bottom line, Committee Republican are ready to tackle the lack of college accountability, address rising college costs, and strengthen workforce development programs.
In case you missed it, here’s some coverage of yesterday's hearing: