Career landscapes and industry needs are constantly evolving, and so are the ways Americans seek the skills needed to pursue their chosen professions. With combined student loan debt reaching a staggering $1.68 trillion in 2020, many individuals looking to advance their education and career are seeking alternatives to traditional four-year universities.
Currently, 15 states cover college costs for students who meet certain income levels, community service fulfilments, and grade requirements. As of 2019, legislators in 23 states had proposed similar programs. While the program requirements, and financial allotments, are different from state to state, there is a growing movement across party lines to create alternative avenues for workforce training.
States also use various—and at times complex—grant and reimbursement models to fund these education programs. And while students might find that amounts provided offset the majority of their educational costs (including tuition), but not all. Course fees, transportation, and book costs are often not covered by the state. Some states require recipients of aid from these programs to remain in-state for a certain amount of time after graduation, or only offer funding towards skills that benefit certain local industries.