July 10, 2017
Mary Alice McCarthy was quoted in Inside Higher Ed about the controversies around expanding Pell Grants to short-term certificate programs.
New America has struck a cautious note on using Pell for short-term certificates. The group worries that relaxing time-based eligibility requirements -- which were set based on historical experience -- could open the door to “unscrupulous” institutions that would create low-value programs to tap into the new federal money.
“Do we trust that consumer protections in this bill will hold?” said Mary Alice McCarthy, director of New America’s Center on Education and Skills and a former official at the Labor and Education Departments.
The use of WIOA requirements is as good step, said McCarthy and other advocates. But she doubts federal data sets about the programs will be strong enough to keep tabs on quality, particularly at for-profit colleges, which tend to charge more in tuition than community colleges. Students could burn through their Pell eligibility and have little to show for a short-term certificate, she said, without federal data to hold programs accountable on measures such as graduates’ earnings and job placement rates.
“It’s hard for me to see that there’s enough there,” she said.