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Jennifer Stiddard, Jeffrey Connor-Naylor, Jeran Culina   ·  

Advocacy Update on JOBS Act and Gainful Employment Regulations

This update focuses on two areas of federal policy that intersect with National Skills Coalition’s (BLU’s parent organization) Making College Work campaign. One of the main tenets of the campaign is providing affordable and accessible pathways for workers to attain high quality credentials which in turn helps businesses hire skilled workers. 

What’s Happening with the JOBS Act 

For nearly a decade, business leaders have advocated for the expansion of the Pell Grant program to include high quality short-term education and training programs through means of the JOBS Act. Throughout the years the bill has garnered significant bipartisan support.  

There have been many moments when the bill has come close to passing into law. The latest was a scheduled vote on the billin the Senate HELP Committee in late July. However, it was cancelled less than 24 hours before it was set to occur; effectively shelving JOBS for the time being. 

Since the beginning of the year, there have also been new JOBS Act-like bills that have been introduced in both the House and Senate. These include the PELL Act and the Jobs to Compete Act.The JOBS Act remains the only bipartisan bill. Where the bills differ is on accountability metrics.It’s important to note that when the JOBS Act passes into law it won’t look exactly like the JOBS Act as currently drafted. The final bill will be negotiated by Congressional leaders, and the various bills introduced provide a snapshot into sticking points that Congress will need to iron out. 

What’s next for JOBS? There remains a lot of bipartisan interest from both the House and Senate. It’s unclear if the Senate will try again to pass it in the fall. There may also be an opportunity to include JOBS in the federal budget package or other legislative vehicle. Stay tuned for the next steps for advocacy. 

New Regulations Could Impact Access to Federal Financial Aid 

The Higher Education Act states that non-degree programs (e.g. licensures, credentials, certificates) at nonprofit and for-profit education institutions must lead to ‘gainful employment’ to be eligible for federal financial aid. However, the law does not define what ‘gainful employment meanswhich in turn allows the Department of Education (ED) to regulate the definition.  

ED released a new, proposed definition of GEin the spring, which is more stringent than what has been proposed or implemented in the past. During the Obama-era,non-degree training programs that resulted in too much debt and not enough earnings over a period of three years were no longer eligible for federal student aid programs.  

The newly proposed GE regulations include an additional layer, an earnings threshold. ED would set the earnings threshold for each state,which they estimate to be approximately $25,000 nationally. Programs may lose eligibility to federal financial aid if graduates typically do not exceed the wage threshold. 

ED estimates that of the approximately 32,000 GE programs in total, about 1,800 would fail at least one of the two financial-value metrics. This would impact an estimated 703,000 students.

To learn more readNSC’s  full comments on the proposed changethat were submitted to ED or read NSC’s more detailed blog.  

What’s next for GE? ED will attempt to issue a final rule in the fall. It may be identical to what was recently proposed, and it may not be. If ED is able to issue its final rule before November 1st, then the new regulations will likely see an implementation date of July 1, 2024.