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Bipartisan Bills on Workforce Pell and WIOA Retooling Introduced in US House of Representatives | Policy Matters (December 2023)

December 21, 2023

Major Updates

Bipartisan Bills on Workforce Pell and WIOA Retooling Introduced in US House of Representatives

A bipartisan group of the U.S. House of Representatives has released the Bipartisan Workforce Pell Act, a bill to expand eligibility of Pell Grants for shorter-term programs; and separately, A Stronger Workforce for America Act, a bill making significant updates to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). 

The Bipartisan Workforce Pell Act is the latest proposal from congressional leadership expanding Pell Grants for short-term education and training programs of at least 150 clock hours of instruction (or an equivalent number of credit hours), but less than 600 clock hours of instruction, offered during a minimum of eight weeks, but less than 15 weeks. While there have been a number of proposals in Congress over the last few years, the Bipartisan Workforce Pell Act sheds some of the most stark sticking points that past bills have faced, which included not allowing fully online programs or for-profit institutions to take part in the eligibility. Yet, the law has a funding plan meant to fund the expansion by reducing federal student loans to many colleges and universities affected by a tax on investment income, known as the ‘endowment tax’. Also, the current bill sets up some high bars for program eligibility, including requiring a program completion and job placement rate of 70% for each program, controlled calculations on tuition charged, and a wage floor for those who complete the program to have median earnings equal to or greater than high school graduates in their state. Oversight also includes a collective of the US Department of Education, state workforce boards, and accrediting agencies, and the programs must be provided exclusively by accredited and federally eligible institutions. 

The A Stronger Workforce for America Act provides the pathway to strengthen and build connections between employers and the workforce and training system, by updating WIOA and helping provide Americans with career access and advancement. While offering certain improvements, critics have expressed concerns that the bill might not sufficiently enhance the existing WIOA structure, which has been considered less than robust. Notable items the bill amends includes: 

  • Dedicating 50 percent of the adult and dislocated worker funding towards upskilling workers through “individual training accounts” (ITAs), on-the-job learning, and other employer-led skills development 
  • Simplifying the eligible training provider list (ETPL) to match skills and job demands, while enforcing performance standards to hold workforce boards accountable for positive participant outcomes
  • Fortifying a program to help individuals released from incarceration transitioning to employment
  • Offering clear information about awarded credentials, including details like who awards them, industry recognition, the skills they represent, and participants’ employment and earnings outcomes
  • Increased support for community college workforce education programs

Both bills have passed the House Education and Workforce Committee, however, the expected outcomes for both bills are unclear in the full House of Representatives, as well as the Senate. 

Bipartisan Workforce Pell Act

A Stronger Workforce for America Act


Today’s Students Coalition releases Equity Now Toolkit: Advancing racial equity in higher education through federal policy for today’s students
Today’s students of color face systemic inequities that are woven on campuses, in state halls, and in federal policies, and that are unfairly holding them back from achieving their goals. Despite the dedication and talent today’s students bring to classrooms across the nation, many are not succeeding due to outdated and inequitable federal policies, allowing race to predict success and postsecondary outcomes.

The Today’s Students Coalition’s (TSC) Equity Now Toolkit is a resource designed to guide and support our country’s advocates and leaders in addressing racial disparities in higher education. The reforms in this toolkit offer a wide array of changes that can help bridge racial equity gaps in postsecondary student access, success, and completion. In the toolkit, you will find:

  • Background information on racial equity and disparities in higher education outcomes;
  • An overview of policy reforms that leaders can use to close racial equity gaps; and
  • A list of resources readers can review to learn more about a particular issue.

Advancing racial equity in higher education should not be a partisan issue and must be championed by everyone. The TSC is deeply committed to working with policymakers on both sides of the aisle to enact change for the benefit of today’s students.

UPCEA is a proud contributor to this toolkit and a founding steering committee member of the Today’s Students Coalition.


Other News

  • Invite Your Students to the DC Student Summit
    Being held this coming March 3-5, the three-day DC Student Summit in our nation’s capital will equip students with the skills necessary to elevate their stories and lived experiences directly to federal policymakers. Led by the Today’s Students Coalition (of which UPCEA is a founding steering committee member) and LeadMN, students will have the opportunity to learn how to effectively share their stories with policymakers, learn about current hot topics in DC surrounding higher education, racial equity, and efforts to address students’ basic needs, as well as a day on the Hill meeting with Congressional offices. Space is limited, so make sure you share with interested students and encourage them to register soon! Learn more.


Policy Matters: Primers and Insights
Helping you navigate policy frameworks critical to higher education in the United States.

Access our resources providing an introduction to foundational topics in federal legislation and regulations impacting online and professional continuing education for universities and colleges. Read more.

UPCEA is a proud founding and steering committee member of the Today's Students Coalition.

UPCEA Policy Committee

Kristen Brown, University of Louisville, Chair
Bridget Beville, University of Phoenix
Corina Caraccioli, Loyola University New Orleans
Abram Hedtke, St. Cloud State University

George Irvine, University of Delaware
Rob Kerr, University of Illinois, Springfield
Craig Wilson, University of Arizona


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