Home News Making HEA work: Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act to improve employment for the disadvantaged – Brookings

Making HEA work: Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act to improve employment for the disadvantaged – Brookings

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The Higher Education Act (HEA) is the primary law through which the federal government regulates and helps finance postsecondary education in the United States. Title IV, in particular, authorizes Pell grants for poor students and myriad other grant and loan programs (as well as work-study); other titles provide aid to colleges and universities, especially those serving mostly minority and/or disadvantaged students. As Congress prepares to reauthorize HEA, many issues regarding how the federal government can best improve access of all students to higher education, while improving student outcomes like credential attainment and subsequent earnings, are being debated.

In this brief, I consider one such issue: how to strengthen workforce and occupational programs in U.S. higher education, and thereby improve the future employment outcomes of low-income students. I define these programs broadly to include certificate programs at community and for-profit colleges as well as occupational degree programs there (in health care, business, and other fields) at the associate degree level. Since only students in for-credit programs at accredited institutions currently qualify for financial aid under Title IV, these certificate and degree programs are what I primarily focus on.

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