Guidelines for the “largest investment in two-year institutions since the GI Bill” — $2 billion to train dislocated workers — were announced this week by Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, reports Inside Higher Ed. Considered a consolation prize for the $12 billion American Graduation Initiative, which fizzled last year, the money is supposed to be available only to train workers who lost their jobs due to international trade. However, courses and courseware developed under the program can be used for other students.
Two-year colleges — non-profit or for-profit — can apply for $500 million a year for four years. Grants can be used to hire instructors, buy equipment and develop new curriculum but not to build facilities or subsidize tuition.
“The [Labor] Department expects that successful applicants will propose projects that expand and improve their ability to deliver education and training programs and achieve improved education and employment outcomes, rather than simply offering their existing courses to more workers and other students,” the announcement of the guidelines states.
For instance, under the published criteria, the department says it will favor applications that can cite existing evidence to show that the strategies they are seeking to put in place — for, say, improving student retention, meeting industry needs, or strengthening technology-enabled learning — have already proved successful.
. . . program applicants will be ranked in part on showing that they are “committed to using data to continuously assess the effectiveness of their strategies in order to improve their programming, and structuring programs to facilitate evaluation that can build evidence about effective practices.” Applicants will be required to identify upfront some “progress measures” (such as the number and percentage of students who complete remedial courses and a college-level course in the same subject, or the percentage of credit hours completed versus those attempted in a given year) that they will track and use to refine their programs, as well as outcome measures that they will report over time: “entered employment rate, employment retention rate, average earnings, attainment of credits toward degree(s), attainment of industry-recognized certificates (less than one year), attainment of industry-recognized certificates (more than one year), and graduation number and rate for degree programs.”
Many colleges will have to improve data collection and analysis to show that programs are improving student outcomes.
The program hopes to encourage “the creation of high-quality, freely available courses and learning materials, reports Inside Higher Ed. Any courses or course material developed with program funds must end up in the public domain.