Congress is making real progress on the first major rewrite of education law in more than a dozen years. These efforts may portend a rare legislative success for both Republicans and Democrats in a divided Washington.

Undocumented immigrants in Connecticut may soon qualify for in-state tuition and financial aid due to separate pieces of legislation passed by the state’s House and Senate in May. The House bill, signed into law by Gov. Dannel Malloy in June, expanded a 2011 law that reduced the required length of in-state high school attendance from four years to two in order to qualify for in-state tuition. The Senate bill, which has been sent to the House for review, would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for various forms of financial aid, including waivers, grants and student employment.

Making the transition between military service and civilian life can be a difficult challenge for service members. Many find themselves without a job or the means to support a family without returning to school to further their knowledge and skills. But making the move from a battlefield to a college campus can be a difficult, isolating experience for student veterans.

The state of Vermont has begun collecting funds for a new program designed to guarantee a college scholarship for every child born to Vermont residents.  As part of House Bill 448, the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation will allocate $250 per child and $500 if that child’s family earns less than 250 percent of the federal poverty level.  Once a birth certificate is issued, the VSAC establishes a savings account on behalf of the child through the Vermont Higher Education Investment Plan. 

Spurred in part by recent mass shootings on school grounds, state policymakers and university officials have revisited the issue of concealed carry gun permits on college campuses in an attempt to make those campuses safer. For some of the states that have passed concealed campus carry legislation, schools have faced costs in upgrading campus security facilities.

High school students in some states will soon have to pass a civics exam—the same exam used to quiz immigrants who want to become United States citizens—in order to graduate. In January, Arizona became the first state to require the test, starting with the 2016-17 school year. Idaho, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah followed suit and enacted what is often referred to as the Civics Education Initiative. The Louisiana Legislature passed a civics exam in June, which now awaits Gov. Bobby Jindal’s signature.

CSG Midwest
Since its inception in 1955, the Advanced Placement program has been used by millions of high school students who want to experience the rigor of college-level courses before graduation. The long-running program continues to gain popularity. In fact, participation in AP classes by high school graduates in the United States nearly doubled over the past decade. While AP courses are available in many high schools across the country, some states, like Indiana, require every high school to provide students with access to the classes.

Rural communities in the South continue to face serious challenges in getting highly educated students to return home after college graduation. Research indicates that education may be a cause and effect for this rural “brain drain” phenomenon, and also the key to reversing the trend. Studies have shown that efforts to improve rural education contribute to rapid economic development in those areas, while a more educated community can serve as a catalyst for business expansion and increased civic engagement. This complimentary webinar, presented by CSG South/SLC, highlights the impact of education on rural development and examines initiatives in rural communities to entice educated former residents to return and invest in their hometowns.

Navigating the array of credentials in the U.S. can be tricky. Employers sometimes find themselves trying to compare degrees, certificates, industry certifications and other credentials among job candidates without an apples-to-apples guideline. “We’re looking for a way to make that more understandable, a way to interconnect them,” said Larry Good, chairman, co-founder and senior policy fellow of the Corporation for a Skilled Workforce, a nonprofit organization that partners with governments, businesses and community leaders to help connect workers to education and good jobs. Good was one of three presenters in a recent CSG eCademy webcast, “Using Stackable Credentials to Increase Job Earnings.” He said credentials should be transferable, transparent, useful and easily understood by students, workers and employers.

A 2014 report by the National Skills Coalition said middle-skill jobs—those that require more than a high school diploma, but less than a four-year degree—account for 54 percent of the United States’ labor market, but only 44 percent of the country’s workers are qualified for these types of positions. One way the skills gap—the gap between skills that employers seek and the skills available in the workforce—can be decreased is to use stackable credentials to improve worker capabilities and competencies. This FREE eCademy webcast, presented by the CSG National Task Force on Workforce Development and Education, highlights innovative programs that are helping students gain the competencies they need by offering stackable credentials and credits for talent development.