Rebuilding Better Pell Funding Blocks for Career College Students

A spending proposal in President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan would deny funding to students who choose to attend private-sector career colleges over public community colleges. It is a burden that would fall disproportionately on veterans, older students and people of color.

“We believe this is unfair and unwarranted,” said Dr. Jason Altmire, president and CEO of career colleges and universities in Arlington, Virginia. “This has never been done before with the Pell Grant program. “

For decades, low-income students have relied on Pell Grants to access higher education. Biden’s proposal would increase the maximum Pell Grant by $ 550 (to $ 7,045), which would fully cover the average cost of tuition and fees at public community colleges in 48 states for students receiving the maximum reward, according to the center-left group Third way.

But while current funding levels would hold up for the 900,000 Pell beneficiaries attending career colleges, the White House plan would exclude them from increased BBB funding. It would be a disturbing departure from traditional scholarship funding, which has always followed the student, critics say.

“We are working very hard with Republicans and Democrats to get the message across that this is unfair, this is unprecedented and we stand behind what is best for our students, which is equality in the Pell Grant program.” , Altmire said.

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators also opposes the BBB’s funding proposal.

Career colleges, which place more emphasis on professional skills and workforce qualification than traditional colleges, tend to be more popular with non-traditional students, such as older students and students. Veterans. Career students are also disproportionately people of color.

“There are a lot of reasons why people can choose this type of setting,” said Altmire, a Democrat who represented Pennsylvania’s 4th Congressional District from 2007 to 2013. “The reasons include more flexible hours, or they just like the campus or the program Some prefer the classes because they are more intense and they will finish faster and re-enter the workforce.

During the Obama administration, the Education Department also attempted to restrict federal funding for career college students. Some in the educational community believe this is because progressive elements in the Democratic Party are ideologically opposed to the for-profit model. They are supporting policies like a proposal backed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) And Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) To spend $ 109 billion on free community college for everyone.

This proposal was removed from the version of the Build Back Better bill passed by the House in November.

Data shows that career colleges have a median completion rate that is twice as high as public career colleges.

“We produce half of the truck drivers in the country,” Altmire said. “So if you want to talk about the supply chain and the problem associated with the truck driver shortage, I don’t know how they think they’re going to solve this problem by dissuading people from going into this type of business. ‘schools. “

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators also opposes the restriction of these grants.

“While a $ 550 increase in the maximum Pell Grant is a welcome initial investment to make college more affordable for low-income students, we are concerned that these funds will be broken down by institutional sector, which will add further complexity. to a financial aid system on the verge of much needed simplification, ”NASFAA President Justin Draeger said in a recent interview.

“The best place to address concerns about the institutional quality of some proprietary institutions should be in the institutional eligibility and accountability provisions of the Higher Education Law, and not by making programmatic changes that add complexity to the institutions. students. “

Michael Graham is Editor-in-Chief of

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