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Petitioning Senate and House of Representatives

Renew eligibility of ability to benefit students for student loans

On December 17, 2011 the House and the Senate passed an Omnibus
Spending Bill to avert government shutdown. With little public attention to all details in the bill, Congress eliminated education and training opportunities for millions of students who now enroll in post-secondary education under the provision of the Ability-to- Benefit (ATB) exam administered with oversight from
the U.S. Department of Education.

Under current provision, individuals who do not have a high school diploma or recognized equivalent such as GED, must pass an Ability-to-Benefit (ATB) exam to be eligible for financial aid for enrollment in post-secondary vocational training and education. By passing the exam, students demonstrate ability to
benefit from the training offered. The elimination of ATB in the Omnibus bill negates this opportunity. The loss of eligibility for financial aid applies to non-high school graduates who enroll in a program of study on or after July 1, 2012.

Minorities - Hispanics and African-Americans will be the most affected by this change since they represent the lowest number of high school graduates – up to 56% for Blacks and 52% for Hispanic. The lack of opportunity through ATB and the low graduation rate seriously tilt the balance of access to financial aid (Pell grants and government loans) away from minorities. To further point out the disparity, if only 72% of all high schools graduates enter a college or university, then the percentage of minorities having access to financial aid is near negligible. ATB has been an equalizer in post-secondary education opportunities for the non-high school graduates to get a second chance at training for a skill in an
accredited institution and for obtaining a GED (high school equivalent). To complicate matters, Adult Education classes that often offer GED classes are being reduced drastically or eliminated in most school districts. Where will people go for education and training opportunities when there are no doors to knock

Without Financial Aid for ATB students, CET will turn away between 2,000 and 3,000 students per year and hundreds of thousands could be affected nationwide. These students in one form or another may become a burden on public assistance, unless they are trained to compete in the current and emerging
labor markets. We urge Congress to restore funding for (ATB) Ability-to-Benefit, and everyone will benefit.

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