Insights & Outlooks

Broadening Pathways and Partnerships: Comparing the PROSPER Act and Aim Higher Act

Broadening Pathways and Partnerships: Comparing the PROSPER Act and Aim Higher Act

How would the Aim Higher Act and the PROSPER Act affect alternative pathways and partnerships?

On July 24, 2018, Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-Va.) of the U.S. House Committee on Education & the Workforce introduced the Aim Higher Act, a bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA).

The Democratic proposal follows the December 2017 PROSPER Act (Promoting Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform or H.R. 4508), an HEA reauthorization bill introduced by House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC).

Both bills make changes to the underlying law, including expanding partnerships and pathways to access and complete a postsecondary credential or degree. The chart below compares current law to how the Aim Higher Act, the PROSPER Act, and current law would provide for these expansions.

IssueCurrent LawPROSPER ActAim Higher Act
Workforce PellPell is limited to degree programs and credential programs that are at least 600 hours in length.Expands Pell to cover programs that are at least 300 hours in length, enabling students to use financial aid for programs and courses that culminate in credentials that lead to employment.Would expand the Pell eligibility to short-term courses aimed at workforce opportunities in a manner similar to the PROSPER Act.
Apprenticeships/Learn and EarnN/ACreates the Expanding Access to Apprenticeship program. This program would provide one to four-year competitive grants to partnerships of colleges/universities and businesses. The partnerships would be designed to expand access to and participation in industry-lead programs leading to high-wage, high-skill careers. Partnerships would be required to match Federal funds and have plans to sustain the program after Federal funds expire.Does not establish a separate program solely focused on learn/earn/apprenticeship opportunities. Does permit apprenticeship support in State grants to expand dual enrollment and early college high schools.
Competency-Based Education (CBE)Allows student aid to be used for competency-based education approaches that are equated to credit hours or that qualify for direct assessment.Allows student aid for competency-based education approaches that are based on the achievement of competency and skills, eliminating the direct tie to credit hours.Would establish a demonstration project allowing participating CBE programs to request flexibility from some current statutory and regulatory requirements. It also requires annual, transparent evaluation of programs.
Institutions of Higher Education Partnerships with Other ProvidersInstitutions of Higher Education can use alternative providers for up to 50 percent of the education and instructional content of their programs and courses.Allows up to 100 percent of programs and courses to be supported by alternative providers, expanding pathways for education and skill acquisition.No change from current law.