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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

Legislative Update: College Ratings Proposal Continues to Take Shape, Senators Show Support for CTE

February 14th, 2014

CapitolAs we shared last year, President Obama has made college affordability a priority of his Administration’s education agenda. To better combat the increasingly high costs of higher education, the President has proposed a college ratings system which would link federal financial aid to institutional performance on a variety of measures. Metrics such as average tuition, loan debt, graduation rates, and graduate earnings have all been suggested as possible ways to measure how effectively postsecondary institutions are utilizing federal financial aid.

The Administration’s proposed ratings system, known officially as the Postsecondary Institutional Ratings System (PIRS), has been open to formal comment by the public since last December. Since then many institutions and associations have taken the opportunity to provide valuable feedback and insight for how such a system should be developed, what metrics it should or should not incorporate, and ultimately if such a ratings system is an appropriate responsibility for the Department of Education (ED) to take on. These wide-ranging responses can be found here. Many respondents voiced strong concerns regarding the potential negative consequences such a ratings system could have while others highlighted the transformative possibilities increased transparency could have on the postsecondary education marketplace.

The Workforce Data Quality Campaign (WDQC), of which the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) is a national partner, also issued a set of recommendations for PIRS. These recommendations focused mainly on the importance of disaggregating institutional and program-level data, as well as how best to utilize employment and wage record data to gauge graduate outcomes.

The proposed ratings system is complimentary in nature to the Department of Education’s ongoing efforts to develop stricter regulations regarding “gainful employment” in vocational education programs at community colleges and for-profit institutions. More information on those efforts can be found here. As these dual initiatives continue to take shape, NASDCTEc will continue to track and monitor the progress of these efforts and their potential impact on CTE throughout the country.

Senator Rubio Highlights CTE’s Role in Higher Ed

Earlier this week Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) delivered a speech at Miam-Dade College highlighting his proposals for reforming America’s higher education system. He called for universal income-based repayment for federal student loans and a reshaping of the current postsecondary accreditation system to better utilize competency based education programs and online course offerings. Speaking about a “growing opportunity gap” between those who have access to quality education and those who do not, Senator Rubio argued that “the source of an employee’s education is far less important than many previously thought.” He went on to argue that “those who have the skills and the aptitude to be successful in a job deserve the opportunity to be considered for employment, even if they learned the trade from a non-traditional source.”

Career Technical Education (CTE) was a central component in the Senator’s remarks and he used a CTE program in Miami as a successful example for his proposed reforms. “We should make career and vocational education more widespread and more accessible” he said. “For instance, here in Miami, the local school district has partnered with a car dealership to create an innovative approach to career education. . . When they finish high school, they graduate not just with a high school diploma but with a job-ready industry certification from an automobile manufacturer.” Senator Rubio went on to highlight the importance of apprenticeship programs and business and industry partnerships as strategies for expanding the development and access to high-quality CTE programs. NASDCTEc applauds these encouraging remarks from Senator Rubio and looks forward to working constructively on ways CTE can further promote the shared economic opportunity he has called for in this speech.

A full transcript of the speech can be found here and a video can be found here.

JOBS Act Introduced in the Senate

Yesterday, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) introduced the Jumpstart Our Businesses by supporting Students (JOBS) Act (S. 2033). The proposed legislation would amend the Higher Education Act (HEA) to expand eligibility for the act’s Pell Grant program. Under current law the Pell Grant program— like other federal financial aid— is not available to students taking “noncredit courses.” Postsecondary CTE programs, which typically offer certifications or other postsecondary credentials, often fall under this category. Current program eligibility requirements have a minimum seat-time of 300 instruction hours over the course of at least 16 weeks. This frequently leaves out short-term postsecondary CTE programs which are essential to equipping students with the relevant skills needed for the 21st century economy.

Senator Landrieu’s bill would expand Pell Grant eligibility to students enrolled in CTE programs by reducing current time-related eligibility requirements by half (150 hours of instruction over a minimum of 8 weeks). As Senator Landrieu pointed out, “The JOBS Act makes a smart update to expand the eligible uses of Pell Grant funding for short-term job training so we can build a strong and skilled workforce to fill the thousands of jobs that are being created in Louisiana and are currently empty.” NASDCTEc strongly supports this legislation and is encouraged to see a renewed focus on expanding access to postsecondary CTE programs for those who need it most.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

CTE Caucus Comes to the Senate, White House Releases Additional Information on SOTU

January 31st, 2014

CapitolYesterday morning Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) announced the creation of the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, a bipartisan endeavor focused on promoting CTE inside the Chamber and throughout the country. The Senate CTE Caucus, much like its counterpart in the House of Representatives, seeks to “support efforts to ensure all students have access to high-quality, rigorous career and technical education to prepare them for college and for their future careers.”

During yesterday’s announcement, Senator Kaine explained that his interest in CTE stemmed from one of his defining achievements as Governor of Virginia through the creation of CTE Academies in his home state. Expressing his passion for CTE, Senator Kaine described how CTE programs “strengthen the links between the classroom and the workplace, helping students acquire the education and skills that will help them find employment and enjoy productive, successful lives after graduation.”

Senator Portman tied his interest in the creation of the caucus to some of the priorities highlighted in President Obama’s State of the Union address earlier this week. “We must close this skills gap to get Americans working again,” he said.  “One way we can do that is by focusing on Career and Technical Education that equips workers with credentials, certificates, and other training that will match them with open jobs.”

The caucus’s formation coincides with the arrival of CTE month in February and Congress’s consideration of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act— the sole piece of federal legislation which supports CTE programs throughout the country and represents the largest investment in America’s high schools. The National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium welcomes the strengthened interest in CTE within the Senate and looks forward to working with the newly formed caucus as they begin a drive for membership within the Chamber.

Senators Kaine and Portman have created a great new opportunity for CTE advocates to have their voices represented in Congress. You can help by contacting your Senator or Representative and urging them to join either of these CTE Caucuses. Remember, the CTE community— that is YOU— are the experts, so please share your knowledge and passion for CTE with Congress as these initiatives and much more get underway.

Don’t know who represents you in Congress? Find out here!

White House Releases SOTU Supplements

Yesterday, the White House released a supplemental fact sheet to more fully outline the proposals contained in President Obama’s State of the Union speech. The fact sheet goes into greater detail about Vice President Joe Biden’s across-the-board review of existing federal workforce training and education programs and lays out actionable next-steps for how to achieve some of the overarching objectives set by the President in Tuesday’s address.

Of particular note to the CTE community is the Administration’s refocused goals for the Trade Adjustment Assistance & Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program. The President has directed the Labor Department’s Secretary Perez to focus the selection criteria for the program on “job-driven training strategies” which seek to replicate nationally “job-driven training partnerships between regional employers and national industry associations that advance the best practices identified throughout the immediate stakeholder consultations.” TAACCCT, in its final round of funding totaling more than $500 million, is available to community colleges and other eligible postsecondary institutions throughout the country and will likely be a core element to accomplishing the President’s “Opportunity for All” agenda in the coming year.

More information on the TAACCCT grant program can be found here.

Senator Alexander Introduces School Voucher Bill

Earlier this week Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Ranking Member of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, introduced the Scholarships for Kids Act. This legislation proposes to consolidate a number of existing education programs to fund $2,100 scholarships for 11 million low-income students across the country in an effort to afford greater access to any public or private accredited school of their parent’s choice.

To pay for these scholarships Senator Alexander has proposed repealing Titles II through VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and a great many other programs under Title I of that Act. For instance, it proposes repealing programs that support magnet and charter schools, a move which would oddly limit the options available to many students and their families— something the bill is aiming to promote not diminish.

Most importantly for the CTE community, the entire Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins) has also been included in this proposed consolidation. Unlike ESEA, Senator Alexander’s proposal would repeal the entire Perkins Act, eliminating the sole federal support for CTE programs throughout the country, undermining its global competitiveness, and hampering student access to high quality CTE programs. It is important to note, that this legislation is not likely to move out of the Democrat-controlled Senate Chamber and HELP Committee. NASDCTEc will continue to monitor this and similar pieces of legislation that impact the Perkins Act and the larger CTE community as legislation continues to be introduce this year.

The full bill’s text can be found here and a press release on the legislation can be found here.

College Affordability and Innovation Act of 2014

On Wednesday, Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced the College Affordability and Innovation Act of 2014. The proposed legislation seeks to make higher education more affordable for students and promote innovative practices in the postsecondary space that help limit the cost of college.

Among the proposals, the bill would create a pilot program that would incentivize colleges and universities to implement programs that offer high-quality education at lower costs, and reduce the overall time for degree completion. Programs such as competency-based degrees, dual-enrollment, and other accelerated degrees were among examples specifically cited in the legislation.

The accompanying press release can be found here.

The GREEN Act

Last week, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced the Grants for Renewable Energy Education for the Nation (GREEN) Act. The legislation would provide $100 million for a competitive grant program for the development of CTE programs of study which focus on the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors. The bill would also promote increased energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy practices in CTE facilities and buildings.

The press release and full text of the law can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Legislative Update: President Obama Delivers the State of the Union Address

January 29th, 2014

CapitolLast night, President Obama delivered his annual State of the Union address which centered on a broad-based agenda to improve the level of opportunity available to most Americans. The President emphasized education as one of the core components to achieving this commendable goal. Although there were no new educational initiatives announced during his speech, he stressed the important role education has in preparing students for entry into the 21st century workforce and highlighted some of his Administration’s initiatives already underway.

One of the most encouraging aspects of last night’s address was the President’s announcement that Vice President Biden would lead reform efforts aimed at improving existing training programs. According to President Obama these efforts are designed to “train Americans with the skills employers need, and match them to good jobs that need to be filled right now.” Closing this skills gap was an overarching goal for the President as he highlighted the successes manufacturers have had in Detroit and elsewhere in using some of these services. In particular he stressed the need for “more on-the-job training, and more apprenticeships that set a young worker on an upward trajectory for life” while urging businesses and postsecondary institutions to “design training to fill their specific needs.”

The President urged Congress to “concentrate funding on proven programs that connect more ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs” and also highlighted his Administration’s ongoing work to “redesign high schools and partner them with colleges and employers that offer the real-world education and hands-on training that can lead directly to a job and career.”

Taken together, these statements are encouraging for Career Technical Education (CTE). Through the combination of experiential learning opportunities and rigorous technical and academic instruction, CTE programs are providing students at all levels with relevant, real-world opportunities in and out of the classroom to better prepare them for both college and careers. As Congress considers the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act— the sole piece of federal legislation which supports CTE programs in the United States—   it will be important to build on this success in order to ensure students have the necessary skills and knowledge to be successful in today’s global economy.

Following the State of the Union speech, President Obama has announced travel plans to highlight many of the priorities outlined in his remarks. Among the many sites and cities on his itinerary, the President will speak next week at McGavock High School in Nashville, Tennessee— a school which has received honors for its CTE programs. This selection only further demonstrates the central role CTE will have in achieving much of the President’s 2014 agenda. The National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium applauds this planned event and looks forward to further engagement with both the Administration and Congress to further support and improve CTE programs throughout the country.

The full transcript for last night’s State of the Union can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Omnibus Spending Bill Passes Congress Amid Retirement Announcements

January 17th, 2014

CapitolAs we shared previously, last month Congress successfully came to an agreement known as the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013. The deal set overall spending levels for the next two years and provided $63 billion of relief from the harmful spending reductions known as sequestration, split evenly between defense and non-defense discretionary (NDD) spending through FY14 and FY15. However, this agreement merely set the framework for the federal budget— it was still up to Congressional appropriators to determine the level of funding each of the departments, agencies, and programs would receive under the new $1.012 trillion overall spending level established under the deal.

For the past month appropriators have been in negotiations to craft 12 individual spending bills as part of a larger omnibus spending package which incorporates each into a single piece of legislation. Earlier this week, details of the omnibus appropriations bill were announced and an additional $53 million was appropriated for the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins). This increase, best understood in comparison to the previously lower levels mandated by sequestration, will provide additional funding for the basic state grant program under Perkins which will help alleviate some of the fiscal pressures placed on states over the past few years due to austerity measures at the national level.

The bill also proposes a change to the name of the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) to the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) among other general provisions included in the legislation. Both the House and the Senate have passed the omnibus bill by wide margins and it has been sent to President Obama for final passage which is expected shortly. As Congress considers the reauthorization of Perkins in 2014, this increase in appropriations is a vote of confidence for the CTE community and the opportunities they provide for students across the country. NASDCTEc and its partners applaud these positive developments and look forward to working constructively in the coming year to renew this important law.

Changes to the House Education and Workforce Committee as Miller, McKeon Make Exits

Representatives George Miller (D-CA) and Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) have each announced this week that they will not be seeking reelection. Both members currently serve on the House Education and Workforce Committee (HEW) and have had long distinguished careers in the House of Representatives.  Interestingly both have also served as former Chairmen of the HEW and have been champions of education issues throughout their long service. These announcements come at a time when Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) is also set to retire next year, leaving his post as Chairman of the Senate HELP Committee. These announcements will have larger implications for the composition and leadership of each committee in the next Congress, likely impacting the legislative priorities for each. NASDCTEc would like to thank each of these members for their many years of service and for their dedication to education issues throughout their long tenures in Congress.

NGA Sets Out 2014 Agenda

On Wednesday the National Governors Association (NGA) held its annual State of the States Address. NGA Chair and Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin along with NGA’s Vice Chair and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper both offered remarks which laid out the association’s agenda for the coming year. Although the association expressed frustration with recent Congressional gridlock, they outlined the contours of a partnership between the federal government and the states which they termed “flexible federalism”— something that they argued would give states greater flexibility in determining how best to implement and administer programs and policies to better fit their unique needs.

Among the many priority areas outlined in the address, NGA urged Congressional action on a number of education and workforce development legislation including the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and certain provisions of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). Governor Fallin stressed the importance of aligning education and workforce programs to the needs of businesses and labor markets, while also calling for wider adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Although there was no direct mention of the Carl D. Perkins Act in the address, many of the themes contained in the Governors’ remarks touched on the importance of Career Technical Education and highlighted the need for some form postsecondary education as a “new minimum” for entry into “America’s 21st Century workforce.”

The full address can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Spending Bills Continue to Take Shape, OVAE Continues PIAAC Engagement Process

January 10th, 2014

CapitolAs we shared in our last update, Congressional budget negotiators successfully came to a two year agreement on federal spending levels in late December. The agreement, known as the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (BBA), sets overall discretionary spending levels at $1.012 trillion and reduces sequester cuts by approximately one-third— $63 billion in sequester relief split evenly between defense and non-defense discretionary (NDD) spending over the next two years. Education programs— such as the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins) — fall under the NDD section of the budget and are set to receive an additional $24 billion in funding for fiscal year 2014.

However, this agreement was only the first step in the larger federal budget and appropriations process. Congressional appropriators must now craft the 12 individual appropriations bills— one for each of the appropriations subcommittees in both the House and Senate—  to fund the various departments, agencies, and programs which account for the entire discretionary side of the federal budget. These 12 spending bills will then be put into a larger omnibus bill, which will then need to be passed by Congress and signed into law by the President. It is important to note that the most current Continuing Resolution (CR), which at present is funding the federal government, expires on January 15th. With this deadline fast approaching, House Republican leaders have announced a short-term three day extension of this CR to provide adequate time for passage of the larger omnibus spending bill next week.

Of these twelve spending bills, the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, from which the Perkins Act draws its funding, is still being negotiated. Appropriators are still deciding how to best to distribute their portion of the $24 billion in discretionary sequester relief among the many programs under their jurisdiction and a final agreement is expected soon. NASDCTEc and ACTE recently sent a letter to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the appropriations subcommittees, urging them to restore funding for the Perkins Act to pre-sequestration levels. As this process continues, please check back here for updates and analysis on how the Perkins Act and the CTE community will be impacted by this process.

OVAE Continues PIAAC Engagement Process

Last November, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released results from its Programme for International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) which found that one in six American adults lack basic skills in literacy and numeracy. In a report titled “Time for the U.S. to Reskill? What the Survey of Adult Skills Says,” the OECD found that the U.S. lags behind the international average for basic skills in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving.

To combat these troubling findings, the Department of Education’s Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) launched an engagement process to better understand these challenges and to help develop a national strategy to reverse these trends. On Wednesday Brenda Dann-Messier, Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education, hosted the third of a planned total of five regional engagement sessions, the latest taking place in Redwood City, California. Dann-Messier and her office hope to gather feedback from communities across the country to develop a response to the OECD report and have planned two additional visits to Cleveland, MS and Boston, MA in the coming months.

Additional information regarding OVAE’s engagement process can be found here.

State CTE Policy Update

January 9th, 2014

State Map

Last month, Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin signed a bill into law mandating three years of both mathematics and science for graduation (up from two years of each).  The bill also allows for more flexibility in how mathematics and science requirements can be met; a computer science course, for example, can count as a mathematics credit and certain CTE courses may apply towards either content area as well. Wisconsin already has a process in place for awarding academic credit for technical courses (the CTE equivalency credit), which is now being expanded.

Also in December, Washington DC became the ninth “state” to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), joining Delaware, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

A state legislator in Indiana recently announced new work on a bill that would offer a new diploma focused on CTE. While details are limited at this time, the bill would create a process for CTE-focused courses and curricula to be developed that would allow students to meet the 20 credits currently required by the state’s default graduation requirement – the Core 40 – more flexibly.

The Computing Education Blog analyzed the 2013 data on the AP Computer Science exam and found that in three states – Mississippi, Montana and Wyoming – no female students took that AP exam, and the state with the highest percentage of female test-takers (Tennessee), females still only represented 29% of all test takers. Additionally no Black students took the exam in 11 states - Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. Given the high demand in the IT field – from computer support specialists and programmers to designers and engineers – these trends are particularly troubling, although a nunber of states, such as Wisconsin (as described above) and Washington, are trying to upend this trend by allowing AP Computer Science courses to count towards core math and science requirements.

And, finally, in news that will impact a number of states, ACT has announced they will be phasing out the Explore and PLAN tests, their 8th and 10th grade tests, which are aligned with the 11th grade ACT. This decision marks a shift for ACT away from their current assessment system to Aspire, their new line of 3-8 assessments, which will be aligned to the Common Core State Standards.  Alabama has already begun using the Aspire system this school year, the first and only state to fully commit to the assessment system at this time.

Kate Blosveren, Associate Executive Director

Senate Passes Budget Deal, BLS Releases New Employment Projections

December 20th, 2013

CapitolOn Wednesday, the Senate passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (BBA) by a vote of 64-36 sending the measure to President Obama who is expected to sign the bill into law sometime this week. This is the first budget bill successfully passed by both chambers of Congress since 2009 and establishes overall spending levels for the next two years. As we shared last week, the deal reduces FY14 and FY15 sequester cuts by approximately $63 billion. These reductions are paid in part by increased airline fees, pension benefit cuts for federal workers, and a two-year extension of parts of the current sequester past the original 2021 expiration date.

It is important to note that the BBA only sets a top line budget number, or 302(a) allocation, which puts into place a FY14 funding cap of $1.012 trillion for all discretionary spending. Congressional appropriators must still craft 12 individual spending bills— known as 302(b) allocations— to fund the various agencies, departments, and programs that compose much of the federal government, including the U.S. Department of Education and the appropriations bill that funds the Perkins Act. It is hoped that House and Senate Appropriations Committees can incorporate the individual spending measures into a larger omnibus bill before the current Continuing Resolution (CR) expires on January 15, 2014.

As the appropriations process continues, NASDCTEc and its partners in the Career Technical Education (CTE) community are actively seeking a restoration of the $58 million sequester reduction sustained by Perkins. Please check our blog in the coming weeks as this process continues.

BLS Releases New Employment Projections

Yesterday, The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released updated employment projections for 2012 to 2022. Total employment over the next decade is projected to increase by 10.8 percent or 15.6 million with occupations in the Health Science and Human Services Career Clusters® accounting for much of that growth. When taking into account replacement needs— the need to replace workers who permanently leave their occupation or retire— total job openings are projected to be 50.6 million during this period with replacement needs accounting for over two-thirds of that figure.

These projections are essential to planning one’s future educational and career goals. For instance, in 2012 approximately one-third of all jobs in the U.S. required some form of postsecondary education. Yet between 2012 and 2022, close to two-thirds of the occupations projected to grow the fastest will require some form of postsecondary education. Moreover, occupations typically requiring apprenticeships are expected to grow by over 22 percent. The full press release from BLS can be found here.

As these trends continue, the need for some form of postsecondary education or additional training beyond a high school diploma will become even more pronounced. CTE programs are vital to preparing students for these rapidly changing requirements for entry into the workforce. Through rigorous coursework and experiential learning opportunities, CTE programs across the country are preparing students to meet the needs of the 21st century economy.

OMB Releases Super Circular

Yesterday the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released the Uniform Guidance: Cost Principles, Audit, and Administrative Requirements for Federal Awards or “Super Circular” as it is more commonly known for public inspection on the Federal Register. The Super Circular marks OMB’s latest attempt to streamline the administration of grants and awards by the federal government through the consolidation of eight other OMB circulars into one. The full text can be found here. The finalized guidelines and rules are expected to be published on December 26, 2013.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Gainful Employment Negotiators Meet, Budget Deal Moves to the Senate

December 13th, 2013

CapitolToday the Department of Education’s (ED) negotiated rulemaking committee wraps up the third round of negotiations on newly proposed regulations and stricter standards regarding “gainful employment” for vocational education programs at community colleges and for-profit institutions. As we shared last year, an earlier effort by ED to establish rules concerning debt repayment and “gainful employment in a recognized occupation” were struck down by a D.C. district court. The ruling, a victory for many for-profits, preserved ED’s authority to make such rules, but made clear that any new regulations must have clearer justification. These regulations impact postsecondary students’ ability to use federal financial aid at an institution considered to be failing under the proposed guidelines.

Negotiations between representatives of for-profits institutions, community colleges, and other relevant stakeholders are discussing ED’s most recent set of regulations which are somewhat different than its much stricter proposal sent out last month. This latest set of rules no longer evaluates programs on loan portfolio repayment rates and also drops the 40 percent cohort default rate detailed in our update last month. Instead graduates of programs whose loan payments comprise 30 percent or more of discretionary income or 12 percent of total income would fail. A program default rate of 30 percent or more for three consecutive years would also fail under these new proposed regulations. In addition to these changes, programs which fall within ranges close to failure would be required to send students, prior to enrollment, a written warning informing students that their ability to use federal financial aid at their institution is in jeopardy and that their program may not fully prepare them to pay off the amount of debt they are likely to incur.

These more stringent regulations would affect 11,735 programs and 13 percent of that figure would fail under these new rules. ED has released a summary of how many programs would be impacted under this proposal which can be found here. It is important to note that the committee’s final guidance is non-binding and ED can still move forward on new gainful employment rules with or without consensus from the committee. An overview of the rules can be found here and the draft can be found here. Please check our blog for more updates as this process continues.

Budget Deal Update

Yesterday, the House passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (BBA) the details of which we shared on Wednesday. The bill sets total discretionary spending levels to $1.012 trillion for FY14 and substitutes $63 billion of sequester cuts over the next two years. The House overwhelming supported the two-year budget agreement on a 332-94 vote and it has now moved on to the Senate where it is pending consideration. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill Tuesday next week and President Obama has indicated that he will sign it into law.

NASDCTEc applauds this initial first step by Congress to inject much needed certainty into the budget process and to partially reverse a portion of the highly damaging sequester cuts. However, further Congressional action is still needed to more fully address the federal disinvestment in education programs over the past several years. At a time when the American economy is experiencing a shortage of skilled workers, restoring funding to Career Technical Education (CTE) programs is critically important to safeguarding the economic vitality of the United States for years to come.

JPMorgan Chase Announces New Job Skills Program

Yesterday, JPMorgan Chase unveiled a five-year $250 million initiative that seeks to address the United States’ skills gap— a problem the IMF says accounts for approximately one-third of the current unemployment rate. The New Skills at Work initiative was announced in D.C. in conjunction with the Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel and hosted by the Aspen Institute. “Addressing the skills gap can be one of our most powerful tools for reducing unemployment and creating more broadly shared prosperity” JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon told those in attendance. The initiative will invest $50 million annually over the next five years in metropolitan areas across the United States and Europe and will fund research and training programs to improve upon existing workforce development and educational efforts in these areas.

One such proposal, “Workforce Readiness Gap Reports”, would help facilitate data-driven investments by producing detailed reports on regional labor markets and identify areas where there are skill shortages. It is hoped that eventually these reports will help guide workforce investment decisions and allow employers to better communicate the specific skills they are currently seeking. New Skills at Work will also support successful training programs already in existence such as Chicago’s College to Careers program (among other such programs) and seek to improve upon those accomplishments. A list of specific grants and partnerships to be funded under New Skills at Work is expected in early 2014. More information on this new initiative can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Congressional Budget Conference Committee Reaches a Deal

December 11th, 2013

CapitolLate yesterday evening, the budget conference committee came to an agreement on the federal budget for the next two years. Co-chaired by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), the committee successfully crafted the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 which amends by way of substitution the Continuing Appropriations Resolution 2014 (H.J.Res. 59) the stalled continuing resolution (CR) or short-term spending measure which failed in Congress earlier this fall. As we shared last week, the proposed deal would raise the allowable 2014 spending level to $1.012 trillion— a figure that falls directly between the $967 billion level supported by many Republicans and the $1.058 trillion level supported by many Democrats.

The agreement, which still needs to be approved by both chambers of Congress, replaces $63 billion of sequester cuts over the next two years. The deal provides $45 billion in sequester relief for FY14, split evenly between defense and non-defense discretionary (NDD) spending. This means that NDD programs will receive $22.5 billion this year above the existing sequester caps mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) accounting for an 87 percent restoration of total spending on domestic discretionary programs including education. In FY15, $9 billion will be allocated to NDD programs in much the same way, although aggregate spending caps for discretionary spending will not rise to the same degree as the previous year.

If passed, it is important to note that this budget deal only sets a top-line spending level known as a 302(a) allocation and would still require additional bicameral negotiations for the 12 necessary individual spending bills— or 302(b) allocations— to fully fund the federal government.  This gives House and Senate Appropriations Committees a little over a month to figure out how to divide up appropriations according to this new total.

While this agreement would provide significant relief from sequestration for FY14, it still does not address these mandated cuts to the same degree for FY15 and beyond. Nonetheless the deal, while far from perfect, is a good initial step from Congress to begin addressing the harmful effects sequestration has had on the CTE community and other NDD programs as a whole. A summary of the proposal can be found here and the full text of the agreement can be found here. Please check our blog for updates as this process continues.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

 

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