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ADVOCACY & POLICY UPDATE - June 13th, 2022

Secretary Cardona Testifies Before Subcommittee

Washington Update

Appropriations Subcommittee Hearing

On Tuesday, June 7, U.S. Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona testified before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies on President Biden’s FY23 budget request for his agency. The hearing mainly focused on K-12 issues but a few Senators noted they wanted to see more of a spotlight on trade career opportunities as an option for four-year degrees. Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers encouraged Secretary Cardona to promote career and technical education (CTE) more - especially with increased college costs and student debt worries.

In his testimony, Secretary Cardona highlighted programs in the FY23 proposed budget that would provide educational pathways toward and technical careers - such as the proposed $200 million Career-Connect High Schools Initiative. The initiative would provide competitive grants to support partnerships between local educational agencies, higher education institutions and employers to support early enrollment in postsecondary and career-connected coursework, work-based learning opportunities, and career-connected instruction during the last two years of high school and first two years of postsecondary education. The Secretary also highlighted the need for child care and challenges parent students are facing - discussing the Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program that would support the participation of low-income parents in postsecondary education through the provision of campus-based child care services.

Click here to watch the Secretary’s testimony.

Short-Term Pell

On Monday, June 13, over a dozen community college, tech and online university leaders sent a letter to congressional leaders urging them to eliminate any exclusions to online education programs in expanded Pell eligibility in the final Bipartisan Innovation Act.

In the letter, college leaders and the Skills First Coalition, led by IBM, argued that the proposed exclusion would essentially prohibit adult students from accessing financial aid for programs as short as eight weeks. They also referenced other barriers to education for working adult students, including inadequate child care and time constraints, as a key concern. Under the House-passed America COMPETES Act, online-only programs and for-profit institutions are ineligible for short-term Pell. Lawmakers are currently negotiating details of the America COMPETES Act, H.R. 4521, which passed the House this year, and the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, S. 1260 , which passed last year in the Senate. Both bills address the bipartisan concern about ways foreign governments, particularly China, work to influence American institutions of higher education.

The America COMPETES Act includes language similar to the JOBS Act and would allow students enrolled in career training programs as short as eight weeks to be eligible for Pell Grants.

Click here to access the joint letter.

Click here to access more information about the America COMPETES Act.

Click here to access the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act.

Click here to access the JOBS Act.

GAO Report/Unemployment Inequities

On Friday, June 10, the Labor Department announced $18 million in grants to seven states to revamp their unemployment systems and address inequities. The funding was to “allow community partners in each state to conduct outreach and provide resources and training to marginalized communities," according to the Department of Justice, including racial and ethnic minorities, women, people with disabilities and LGBTQI individuals, among others.

This followed the release of a Government Accountability Office last week which found that during the pandemic Black applicants for unemployment benefits were half as likely to succeed as similar white ones in some states, among other obvious issues.

Click here to read the GAO report.

Unemployment Rate

On Friday, May 6, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the April unemployment report, which showed the economy added 428,000 jobs last month. There were notable gains in leisure and hospitality, manufacturing, and transportation and warehousing. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.6% - just 0.1 percentage point above its pre-pandemic level. The labor market has added more than 6.5 million jobs in the past year and is on track to return to pre-pandemic levels this summer.

Click here to access the report.

Click here to hear the DOL’s Chief Economist Joelle Gamble provide insight into the May jobs report.

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