Sequestration: The Challenges Ahead for Learners

Written by Kylie Oulahan, CAEL Innovations and Policy Intern

Welcome to week one of the "sequestration." Beginning on March 1st at 11:59PM, a set of automatic, across-the-board government spending cuts set to be implemented over the next nine years went into effect. The sequestration will account for $85 billion of cuts during the 2013 fiscal year alone!

Many people are wondering: what impact can adult learners expect to feel as these cuts take effect? According to the National Skills Coalition's (NSC) recent report, Disinvesting in the Skills of America's Workforce, one area that is sure to be hit hard is workforce education and training.

We are living in an economy where, although we have an unemployed population of over 12.3 million, employers consistently cite their inability to find skilled workers for existing jobs. It is no surprise, then, that the demand for workforce training funds is on the increase. In 2010, there were 9 million recipients of WIA Title I training and employment services - a 248 percent increase in two years!

As noted in the NSC report, even in the midst of this increased demand for skilled workers, the sequestration is set to cut these much-needed programs to the tune of $460 million in 2013 alone. This means that those highly demanded WIA Title I programs will have to turn away nearly 300,000 job seekers. Adult basic education programs, with waiting lists already numbering 160,000, will need to cut their services by 42,000 learners. According to the National Education Association, almost 625,000 students in career and technical education programs will be adversely impacted. Workforce programs overall are estimated by the NSC to serve two million fewer individuals with these cuts in place.

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, colleges and universities will also be feeling the sting with across-the-board funding decreases. Organizations providing university research grants (such as the National Science Foundation) will be feeling the cuts, as well as federal student aid and long-standing college access programs like TRIO and GEAR UP.

At a time when education and training are critical to build a more skilled workforce that supports economic recovery, it looks like adult learners will be facing additional challenges as the sequestration effects continue to sink in (and sink budgets).