Restoring Pell Eligibility

Published dec. 10, 2014

Thousands of young people and adults who can’t afford college would benefit tremendously from expanded access to Pell grants under a small but critical provision included in the comprehensive 2015 spending bill that House and Senate negotiators approved yesterday.

The partial restoration of the Ability to Benefit provision of the Higher Education Act extends Pell grant access to low-income students without a high school diploma or its equivalent if they are co-enrolled in an approved career pathways program. Jobs for the Future has been a leader in working toward restoring this provision.

Through initiatives such as Accelerating Opportunity, JFF is helping adult learners without a high school credential earn postsecondary credentials that lead to well-paying jobs and rewarding careers. Results from this initiative show dramatic increases in the completion rates of students in these structured career pathways programs. For example, in Kentucky 68% of Accelerating Opportunity students are earning a credential as compared to 9% from the comparison group.

Accelerating Opportunity and related initiatives are addressing growing national need. According to data from the U.S. Department of Education, only 2.4 percent of more than 2 million adult education students annually enroll in, much less complete, any postsecondary education. Restoring access to Pell grants for these students is a critical step in ensuring access to programs like Accelerating Opportunity.

Congress is expected to vote as early as today on the 2015 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, the legislation that will provide discretionary funding for the vast majority of the federal government for the current fiscal year. If enacted, this provision will allow thousands of deserving, low-income students to earn the education, skills, and credentials required for today’s high-demand jobs.

JFF applauds appropriators for including this important provision—and we look forward to the bill’s passage and enactment—hopefully later this week.