State Policy Case Studies
State policymakers have created or modified state financial aid programs to promote and support nondegree credential attainment. States have created specific programs designed to promote nondegree offerings and upskilling, expanded programs designed to address workforce shortage area, and designed state financial aid programs to serve adult learners, who are more likely to enroll in short-term credential programs.
Did You Know?
According to survey data, program cost is the main reason students do not pursue a postsecondary education credential.
Missouri & Ohio – Upskill Credential Grant Programs
In 2023, Missouri passed HB 417, which creates a short-term upskill credential program in the Department of Economic Development. The program provides a reimbursement grant program to employers who help current employees earn short-term credentials in certain areas such as healthcare or technology professions.
The program is modeled in part on TechCred, an initiative first launched in Ohio by Lt. Gov. Jon Husted in 2019 and then created in statute by HB 2 in 2020. The TechCred program allows employers to receive reimbursement up to $2,000 per employee and up to $30,000 per year in total, and was funded with an appropriation of $25.2 million in fiscal year24. In July 2022, the program announced it had met its initial goal to fund 20,000 industry-recognized, tech-based credentials each year.
Colorado & South Carolina – Scholarship Programs for Workforce Fields
In 2023, Colorado passed HB 1246 which created the In-Demand Short-Term Credentials Program, which will offer scholarships that provide free tuition, fees, and materials for in-demand credentials in key state workforce areas including early childhood education, law enforcement, firefighting, forestry, construction, and nursing. The legislation provides a $38.6 million appropriation to fund the program for FY24.
In 2022, South Carolina passed HB 3144 which created the South Carolina Workforce Industry Needs Scholarship. The scholarship provides free tuition, fees, and related course materials at the state's sixteen technical colleges for students pursuing a credential in a high-demand workforce field including healthcare, manufacturing, hospitality/tourism, construction, transportation, distribution and logistics, criminal justice, early care and education, information technology and human services.
Tennessee & Michigan—Adult Reconnect Scholarship Programs
In 2017, Tennessee passed HB 531, the Reconnect Grant Act, which created a last-dollar scholarship for adult students (23 years or older) to attend community college and earn a postsecondary credential. The Reconnect program supplemented Tennessee's Promise Scholarship, which provided graduating high school students with last-dollar scholarships to attend up to two years of community college. A review by the Tennessee Comptroller's Office in 2022 found that the Reconnect Program did boost credential attainment, but also found the program saw a declining number of applicants during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2020, Michigan enacted SB 268 which created the Michigan Reconnect Grant. The Reconnect program provides financial aid for adult residents (25 years or older) seeking associate degrees or industry-recognized credentials from certain educational jobs and training programs. The legislation defines a credential as: a certificate or credential that is portable and is sought or accepted by multiple employers within an industry for purposes of recruitment, hiring or promotion. Data from the state shows more than 120,000 students have applied and been accepted into the program which has awarded nearly 3,000 certificates and degrees. In 2023, the state expanded program eligibility to residents age 21 and up.