- The House Appropriations Committee on Monday proposed a $150 million program to support career training and education at two-year institutions.
- Run by the U.S. Department of Labor, the Strengthening Community College Training Grants program would aim to meet local and regional workforce needs by training students for in-demand jobs, according to a bill summary.
- It is part of the Democrat-led committee's budget proposal for the fiscal year 2020, which begins Oct. 1, that would allocate $75.9 billion to the U.S. Department of Education — well above the $64 billion the Trump administration has requested.
Career and technical education (CTE) is in the midst of a revival. Long viewed as a second-rate alternative to a traditional college education, CTE has gotten a boost from politicians and other advocates who have pushed it as a viable path to a good career.
Its surge in popularity has been helped along by a flurry of legislative activity. In 2018, for example, state legislatures passed 85 CTE-related bills, an increase from 42 in 2016, according to a recent report from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C.
CTE has enjoyed more backing at the federal level as well. With bipartisan support, Congress last year reauthorized the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which now gives states more leeway to determine how they'll use $1.2 billion in federal grants, Inside Higher Ed reported.
In the past few years, there has also been a shift in the types of CTE courses offered and the students who are attracted to them, noted Nat Malkus, author of the AEI report and the organization's deputy director of education policy studies. While more students are taking "new era" CTE courses such as engineering, computer science and health care, he explained, fewer are taking "traditional vocational" courses such as manufacturing and construction.
At the same time, the "average test scores, graduation rates and other indicators" of students who enroll in CTE courses are rising, Malkus said. However, this may be the result of such programs attracting "more academically oriented and otherwise college-going students" rather than actual improvements in the quality of CTE courses, he added.
Malkus suggested states also focus spending on "academically disinclined" students. "For them, CTE may be the last best chance to find a viable career path, and CTE systems will ultimately be a failure if they cannot deliver opportunity specifically to these students," he wrote.
More details about the $150 million program are expected in early May, according to Community College Daily. However, the bill notes funds could be used to support only apprenticeships registered under the National Apprenticeship Act.
Apprenticeships have also recently gotten a funding boost. Earlier this year, the American Association of Community Colleges announced it was working with the Labor Department to launch a $20 million program to better connect community colleges with local employers in order to produce 16,000 new apprenticeships across the nation.
The new bill would add more funding to several other higher ed programs. For example, it proposed a $304 million increase to Federal Work-Study from 2019 levels and a $60 million increase to CTE and adult education programs, Community College Daily reported.
Some of those proposals are at odds with the Trump administration's budget request, however, which calls for a $7.1 billion, or 10% year-over-year, decrease in education spending. However, the president's budget does make investments into workforce education and CTE programs a priority.