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ACT Statement on President Biden's Joint Address to Congress

Last week, President Biden addressed a Joint Session of the U.S. Congress and the American people to reflect on the accomplishments of the first 100 days of his administration. He also proposed the ambitious American Families Plan and American Jobs Plan, calling on Congress to fund policies and programs that would keep America on the path to recovery. Many of President Biden’s proposed initiatives would provide resources that can increase Americans' access to education and workforce success.

Increasing Pell Grants


The President’s call to increase Pell funding sends a strong signal about the continuing value of higher education and will enable students from high-needs families and communities to take advantage of higher education opportunities. ACT, along with more than 1,500 other education organizations and higher ed institutions, has called on Congress to #DoublePell for just that reason: “Doubling the maximum Pell Grant — and permanently indexing the grant to inflation to ensure its value doesn’t diminish over time — will boost college enrollment, improve graduation rates, and honor the history and value of these grants as the keystone federal investment in college affordability.”

Funding for HBCUs, HSIs, and Tribal Colleges


Directing additional funds to institutions serving large proportions of students of color – including Black, Latinx, and Native American students – is an important step in making sure that historically underserved populations have equitable access to higher education, including institutions that are culturally relevant and sensitive to their unique backgrounds and cultures. ACT supports this targeted funding increase as one of many investments needed to improve postsecondary access and success for students of color.

Closing the Digital Divide


ACT has long been a champion of closing the digital divide, which our research shows disproportionately affects students of color and those from rural communities. Guaranteeing broadband access for all communities will ensure that everyone has access to the resources and learning that they need to succeed.

Community College for All


President Biden’s call to make community college free for all gives more students additional options and could open pathways for those who may have thought their dream of realizing their higher education potential was out of reach. ACT supports increasing access to community college – whether they are entering directly from high school, or are taking a less traditional path – including high schoolers participating in dual enrollment programs.

STEM


President Biden forcefully challenged America to reestablish American leadership in research and development across the spheres of technology, science, and medicine. To meet this challenge, America must redouble its efforts in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education. According to ACT research on high-performing STEM majors and preparation in STEM, successful STEM majors in college were high-performing high school students. We know how important it is to prepare students academically, which requires access to rigorous curriculum.

Opportunities to Work


As the President noted in his address, the intent of the American Jobs Plan is to pair much-needed improvements to our country’s infrastructure with the creation of millions of good jobs. Employment opportunities have been severely affected by COVID-19, and too many Americans are facing an uncertain future. Many are wondering if they will find a place in the economic recovery. With overwhelming numbers of individuals who must rejoin the workforce or seek out new opportunities in a shifting economy, there is a tremendous need for skill development opportunities that will facilitate successful transitions from lost jobs that may not return to the new jobs of tomorrow.

For many years, ACT has played a prominent role helping people make career transitions in the wake of economic shifts and natural disasters. Our workforce solutions help employers to determine the required skills to perform a specific job, provide self-paced and self-directed curriculum for “upskilling,” and ensure that jobseekers have the foundational abilities necessary to learn job-specific skills and excel in the workplace. As our country endeavors to “Build Back Better,” it is essential that we align job-specific and work-based learning programs (including apprenticeships) with regional workforce development efforts to meet employer needs and attract new industry, especially in our rural and underserved communities. ACT is uniquely positioned to partner and assist in these efforts.

ACT stands at the ready to work alongside President Biden’s administration, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Labor, and Congress – as well as our many partners in states and districts around the country – to deliver on the promise of education and workplace success for all.

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