Brewing Battle Over Pell Grants

In The News Piece in Inside Higher Ed
July 8, 2019

Mary Alice McCarthy was quoted in Inside Higher Ed on Pell Grants. She suggests that expanding Pell Grants to short-term job training is a significant shift in the nature of the program.

“This is a significant shift in the nature of the program,” said Mary Alice McCarthy, director of the Center on Education and Skills at New America. “It means now it would both be helping people pay for college and also doubling as probably as our largest fund for job training. That’s a tectonic shift.”
McCarthy said the U.S. higher ed system already has serious issues with stratification. Opening Pell Grant eligibility to short-term programs could worsen the problem, she said, by encouraging colleges to offer more short-term programs with little connection to real college degree pathways.
McCarthy said the Virginia Fast Forward program, which connects students to employment quickly through short-term training, is to some extent the best-case scenario for such an approach. Many of the program’s graduates enter fields like welding or truck driving.
Those jobs tend to have very high turnover rates, McCarthy said, in part because they’re physically demanding.
“They’re all hard jobs to move up from,” she said.