Legislation Would Pump $771M Into Community College Workforce Training

Rep. Robert Scott, chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, wants to revitalize investment in community college workforce training programs.

Updated April 12, 2022

Edited by Brenna Swanston
Legislation Would Pump $771M Into Community College Workforce Training
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  • Workforce development has become more prominent in policy discussions.
  • A $74 billion bill proposes investment in community colleges.
  • For-profit institutions would not be eligible for the federal funds from this bill.

Congress may give community colleges a cash injection for career-training programs.

Rep. Robert Scott, a Virginia Democrat and chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, introduced a reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) last week. The bill would allocate $74 billion for the WIOA over the next six years, including $771 million for community college programs.

The legislation would help the WIOA serve 1 million workers per year by 2028, according to a fact sheet from Scott.

The bill has already received a hearing in the House Committee on Education and Labor.

What Would This Bill Do for Community Colleges?

The 2022 WIOA sets aside at least $100 million per year for community colleges and postsecondary vocational schools seeking to create or expand educational or career training programs. According to the bill, programs must provide credentials for high-skill, high-wage, or in-demand industries to be eligible.

Here's how much Congress would allocate by year:

  • 2023 - $100 million
  • 2024 - $110 million
  • 2025 - $121 million
  • 2026 - $133 million
  • 2027 - $146 million
  • 2028 - $161 million

Institutions must apply to the Department of Education (ED) to receive grant funds under this program. ED will prioritize community colleges that plan to serve individuals with barriers to employment and/or incumbent workers who need to gain or improve skills to enhance their employability.

All programs covered by this grant must partner with one or more employers in an in-demand industry sector. This partnership must serve all types of workers — both incumbent and new — and involve collaboration with the workforce development system.

Schools must also use at least 15% of funds on retention programs for participating students.

Any public college awarding all or mostly associate degrees can qualify as a community college under this reauthorization bill. Postsecondary vocational schools are also eligible for a grant.

Funding Boost Would Follow National Trends

This proposed investment in workforce development programs comes after years of declining enrollment in traditional community college programs. According to a report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, enrollment in community college degree programs dropped nearly 15% in 2021 compared to two years prior.

However, skilled trade programs and other workforce development initiatives have boomed at these schools, helping to offset some losses.

So far, federal funding has not played a large role in this enrollment boom. According to a report from the National Skills Coalition, federal spending on workforce development has fallen by two-thirds over the past 40 years.

The WIOA reauthorization would also fund youth training programs, strengthen the Jobs Corps program, and provide funding to other approaches to workforce development, according to Rep. Scott.

For-Profit Colleges Left Out

The introduction of the new WIOA has not come without concerns from higher education advocacy groups.

Jason Altmire, CEO and president of Career Education Colleges and Universities, represents for-profit institutions. In a statement, Altmire called out WIOA's apparent removal of these schools from eligibility for WIOA programs. He said the bill amends the definition of "institution of higher education" to remove reference to proprietary institutions.

“Excluding proprietary institutions from participating in WIOA programs would negatively impact thousands of students and further limit the supply of workers in an already limited labor market," Altmire said in his statement. "We urge Congress not to exclude students attending proprietary institutions from funds that are designed to help job-seekers access education and training that strengthens our nation’s workforce.”