DOVER — The State Senate on Tuesday passed legislation designed to strengthen Delaware’s workforce by helping hundreds of students and working adults obtain skills for careers in the post-pandemic economy.
Senate Bill 12, sponsored by Sen. Nicole Poore, D-New Castle, will provide financial assistance to hundreds of working-class adults seeking skills training at Delaware Technical Community College and the University of Delaware, while Senate Bill 95, sponsored by Sen. Trey Paradee, D-Dover, will help hundreds of local high school graduates earn a bachelor’s degree at Delaware State University and enter the workforce debt free, according to a Democratic-issued news release.
“One of these bills is focused on providing new skills to adults in the workforce today, while the other will help students develop the capabilities they need to thrive in the job market of the future,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Dave Sokola, D-Newark.
“But, at the end of the day, both are leveraging relatively small investments to produce lasting returns for our economy and the economic prosperity of working families in Delaware. Our workforce got us through the pandemic and we’re keeping our promise to keep them from being left behind in the recovery.”
SB 12 will expand Delaware Technical Community College’s scholarship program to adults and others currently excluded from the Student Excellence Equals Degree scholarship program, which has provided free college credits to nearly 13,000 local high school graduates since 2005.
Known as SEED+, the legislation will help adults seeking higher-paying careers develop new skills through Delaware Tech’s non-credit workforce development programs or its academic credential courses, nearly all of which are transferable to the state’s four-year colleges and universities.
SEED+ is designed to assist adult workers with little or no previous higher education experience. who were hit hardest by the pandemic.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment rate for people with a high school diploma or less jumped more than 12 percentage points from February to May 2020 – more than twice the job-loss rate experienced by people with a bachelor’s degree or more. Workers with a high school diploma and no college education also exited the labor force at three times the rate as those with a bachelor’s degree.
The Senate on Tuesday also passed legislation to expand the Inspire Scholarship program to fully cover the cost of in-state tuition at Delaware State University – the First State’s lone HBCU.
To qualify for an Inspire scholarship, students must have graduated from a Delaware high school, complete 12 or more credit hours per semester, maintain at least a 2.75 grade-point average, complete 10 hours of community service and file for federal student aid once a year.
Like SEED+, Inspire is a last-dollar scholarship, meaning state funding only would be used to fill the gaps between federal aid and the full cost of tuition.
SB 95 also addresses a shortage in higher education attainment among Delawareans, particularly people of color. Delaware’s post-secondary attainment rate (41.4%) – including both degrees and credential programs – lags behind the national average (51.3%), with attainment rates for African American (29.7%) and Hispanic students (18.8%) both below the state and national average.
SB 12 and SB 95 now head to the House for consideration.