Multiple Attacks on Adults Without High School Diplomas

This week I’ve been writing about H.R. 3630—specifically the provision in the bill that would deny UI benefits to individuals without a high school diploma unless they are enrolled in classes that will lead to a GED or another “state-recognized equivalent.”

Unfortunately, this is not the only legislation before Congress this week that would undermine adult learners without a high school diploma if approved. Early this morning, the House appropriations committee posted a version of their proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 omnibus appropriation package, and it proposes to eliminate Pell grant eligibility for less-than-half-time students and students without high school diplomas (known as “ability to benefit” students). (Page 791 of the section pertaining to the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, posted here.)

Many people without high school credentials attend postsecondary education, particularly via community colleges. I can’t easily get my hands on current data on this, but as far back as 2003-04 students without high-school degrees accounted for 2% of all college students, 3% of community college students and 4% of students attending for-profit colleges—and surely that number has gone up since then. Pell is one of the few—I believe possibly the only—federal financial aid available to them.

There appears to be a growing trend in Congress toward cutting off federal educational support for adults who need it the most.