WASHINGTON—The Obama administration will inject millions of dollars into a group of nontraditional education providers to address a vexing problem: Many Americans are leaving college with debt but without skills the economy needs.
The administration is turning to the private sector for help. In a novel experiment, the Education Department announced Tuesday up to $17 million in loans and grants for students to undergo training at eight entities that aren’t traditional colleges. Most are for-profit companies. They include coding academies such as New York startup Flatiron School and Portland, Ore.-based Epicodus, as well as websites such as Study.com and StraighterLine that provide online courses at reduced costs.
The one that stands out from the group is corporate giant General Electric Co., which won’t receive funds directly but will provide training at one of its jet-engine plants under the program.
The program, called Educational Quality through Innovative Partnerships, or Equip, is designed to enable low-income Americans to learn skills in areas where colleges often fall short, such as learning how to write computer code, or using new software to operate high-tech manufacturing equipment to make jet engines.
Ted Mitchell, the Education Department’s undersecretary, said the program is part of a broader trend, accelerated since the recession, of colleges turning to employers to learn what skills to teach. “It’s a must for us to build these kinds of partnerships,” Mr. Mitchell said. “Our economy depends on it.”
Until now, the half-century-old student-aid program has been restricted to students at community colleges, universities and trade schools that must first win approval from a regional accreditor composed of fellow college leaders. The Education Department said that peer-review system has allowed colleges to become complacent in shaping curricula to keep up with technological advances, and that alternative providers can bring competition into higher education.
The program will let up to 1,500 students in the coming academic year enroll in a select group of traditional colleges while undergoing much of their training at one of the training providers, ultimately leading to degrees. As with educational loans for traditional colleges, the grants will be made to students who will then pay the provider.
Mitchell, J. (2016, August 16). Obama Administration to Fund Nontraditional Training for Students. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/article_email/obama-administration-to-fund-nontraditional-training-for-students-1471341782-lMyQjAxMTE2NzE3NjQxMTY1Wj