Expecting states to match federal investments in college access policies is not only prudent but already the rule for federal programs such as GEAR UP and LEAP. Similarly, states are required to make a 25 percent match in federal Adult Basic Education investments, and most states invest a far greater amount than this minimum. According to the U.S. Office of Vocational and Adult Education, in fiscal year 2004 states contributed more than $1 billion in matched resources to the federal investment of $560 million.
New and expanded federal programs and services should also provide incentives for businesses and corporations to increase investments in postsecondary education and skills development for working adults. Many employers already provide tuition reimbursements and other education and training benefits to their employees. Thus, a progressive higher education agenda should leverage expanded federal investments in TRIO and GEAR UP to incent state and local government and private organizations to match this investment.
A public college or university that serves working adults could apply for federal TRIO and/or GEAR UP dollars to develop and implement outreach, awareness, and college preparatory programs and services by proposing a public-private partnership to match the federal investment to serve all eligible adult students in their community. Another example could be a large employer partnering with community colleges and state workforce agencies to develop career pathways for working adults to transition from basic education accessed outside the mainstream of higher education, such as through continuing education or workforce training providers, into postsecondary education.
Eligible adults could qualify for federal and state workforce dollars as well as postsecondary financial aid resources, and academic and social support programs. Employers could contribute to help the state meet federal matching requirements. Put simply, to achieve the level of education and training needed by the 21st century workforce, state and local governments will need to partner with corporations and businesses to leverage federal resources that enable working adults to pursue and obtain postsecondary education credentials.
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