Every year more than 1.2 million students drop out of High School. They lack the most basic credentials for securing employment, a High School Diploma. Students who don’t possess a High School Diploma or its equivalent generally can’t attend postsecondary schools or access Title IV Federal Student Aid funds, however; for almost two years now, Ability-to-Benefit (ATB) testing has been restored for students without a high school diploma who are enrolled in a career pathways program. A career pathways program includes two components; a Title IV eligible postsecondary program component as well as a component that enables a student to attain a high school diploma or its recognized equivalent. Sadly, too few of these programs exist to fill the massive need of increasing High School and GED completion. Fortunately, recently Public Law amended the definition of an eligible career pathway program and as a result, the program requirements have gotten much simpler and clearer. If you’re considering adding a Career Pathways program at your school, your timing couldn’t be better.
Career Pathways Basics
A Career Pathways Program must:
- Align with the skill needs of industries in the economy of the State or regional economy involved;
- Prepare an individual to be successful in any of a full range of secondary or postsecondary education options, including apprenticeships registered under the Act of August 16, 1937 (commonly known as the ‘National Apprenticeship Act’; 50 Stat. 664, chapter 663; 29 U.S.C. 50 et seq.);
- Include counseling to support an individual in achieving the individual’s education and career goals;
- Include, as appropriate, education offered concurrently with and in the same context as workforce preparation activities and training for a specific occupation or occupational cluster;
- Organize education, training, and other services to meet the particular needs of an individual in a manner that accelerates the educational and career advancement of the individual to the extent practicable;
- Enable an individual to attain a high school diploma or its recognized equivalent, and at least one recognized postsecondary credential; and
- Help an individual enter or advance within a specific occupation or occupational cluster.
The amendments struck down a requirement that students had to be enrolled in both the secondary and post-secondary education components of a career pathways program for at least, the entire length of the Title IV eligible post-secondary program for students to be eligible for aid. The amendments also removed the requirements mandating the use of the alternative Pell grant chart used in packaging eligible career pathways students and as a result, student eligibility can now be determined using the regular Pell Chart. Schools with current career pathways programs should note that this will likely result in increased retroactive eligibility for certain students, particularly those still in a current Title IV payment period that is part of the 2015-2016 award year and for the current 2016-2017 award year.
For questions pertaining to Career Pathways programs, please contact our office.