HENRICO, V.A. – U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger is working to advance bipartisan legislation that would expand Pell Grant eligibility for qualifying short-term programs and give more Central Virginia students access to workforce training courses.
While there are currently significant resources to help Virginia students pursue traditional college degrees, the need for expanded financial aid to attend shorter-term training programs has been largely unfulfilled. As a result, those wishing to pursue a post-secondary education pathway beyond a traditional four-year degree are often overlooked—and many industries across the Commonwealth and the country are facing widening skills gaps. According to a June 2019 report from the National Federation of Independent Business, 54 percent of small businesses reported few or no qualified applicants for open positions—with 65 percent of construction firms reporting this issue.
Recently, the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus—of which Spanberger is a Member—endorsed the Jumpstart Our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act, which would extend Pell Grant eligibility to qualified career education programs that are between 150 and 600 hours and at least eight weeks in length. This provision would create more paths for qualified candidates to afford an education to fill job openings in areas where employers have typically found difficulty in filling open positions. Spanberger is a cosponsor of the JOBS Act.
“In Central Virginia, we have strong workforce training programs for occupations ranging from commercial truck drivers to database specialists. But many students in our region’s short-term training programs are ineligible to apply for Pell Grants, which could help them afford the training they need to advance toward their long-term career goals,” said Spanberger. “Last month during my education tour, I heard directly from instructors and administrators at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College about the need to expand this grant eligibility. That’s why I’m proud to co-lead the endorsement of the JOBS Act in the Problem Solvers Caucus—and I look forward to fighting for the financial security of the next generation of Central Virginia workers and their families.”
During her two-day education tour in August 2019, Spanberger met with instructors and administrators at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College’s Goochland campus. During the visit, she learned more about the college’s commercial truck driver training courses—and she heard directly about the need for expanded Pell Grant eligibility to meet the financial needs of current and future students.
Specifically, the Spanberger-supported legislation would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to extend Federal Pell Grants to students in short-term job training programs. The bipartisan bill is endorsed by the Virginia Community College System.
The JOBS Act is led by U.S. Representatives Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH-16) and Cedric Richmond (D-LA-02), and the bill is companion legislation to a Senate bill introduced by U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Tim Kaine (D-VA). Spanberger co-led the endorsement of the legislation within the Problem Solvers Caucus.
Spanberger’s work to expand Pell Grant eligibility builds on her efforts in the U.S. House to expand educational opportunities and federal support for students across the Seventh District. In August, Spanberger introduced bipartisan legislation to allow Head Start programs to receive Federal Work-Study dollars.
Additionally, Spanberger has focused on addressing the college affordability and student loan crisis that continues to impact students in Central Virginia. In August, she helped introduce bipartisan legislation to increase transparency in the federal student loan process and to give borrowers additional tools to understand and decrease their student debt burdens.