For students interested post-secondary education, money often weighs heavily in the decision. While federal tuition assistance programs provide support for students interested in pursuing 4-year degree programs at the post-secondary level, they do not offer the same for industry-recognized credentials. It’s no wonder career-specific training programs have no chance at competing.
But if a new bill introduced in the U.S. Senate passes, industry-specific education will become more accessible and affordable.
Right now, Title IV of the Higher Education Act doesn’t allow students pursuing industry-recognized credentials at the post-secondary level (such as apprenticeships and professional certifications) to access federal tuition assistance. The Higher Education Reform and Opportunity (HERO) Act, introduced last week by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), aims to correct that.
By creating a state-level accreditation for post-secondary institutions, credential programs, apprenticeships and curriculum, the HERO Act means these programs would be eligible to receive federal student loan dollars.
And this innovative approach would not be exclusive to institutions of higher education–it opens eligibility to any institution providing post-secondary training, including non-profit organizations, industry groups, individual businesses and apprenticeship programs.
It’s not that 4-year institutions have “failed,” as Sen. Lee points out in this The Federalist. It’s that two-thirds of Americans never get a B.A. and many never even go to college. To sum it up, Sen. Lee wrote:
“We don’t need to dump our higher education system – we just need to open it up to more students and teachers.”
As the industry with the highest projected employment growth over the next decade, there are fantastic opportunities for students interested in a construction career. With the right program, a craft trainee can start earning a middle-class income as soon as they graduate. Some studies even show that trade school graduates have the same earning potential as those with a bachelor’s degree.
However, access to skilled training is difficult for many students because of the high cost. Above and beyond instructional materials and tuition, construction craft students often need specialized tools, clothing and safety equipment. Delivering industry-recognized training also requires significant overhead to cover not only classrooms and instructors, but the high-tech equipment and materials necessary for hands-on learning.
That’s what makes the HERO Act such an important bill. It will allow more young Americans the flexibility to access in-demand skills training and build lifelong careers.
Read more about the HERO Act here.