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BPC Report: Are Short-Term Pell Grants a Good Idea?

Washington, DC – Yesterday, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Higher Education team released their latest report, Are Short-Term Pell Grants a Good Idea? The Need for an Expanded Pilot Study, which takes a deeper look into what we know—and what we don’t—about expanding Pell Grants to short-term vocational programs, the need for an expanded pilot study, and what the impact of such a study could be.

“Making short-term vocational training programs eligible for federal Pell Grants may seem like a winning strategy, but employment and earnings outcomes for students of these programs vary widely,” said Kevin Miller, BPC associate director of higher education. “We need more information to assess whether these programs are a good use of student aid dollars.”

With the growing educational divide in the American workforce, policymakers continue to explore ways to increase access to higher education. Pell Grant expansions are one suggestion that continues to gain support, but given that the previous pilot study of expanding Pell Grants to short-term vocational programs did not assess student earnings outcomes or institutions’ responses to additional federal funds, a new and broader experimental pilot is needed.

BPC suggests the pilot should have four main goals:

  1. Measure return on investment
  2. Identify factors that lead to variation in outcomes
  3. Assess institutional response
  4. Estimate the cost of Pell expansion

The hope is that a new pilot study will not only shed more light on whether Pell Grants should be expanded to short-term credentials but will also help establish what kinds of monitoring would be needed to safeguard a successful expansion.

Download the full report here.

For questions, or to speak to a BPC expert, contact Senior Manager of Media Relations Kyle Fischer.