Johnson, Turner offer bipartisan bill to expand Pell Grant-eligible programs

U.S. Reps. Bill Johnson (R-OH) and Michael Turner (R-OH) on Feb. 2 unveiled a bipartisan bill that aims to help the nation meet the workforce demands of a 21st-century economy by expanding the programs eligible for federal Pell Grants.

“We have a serious workforce problem in America,” Rep. Johnson said. “But the road to entering our workforce with a meaningful career doesn’t always have to start with obtaining a traditional four-year degree at a university, a path that often burdens students with thousands of dollars in student loans.” 

The Jumpstart Our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act of 2023, H.R. 793, which Rep. Johnson sponsored with three original cosponsors, including Rep. Turner and U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), would expand eligibility for federal Pell Grant programs to individuals interested in pursuing short-term, high-quality education and training programs, according to a bill summary provided by the lawmakers.

“There are enough open jobs nationwide to employ every American seeking work, but not every applicant has the necessary skills to fill in-demand jobs,” said Rep. Johnson, adding that expanded Pell Grant eligibility “will provide support to individuals who are eager and ready to better their lives and enter America’s growing workforce.” 

Specifically, Rep. Turner pointed out that H.R. 793 “expands Pell Grant eligibility to much-needed certificate and apprenticeship programs, which will help connect students who have financial needs to the opportunities available in Ohio’s – and America’s – near future.”

If enacted, H.R. 793 would amend the Higher Education Act by adding two additional categories that would qualify for Pell Grants: the “eligible career pathway program” and the “eligible job training program.” 

Both categories would include specific criteria that must be met by a program to qualify, including certification that the training provided by the program is aligned with the requirements of high-skill, high-wage, or in-demand industries in the state or local area and that upon completion of the program, the student will have a postsecondary credential recognized by the local industry, the summary says.

The JOBS Act has been endorsed by several organizations and companies, including the National Skills Coalition, the American Association of Community Colleges, IBM, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, and the Association for Career and Technical Education, among others.