Wicker, Hyde-Smith Cosponsor ‘JOBS Act’ to Make Pell Grants Eligible for Job Training Programs

February 1, 2023

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., on Tuesday cosponsored bipartisan legislation to help more Americans secure better-paying jobs by allowing students to use federal Pell Grants to afford high-quality, shorter-term job training programs.

The Jumpstarting Our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act (S.161) would expand Pell Grant eligibility in order to begin closing the skills gap and provide workers with the job training and credentials required for careers in high-demand fields.

“Job training is an integral part of our economy, but for too long, high costs have served as a barrier to workers,” Wicker said.  “This legislation will expand opportunities for students to prepare them for high-paying jobs, which is a benefit to both workers and job creators.”

“I support this bill because it can help improve the economic outlook for workers and Mississippi as a whole,” Hyde-Smith said.  “The JOBS Act would open doors for more Mississippians to access job training programs offered through our strong community college system.  These schools already coordinate with industries on worker development programs and that will only increase as manufacturing and other sectors grow in our state.” 

The JOBS Act would allow Pell Grants, for the first time, to be used for job training programs that are at least eight weeks in length and lead to industry-recognized credentials or certificates.

Under current law, Pell Grants, need-based education grants for low-income and working students, may only be used for two-year and four-year colleges or universities.  In addition, the grants can only be applied toward programs that are over 600 clock hours or at least 15 weeks in length, rendering students in shorter-term high-quality job training programs ineligible for crucial assistance.

From 2021-2022, the U.S. economy added nearly 11 million jobs, but workforce participation still remains below pre-pandemic levels, in part because unemployed Americans lack access to the job training needed to fill vacant jobs.   

Wicker and Hyde-Smith are among 34 original cosponsors of the JOBS Act, which was introduced by U.S. Senators Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Mike Braun, R-Ind.  The measure is supported by many educational and industry groups, including the American Association of Community Colleges, the Association for Career and Technical Education, Association of Equipment Manufacturers, Business Roundtable, IBM Corporation, National Skills Coalition, and others.

The text of the JOBS Act is available here, with a summary provided here.