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Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc)

36 States Participate in Field Test for Common Core-aligned Exams

April 14th, 2014

Field testing for Common Core-aligned assessments developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is well under way in schools across the country. Since testing began in late March, millions of students have taken the computer-based assessments in mathematics and English language arts and literacy.

The newly developed exams are designed to align with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and better determine students’

progress toward college and career readiness through more complex (and non-multiple choice) items. The massive field test – which will involve students from 36 states – is one of the final stages before the assessments are finalized for schools to use in spring 2015.

Students in grades 3 through 11 will take the field tests through June 6, 2014. The assessments are as much a test for the students as they are for the technology being used. Many districts had to make large technological investments to administer the exams.

There haven’t been major incidents reported, aside from smaller technical glitches for both field test efforts. Smarter Balanced was scheduled to launch its tests on March 18, but delayed it by a week for “quality checking,” according to a spokeswoman.

Two additional consortia are developing similar tests for students with severe cognitive disabilities.  Field tests for those assessments are ongoing.

You can keep up with the field testing progress through regular updates from PARCC and Smarter Balanced.

Students aren’t the only ones who can enjoy the testing fun. Put yourself to the test – how would you fare on a practice exam?

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

Legislative Update: House Appropriators Question Administration’s FY15 Priorities, New Proposals on Perkins Emerge

April 11th, 2014

CapitolOn Tuesday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified before the House Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Subcommittee regarding the Obama Administration’s FY 2015 budget request for education.  As we shared previously, the Administration requested $1.117 billion for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act’s (Perkins) basic state grant program— a figure that would maintain the same level of funding as in FY 2014, but would keep the program below pre-sequestration levels. The request also proposed to use a portion of these funds for a competitive “innovation fund” similar to what the Administration has previously proposed in its 2012 Blueprint for Career Technical Education (CTE).

During the subcommittee hearing, members from both parties strongly questioned these aspects of the budget request, asked why additional funds were not requested for the Perkins Act and voiced strong opposition to the Administration’s other proposals for new competitively funded programs.

“The concern is that these proposals would be made at the expense of meeting our current obligations,” Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) said. The ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), echoed these sentiments and emphasized the importance of the overall federal investment in education. The full hearing and testimony transcripts can be found here.

Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) questioned the Secretary further on these issues asking, “Why does the Administration continue to propose competitive grants that only benefit a few students rather than investing in proven programs like CTE that help to further the goal of career readiness for all students?”

Secretary Duncan did point out that 89 percent of the funds from his department actually go to formula programs and that the Administration on the whole has invested heavily in CTE via alternative funding streams such as the Youth CareerConnect program.

However, there was genuine skepticism from many of the members present for how these proposals would negatively impact the ability of students to equitably access CTE programs throughout the country. As Rep. Roby pointed out, “We have yet to fulfill our commitment to fully fund existing formula-driven programs.”

To that end, members of Congress on and off the subcommittee have been hard at work over the past several weeks to push for additional investments for the Perkins Act ahead of the Congressional FY 2015 appropriations process. Two Dear Colleague letters, one in the House and the other in the Senate, were supported on a bipartisan basis by 93 Representatives and 25 Senators respectively, calling for a restoration of the Perkins Act basic state grant program to pre-sequester levels.

NASDCTEc encourages its members and those in the CTE community to reach out to all of the lawmakers who supported these efforts and thank them for their strong support for the Perkins Act and CTE. Special recognition must go to Sens. Blumenthal (D-CT), Kaine (D-VA), Baldwin (D-WI) and also Reps. Thompson (R-PA) and Langevin (D-RI) who lead these efforts in both Chambers.

Don’t know how to get in touch with Congress? Find out here!

Perkins Amendment Introduced in the House

Earlier this week Reps. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced the “Perkins Modernization Act of 2014,” which seeks to more closely align CTE programs with labor market needs. Specifically it would substitute all references to “high skill, high wage, or high demand occupations in current or emerging professions,” currently found in the Perkins Act and substitute them with “employment in current or emerging in-demand industry sectors or occupations.” A definition for an “in-demand industry sector or occupation” is also proposed, which would be informed to a greater extent by labor market information culled from various sources at the local, state and national levels.

As the House Committee on Education and the Workforce (HEW) along with the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) continue to work to reauthorize the Perkins Act, it is important to note that the above proposal is not a comprehensive reauthorization bill. Instead the Perkins Modernization Act introduces into the reauthorization discussion an issue important to these members of Congress.  NASDCTEc appreciates Reps. Kennedy, Kinzinger, Davis, and Polis’ recognition that CTE programs are crucial components to the nation’s economic competitiveness and agrees that a greater availability and use of labor market information is needed to ensure that CTE programs prepare students for success in the workforce.

NASDCTEc looks forward to working constructively with Congress to thoughtfully reauthorize the Perkins Act and to ensure that programs are empowering students with the necessary skills and knowledge demanded by today’s employers and affording graduates the opportunity to secure family-sustaining wages.

House Education and the Workforce Committee Moves on ESRA

The House Education and the Workforce Committee (HEW) moved forward on the Strengthening Education through Research Act (H.R. 4366). This bill, introduced by Representatives Todd Rokita (R-IN) and Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), reauthorizes the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA). Currently, ESRA supports educational research programs such as the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), NAEP exams, and state longitudinal data systems. “Quality education research is critical to successful schools,” Rep. Rokita said upon the Committee’s approval of the bill by voice vote.

A particularly promising aspect of the bill would amend the authorization for state longitudinal data system grants to encourage the alignment of data across K-12, postsecondary and workforce programs. This would greatly support efforts to report on post-program employment outcomes for CTE graduates. Moreover, H.R. 4366 emphasizes the importance of using data effectively and lays out a more thoughtful approach to its use. The Workforce Data Quality Campaign, of which NASDCTEc is a national partner, supported this bill. The text of the bill, fact sheets, and other useful information can be found here.

Senators Introduce Bipartisan Apprenticeship Bill

On Wednesday Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tim Scott (R-SC) introduced the Leveraging and Energizing America’s Apprenticeship Programs (LEAP) Act, a bill that incentivizes employers to increase the number of apprenticeships available to young people. Specifically the LEAP Act would grant companies a $1,500 tax credit for hiring new registered apprentices under the age of 25. A $1,000 tax credit would also be offered to employers hiring apprentices older than 25 years of age. The bill would also incent the expansion of existing apprenticeship programs

The Workforce Investment Act

Both Chambers of Congress have continued discussions on the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) this week. According to recent reports, the Chairman of the Senate HELP Committee, Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Chairman of the House HEW Committee, John Kline (R-MN), have publicly stated that they have “resolved nearly all differences” and hope to complete the legislation when Congress returns from recess in late April.

“The likelihood is that the staff will be able to hammer out what is left while we are gone,” Chairman Kline said. “Hopefully, by the time we come back, we’ll have it all put together,” Chairman Harkin was reported as saying.

There has also been speculation that the reauthorization of WIA could possibly be attached to Congress’ consideration of extending unemployment insurance benefits. NASDCTEc will monitor this process as it evolves and will continue to work with policymakers to ensure that a thoughtful reauthorization of the law emerges from these negotiations.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Spring Meeting Recap: CTE & STEM— Making the Connection

April 10th, 2014

STEM-CTERepresentatives from the Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) and business communities discussed the ways in which STEM and Career Technical Education (CTE) are linked on Wednesday, April 2nd at NASDCTEc’s annual spring meeting. The panel, moderated by Jay Scott Assistant Director at the Kansas Department of Education, explored the ways in which CTE and STEM are connected and examined issue areas which are of interest to both communities. The panel, spurred in part by NASDCTEc’s Associate Executive Director’s recent publication, CTE is your STEM Strategy, tackled this fundamental linkage and looked for ways to build upon this interconnectedness.

Linda Rosen, CEO of Change the Equation (CTEq), started the session off by outlining what a STEM occupation is and the positive impact STEM skills and knowledge have on one’s ability to find gainful employment. Noting that STEM occupations constitute 11 percent of the U.S. workforce, she pointed out that job postings for those with a strong STEM background generally fared much better than those without similar knowledge and skills. She went on to argue that CTE is an effective method of delivery for STEM education and one way to improve upon existing programs that link the two is through greater alignment of CTE programs with the labor market. “Above all, corporate America expects results,” she said. Among other proposals, Dr. Rosen suggested that employers should be engaged (and vice versa) in more meaningful ways and that accountability provisions within current law should be more closely linked with labor market needs.

June Streckfus, Executive Director of the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education (MBRT), focused her remarks on the work her organization is currently doing in the state of Maryland. She outlined the main points of emphasis for her organization and Maryland’s STEM strategy— accelerating student & teacher growth along with cultivating public support for these initiatives. This last point guided the rest of her presentation where she convincingly demonstrated that employer engagement— something the state of Maryland is ideally situated to leverage given its close proximity to many large national employers— was a key tool for improving employment outcomes for students. To support her argument, she highlighted an article that found a strong positive correlation between the number of employer or professional mentor interactions with students and employment outcomes after program completion.

Ted Wells, Chief Strategy Officer for STEM Connector®, rounded out the discussion with an overview of how his organization seeks to support public-private investment in STEM programs. Throughout his presentation he highlighted the importance of CTE and STEM as strategies to effectively address the nation’s skills gap. He went on to argue that this skills gap is clearly evident and that it has persisted for far too long. Wells recommended that CTE be incorporated more heavily into the standards movement, specifically within the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the Common  Core State Standards (CCSS). He also emphasized the importance of involving STEM leaders within the CTE enterprise and stressed the importance of educating policymakers on the importance of these twin issues.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

The Obama Administration Unveils Youth CareerConnect Grants and a New Apprenticeship Program

April 7th, 2014

Obama Announces YCC AwardsThis morning President Obama visited Bladensburg High School in Prince George’s County, Maryland to announce the winners of the Administration’s Youth CareerConnect (YCC) grant program. This competitive grant initiative, administered jointly by the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of Education (ED), seeks to scale up successful collaborative partnership models between school districts, postsecondary institutions, the workforce investment system and employers.

Specifically it aims to improve the high school experience by encouraging the integration of classroom and workplace learning experiences in an effort to better equip students “with the knowledge, skills, and industry-relevant education needed to get on the pathway to a successful career, including post-secondary education or registered apprenticeship,” a White House official said.

Structured similarly to the Administration’s Race to the Top program, the YCC grants are comparable to the “innovation fund” proposed in the President’s 2012 Career Technical Education (CTE) Blueprint. “The idea behind this competition is, how do we start making high school in particular more interesting, more exciting, more relevant to young people?” the President said. “We want to reward the schools that are being most innovative.”

In all, the President announced twenty-four grants totaling $107 million which derive funding from H1-B visa fees collected by the Department of Labor. Bladensburg High School, the venue for today’s announcement, was part of a larger group within Prince George’s County which received a $7 million award. Their portion of the grant will support the school’s efforts to expand its Health and Biosciences Academy which was prominently featured during the announcement.  As President Obama pointed out, these grants support “cooler stuff than when I was in high school.”

More information on the YCC grant program can be found here. The White House has also released an additional fact sheet on the program which includes a full list of awards.

Vice President Biden Announces Registered Apprenticeship College Consortium

The President’s unveiling of these grants also coincided with Vice President Joe Biden’s announcement of a new Registered Apprenticeship College Consortium (RACC) initiative. The main objective of this new effort is to ensure students who participate in certain apprenticeships have the opportunity to earn credits that will transfer to a community or technical college of their choice. RACC is aiming to make these types of articulation agreements more common throughout the country by creating a national network of postsecondary institutions, employers, unions and associations which will expedite the process of transferring a student’s work experience within a Registered Apprenticeship into credit for a program at a participating institution.

The RACC is part of the Administration’s larger goal of doubling the number of apprenticeships over the next several years and will be jointly administered by the Department of Labor and Education. “As a result of this exciting new consortium, graduates of a Registered Apprenticeship program will not only have better access to jobs that lead to a sustainable career, but they’ll also have better access to an education – all with little or no debt” Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez said at a separate announcement. Consortium participants must be accredited degree granting institutions in order to be eligible. At the moment, specific third-party organizations will evaluate the postsecondary credit value of a particular apprenticeship for the purposes of a completion certificate at the end of a program.

More information on RACC, including how to join the consortium, can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Legislative Update: ED Introduces New Gainful Employment Regulations, The FIRST Act Moves to Full Committee

March 14th, 2014

CapitolAs we have shared previously, last December the Department of Education (ED) concluded a three-part series of negotiated rulemaking sessions regarding the Department’s proposed regulations on “gainful employment.” These proposed rules aim to introduce stricter accountability requirements for vocational programs at for-profit institutions and community colleges across the country in an effort to ensure they are helping their student’s find gainful employment upon graduation. ED assembled a negotiated rulemaking committee, composed of representatives from for-profits institutions, community colleges, and other relevant stakeholders, to establish a consensus on these proposals.

Unfortunately, the committee failed to come to such a consensus on ED’s draft regulations during the last of the negotiated rulemaking sessions this past December. Per the Department’s policies, a lack of consensus among the rulemaking committee allows ED to introduce new regulations on its own. Today, ED released these new regulations and will soon open them up for public comment over the next two months.

The regulations—over eight hundred pages in length— introduce stricter standards for the amount of debt students can accrue while attending institutions offering career-training programs. There are three main criteria a program must pass in order to maintain eligibility to receive federal financial aid under Title IV of the Higher Education Act. The first two are related to loan payments. Programs which have student loan payments higher than 30 percent of discretionary income or 12 percent of total income would fail under the new rules if those ratios persisted for any two out of three consecutive years. The third criterion is tied to a program’s cohort default rate (pCDR) for both completers and non-completers. If a program’s pCDR exceeds 30 percent for three consecutive years, the program is deemed failing.

Another important feature of these new regulations affords programs the ability to appeal for those that have less than half of their completers take on debt. This is an important change from ED’s last draft proposal in December and will benefit programs at Community Colleges and elsewhere which typically offer two-year programs at a relatively lower cost to students.

Barring any major revisions between now and October 30th of this year, these regulations are set to go into full-effect in 2016. As with previous iterations of ED’s gainful employment regulations, these new rules will likely be challenged in court. As this process unfolds, please check our blog for updates on how these regulations will likely impact those in the Career Technical Education community.

ED’s full gainful employment regulations can be found here and additional information on the process can be found here.

House Subcommittee Passes the FIRST Act

Yesterday, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology’s Subcommittee on Research and Technology passed the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) Act (H.R. 4186). The bill would reauthorize the America Competes Act of 2010 and has now moved on to the full committee for consideration.

While some Democrats on the Subcommittee voiced concerns over reduced levels of funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Republicans highlighted the bill’s focus on better coordination of existing federal Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) initiatives. Among other provisions, the FIRST Act would create a STEM Education Coordinating Office to better manage STEM education activities and programs at the federal level and would be overseen by NSF.

Notably, the legislation would broaden the definition of STEM to include not only the core components laid out in its acronym, but also “other academic subjects that build on these disciplines such as computer science and other academic subjects that a State identifies as important to the workforce of the State.”

NASDCTEc will continue to monitor this legislation as it moves to the full Committee. The full bill can be found here and a statement from the Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) can be found here.

JOBS Tax Credit Act Introduced in the House

This past Tuesday, Representative Maffei introduced the Job and Opportunity Bonus (JOB) Tax Credit Act which seeks to address the nation’s persistent skills gap by creating a temporary tax credit for employers to help pay for the cost of training their employees.

According to the Congressman, “So many of our local businesses want to invest in training for current and new employees, but don’t have the resources to do it. My bill helps address this issue by providing a tax credit for worker training programs.”

Among the provisions contained in the bill, the JOBS Tax Credit Act would pay for 50 percent of the cost to train employees in an approved program which would include apprenticeship programs, training offered by vocation or technical schools or community colleges, and a variety of industry or labor union-sponsored training programs. The tax credit would only be able to be utilized by employers with 500 employees or less and would last between 2015 to 2017.

NASDCTEc applauds Rep. Maffei’s work to better address the nation’s skills gap and urges Congress to take up this important piece of legislation.  His office’s full press release on the JOB Tax Credit Act can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Announcing New On-Demand Webinar on The Federal Budget & Appropriations Process: What’s the Difference?

March 12th, 2014

This webinar continues a series of On-Demand webinars produced by NASDCTEc staff.

The Federal Budget & Appropriations Process: What’s the Difference?

Understanding the federal budget and appropriations process can often seem like a daunting task. This webinar will explain how the federal budget is created and also illustrate the process by which the many departments, agencies, and programs– including the Perkins Act Basic state grant program– receive funding. In an ever more difficult fiscal environment, it is critical to have a full understanding of how these important processes work and how they will likely impact Career Technical Education (CTE) programs throughout the country.

Narrator: Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate, NASDCTEc

Access this and other On-Demand recordings here.

Length: 12:08

Ramona Schescke, Member Services Manager

Obama Administration Releases FY 2015 Budget Request

March 4th, 2014

Capitol

Earlier today, the Obama Administration released its annual budget request for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. Unveiling the details of this document in a Northwest D.C. public school classroom, President Obama underscored his commitment to education while framing his budget proposals as a choice between two competing visions for America’s future ahead of the 2014 midterm elections.

“Our budget is about choices,” the President said before going on to call for “smart investments to create jobs and grow our economy and expand opportunity for every American.”

The Administration’s budget and accompanying press releases repeatedly cited investment in education as the cornerstone of the Administration’s underlying opportunity agenda. Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education echoed these sentiments.

“President Obama’s budget request reflects his strong belief that education is a vital investment in the nation’s economic competitiveness, in its people, and in its communities,” Secretary Duncan affirmed before adding that “too many students lack access to the quality education and supports that make the journey to college and the middle class possible.”

To that end, the Obama Administration’s FY 2015 budget request to Congress calls for $68.6 billion in appropriations for the U.S. Department of Education (ED). That figure represents a 1.9 percent increase over last year’s funding levels and much of the additional proposed funds are targeted to various competitive grant initiatives such as a new iteration of Race to the Top focused on “Equity and Opportunity” (RTT-Opportunity) and similar programs.

Of particular importance to the Career Technical Education (CTE) community is the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act’s basic state grant program. For FY 2015 the Administration requested $1.117 billion — the same amount the program will receive for FY 2014. Additionally, the President’s budget request calls again for a $100 million competitive CTE innovation fund along with $10 million for “Pay-for-Success” projects that would prioritize program development and strategies that target disconnected youth, expand rural access to CTE, and increase technology’s role in the classroom.

At ED’s budget briefing this afternoon, Secretary Duncan highlighted some of the progress ED believes it has made through these and other initiatives, but emphasized that “wide opportunity and achievement gaps continue to hurt many families, which puts our nation’s economy and future at risk.”

One of the most effective and proven strategies for closing this achievement and broader opportunity gap is through greater federal investment in CTE. However, requesting flat level-funding for these important programs, as the Administration has done, will not achieve the important goals the President and Secretary Duncan have laid out for the country.

A greater commitment to the CTE enterprise from the Administration is therefore needed in the coming fiscal year. In an effort to make good on the Administration’s promise, the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) and its partners in the CTE community will be actively working in the coming year to advocate for $1.22 billion for the Perkins Act basic state grant program and the vital CTE programs it helps to support.

“Each year, the Administration has talked about the importance of education and its connection to restoring and growing  the American economy, yet the budget proposal does not reflect this priority. Fully funding the Perkins Act would be a tremendous signal that the Administration is serious about closing the skills gap and ensuring all students have access to high-quality Career Technical Education,” said NASDCTEc’s Executive Director Kimberly Green.

“Career Technical Education has a proven track record of closing equity and achievement gaps and helping youth and adults to garner the skills and knowledge to secure good-paying jobs and enter further education. Rather than investing in new initiatives, we believe it would be better to fully fund Perkins – a program with a long, proven history of success.”

The President’s full budget request can be found here and the Department of Education’s portion, along with a number of useful graphs, charts and other supplemental information, can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Legislative Update: Congress Prepares for Budget and Appropriations Process

February 28th, 2014

CapitolNext Tuesday the Obama Administration will release its annual budget request which will lay out the President’s vision for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 budget. Typically, this request is released on the first Monday of February, but the White House chose to wait until after Congressional appropriators finalized the recent omnibus spending package for FY 2014 before crafting the request. That spending bill funds the federal government through the end of this September and a new FY 2015 budget will be required starting on October 1st— the first day of the federal government’s next fiscal year. The President’s budget request is a highly anticipated document as it formally begins the federal budget and appropriations process for FY 2015 which is taken up later by both Chambers of Congress.

Ahead of that process Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee, sent a memo to Senate Democrats outlining the extent of federal deficit reduction since 2010 arguing that there are other deficits “like those in job growth, innovation, infrastructure, and education” which Congress has failed to address with the same level of zealousness. The memo outlines $3.3 trillion worth of deficit reduction over the past several years and points out that almost half of those reductions have been through spending cuts to the discretionary portion of the federal budget. Specifically, the memo illustrates the disproportionate amount of spending cuts to the roughly 16 percent of the federal budget, known as non-defense discretionary (NDD), which fund investments in education, infrastructure, and research among other important national priorities.

As the memo lays out, it is important “to tackle our long-term fiscal challenges using a balanced and responsible approach.” While federal deficits and the national debt are a genuine challenge to the nation’s long-term financial wellbeing, addressing these concerns through systematic disinvestment in our nation’s education system and other vital NDD programs is not the solution. Although spending caps have already been established for FY 2015 and are slightly higher than FY 2014, decisions for how funds will be allocated to the various departments, agencies and programs must still be made in the coming year. As Congress and the White house begin these negotiations, it will be critical to more adequately fund this portion of the federal budget and support programs— like Career Technical Education— that strengthen our nation’s economy and ensure the global competitiveness of its students and workforce.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

New Poll: Employers Value Skills & Knowledge Over Institutional Prestige

February 25th, 2014

mapToday Gallup and the Lumina Foundation presented the findings of two polls gauging employer and the public’s perceptions of America’s higher education system. The results, presented this morning at Gallup’s D.C. headquarters, found that a vast majority of employers value occupationally relevant skills, technical competencies, and knowledge gained through a postsecondary education much more than where a student went to school or what their major was. In fact, only 9 percent of employers reported that a job candidate’s alma mater was “very important” for their hiring purposes and a mere 28 percent reported that a candidate’s major was a “very important” factor in their hiring decision. Tellingly, 84 percent of employers said that the amount of knowledge the candidate has in a particular field was “very important” and 79 percent responded to the poll saying that applied skills were of the same value.

Overall the two polls, conducted in late 2013, provide five main insights:

  • Employers value relevant skills and knowledge much more than where a degree, certification, or credential was conferred.
  • A large perception gap persists between employers and academic institution leaders— 96 percent of chief academic officers said they were “extremely or somewhat confident” that their institution prepares students for the workplace, while only 11 percent of business leaders shared this view.
  • The value Americans place on postsecondary education continues to grow. 43 percent of Americans without a postsecondary education have reported researching their options for further education, yet 77 percent of Americans say that higher education remains unaffordable to everyone who needs it.
  • Confidence in the value of online degrees and educational programs continues to grow among both the American public and employers. 59 percent of business leaders say they would be more to likely hire a candidate with an online degree over a candidate with the same degree from a traditional postsecondary institution.
  • There is a need for greater transparency when assessing the quality and value of a postsecondary education. Faculty quality, job placement after graduation, program costs, and graduation percentages are among the most important criteria to the American public when selecting a program or assessing its quality. However, Americans report that finding this information is often difficult.

These results have come as a surprise to many. A panel discussion followed the release of these findings which provided a forum for how best to redesign America’s higher education system to respond to these findings. Among the many proposals offered, greater employer engagement and an increased role for community colleges emerged as two important pieces to solving what Gallup has now termed the “work preparation paradox.” Panelists argued that community colleges are an underutilized bridge between colleges, high schools and the world of work and should be used more to promote access to other forms of postsecondary education outside of a traditional four-year degree.  Other recommendations for better employer engagement included providing more experiential learning opportunities to students and also increasing the role employers have in faculty professional development.

The full survey with further analysis from Gallup and the Lumina Foundation can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

ED Begins Negotiations on Postsecondary Regulations, DOL Announces New Grant Program

February 21st, 2014

CapitolA negotiated rulemaking panel, composed of fifteen members appointed by the Department of Education (ED), convened on Wednesday to develop a set of proposed rules impacting postsecondary student aid. Negotiators have been tasked with developing new regulations regarding state authorization of distance learning programs, Parent PLUS loans, campus debit cards and clock to credit hour conversion. The fifteen member panel is set to meet again in March and later in April to come to a consensus on these proposed regulations, some of which were part of ED’s earlier “program integrity” rules. As with similar rounds of negotiated rulemaking, the panel is required to come to a consensus on each item on the agenda. Per the Department’s organizational protocols, without a consensus ED has the authority to unilaterally draft these regulations on their own.

Of particular interest to the Career Technical Education (CTE) community are proposed rules impacting clock to credit hour conversions. Currently, students qualify for federal financial aid based on the amount of credit hours attempted. However, many postsecondary CTE programs measure student progress in actual hours rather than by credit hour. Programs that do this must retroactively convert “clock time” to credit hour units for the purposes of student financial aid. At present ED, for the purposes of financial aid eligibility, defines a credit hour as at least one hour per week in lecture and two hours of additional work outside the classroom. This interpretation has put students enrolled in CTE programs– for instance those that award licenses or certifications based on real-time hours– at a disadvantage when applying for federal financial aid. Opponents of this regulation argue that the conversion places less significance on real-time hours and more on credit hour units. Over the next several months the panel will be considering a number of changes to the rules governing this conversion.

NASDCTEc will continue to monitor these negotiations as the panel grapples with these issues. More information can be found here.

Dept. of Labor Announces “Ready to Work Partnership” Grants

Earlier this week, the Department of Labor (DOL) released a solicitation for grant applications (SGA) for “Ready to Work Partnership” grants to help the long-term unemployed. The $150 million grant program was announced shortly after President Obama’s State of the Union Address and is designed to bring to scale sector partnerships between community colleges, employers, workforce boards, and other relevant stakeholders that provide skills training and other workforce development services. The Department expects to award 20 to 30 individual grants ranging from $3 to $10 million for programs which focus on employer engagement, job placement assistance, and provide work-based training opportunities.

In order to qualify, a program must actively partner with three employers or an industry association with at least three business community members. Applications for the grant program will be accepted until June 19th, 2014. More information on DOL’s “Ready to Work Partnership” grants can be found here.

House GOP Make CTE a 2014 Priority

Last month House Republicans met in Cambridge, Maryland to plan an ambitious economic and domestic agenda for the coming year. Their plan, titled “An America That Works: Rebuilding the American Dream,” contrasts greatly with the Obama Administration’s current economic proposals and seeks to provide a number of alternative policies of its own. Among the many issues touted by the House Republican Conference was a renewed focus on Career Technical Education (CTE). House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) emphasized that his party’s plan will, “focus on work-force-training and vocational-education programs” that empower Americans to obtain “a secure job with a decent salary that enables them to support their families, pursue their dreams, and leave their children a little more than they have.”

In an effort to demonstrate that commitment, the Majority Leader visited Germanna Community College today to highlight the importance of the workforce and CTE programs offered at an institution in his home district. NASDCTEc and its partners are encouraged by these remarks and the recent interest in CTE. As both parties continue to articulate their 2014 policy agendas, it is critical that CTE continues to be a central component to these proposals to ensure students of all ages are prepared to succeed in the 21st century economy.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate

 

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