- The U.S. Department of Education Tuesday announced a pilot program in which eight colleges and eight for-profit companies will collaborate on workforce development for low-income students.
- The pilot relaxes federal standards, which do not allow institutions to receive aid for courses where more than 50% of curriculum is taught by an ineligible entity.
- The partnerships are centered around strategic tech and manufacturing jobs. Institutions were selected for their ability to guarantee affordable access to diverse student bodies, third-party quality assurance of the academic and technical curriculum, and protections for students and public funds in the form of student aid.
The federal government is paying for-profit companies to help teach students workforce skills while some established institutions are struggling under the weight of cuts to federal and state appropriations, and both realities are stinging indictments upon the state of higher education as an industry. But for colleges and university leaders, there is a silver lining in that the federal government's endorsement of these kinds of partnerships opens the door for similar models at state and city levels, and across multiple industries.
The DOE plan offers a professional pathway for students into coding and manufacturing, but other opportunities in agribusiness, public health, transportation and computer design await similar kinds of agreements. It's up to executives to take the federal blueprint and to make it relevant to communities and beyond in order to receive support, and perhaps funding, into the future.