Gov. Kim Reynolds called for the expansion of Pell grants to more short-term certificates in high-demand fields on Monday at her administration’s weekly press conference. The governor and Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg were joined by leaders from Iowa community colleges, students, employers and the National Skills Coalition, a nonprofit dedicated to ensuring people have the skills they need to compete.
They spoke about the need to support both students and businesses by enrolling Iowans in more high-quality, industry-recognized short-term certificate programs that connect skilled, trained workers with Iowa employers who want to hire them.
Although short-term training programs are typically designed in response to industry needs to lead directly to in-demand jobs, students are not always eligible for them if they don’t meet Pell’s requirements on program length. Pell grants require programs to be 600 clock hours over 15 weeks, but many credit and no-credit programs don’t meet that requirement.
“Changing how the Pell grant can be used is another way we can help 127,700 Iowans earn postsecondary credentials in order to meet our Future Ready Iowa goal of 70 percent of our workforce having education or training beyond high school by 2025,” Gov. Reynolds said. “A change in policy could open doors for even more people and accelerate Iowa’s efforts.”
National Skills Coalition CEO Andy Van Kleunen praised Iowa’s innovative GAP Tuition Assistance Program.
“The GAP program is really a model for other states and the nation,” Van Kleunen said. “It picks up where federal financial aid leaves off, enabling Iowa students to afford to attend short-term community college programs in growing Iowa industries like health care, financial services and advanced manufacturing. We need Washington, D.C., to follow Iowa’s lead, pass the JOBS Act and end the Pell grant system’s bias against students who want short-term training.”
The National Skills Coalition has recognized Iowa as one of just a few states that is working to bridge the middle-skills gap by enrolling students in short-term programs in a new report that calls for the modernization of the federal Pell grant program.