Short-Term Pell 101

Postsecondary education will play a key role in helping Americans dig out from the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. An important component of this will be ensuring that students have access to high-quality job training programs that equip them with skills and employment opportunities to live stable and secure lives. Some students may seek more traditional postsecondary pathways, while others may seek shorter-term credentials designed to get them back in the workforce as soon as possible.

That’s why any new funding for workforce development and higher education programs should be thoughtful and sustainable, and make equity—particularly racial equity—a top priority.

Some have proposed using the Pell Grant program to finance very-short-term training programs of 8 to 15 weeks. However, doing so could have negative implications for students (especially students of color) and taxpayers if done without significant quality guardrails. Data shows two-thirds of certificate program graduates earn, on average, no more than the typical high school graduate. And short-term programs already disproportionately enroll low-income students, part-time students and students of color. An influx of even shorter, low-quality credentials could lead even more students of color to enter low-value programs that leave them in low-wage occupations with no opportunity to advance.

Extending Pell Grants to extremely short-term programs without serious guardrails could also stretch the Pell Grant budget to its limit. Our nation's current economic downturn means that more students than ever will need the Pell Grant to afford college, so policymakers must safeguard Pell against low-quality programs that leave students with little to no job prospects and risk exacerbating existing economic inequities.

Short Memories Lead to Long-Term Consequences

The History of the Short-Term Pell Grant

A Well-Meaning Job Training Bill
That May Hurt More Than Help

Making the JOBS Act Work

Accelerating Education, Slowing Mobility

Letting Employers Off the Hook

White Flight to the Bachelor’s Degree

Keeping Track of Fast-Tracks to New Careers

Five Things Policymakers Should Know
About Short-Term Credentials

Workforce Policy Ideas for the 117th Congress

Estimating the Impact of Nation’s Largest Single Investment in Community Colleges

Short-Term Programs in the Shadows

Short-Term Pell Grants: What the Data Say

Evaluating Short-Term Pell

Short-Term Pell Evaluation Found Wanting

Do Certificate Programs Pay Off?

Short-Term Pell Grants Must Be
Designed to Protect Students, Taxpayers

The Certificates That Pay & Many More That Don’t

Quick College Credentials: Student Outcomes and Accountability Policy for Short-Term Programs

Fixes for Short-Term Pell

Pell Program Faces Funding Cliff in 2026

Pell for (Very) Short-Term Credentials

Expanding Pell Grants to
Shorter-Term Programs

Pell Grants for Short-Term Programs

Debate: Using Pell Grants for
Very Short-Term Programs

Congress Should Consider the Evidence in Funding College Students' Success

Could Short-Term Pell
Lead to a Pell Shortfall?

Proposed Short-Term Pell Safeguards Should Be Further Strengthened