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Rule Asks Youths in J.T.P.A. Program To Seek Pell Grants Before Labor Funds

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Washington--The Labor Department has announced that participants in its employment-training and education programs should apply for Pell Grants, administered and funded by the Education Department, before using Job Training Partnership Act funds, which are distributed by the Labor Department.

According to a notice on the proposed policy interpretation published in the Jan. 3 Federal Register, the Labor Department contends that having program participants apply for Pell Grants first would prevent students and schools from receiving funds from both Pell Grant and jtpa sources.

Although the exact number of such cases is not known, the Labor Department's inspector general identified a number of cases in 1985 and 1986.

The proposed policy should remedy "double billing" and ensure that all eligible jtpa participants apply for Pell Grants if their job training requires schooling, said a Labor Department official.

"What we're saying is, 'Let's make sure that Pell is considered first since it's an entitlement,"' said Jim Aaron, chief of program interpretation in the department's employment and training administration. "We want to fit Pell and jtpa together in a way that best enhances the student's success."

Mr. Aaron said that the Labor De4partment always has maintained that if other training and education resources are available, they should be used.

The Education Department has worked closely with the Labor Department in developing the policy, he said.

Education Department officials did not return telephone calls late last week, but the Federal Register notice indicated that the Education Department had been consulted on the proposed policy.

Bonnie Naradzay, a Labor Department program specialist who helped develop the policy, said she suspects that a vast majority of jtpa participants are eligible for Pell Grants but are unaware that they are. The notice, she said, should signal their eligibility.

But some members of the education community, who say this notice has been the most "explicit policy" on federal involvement in job training to date, fear the extent to which education funds could be used for job training.

"In the future, if we're going to be supporting all the federal job-training programs through Title IV of the Higher Education Act, then we ought to start demanding more resources," said Patricia Smith, director of legislative analysis for the American Council on Education.

"We're somewhat nonplussed about the whole thing," she said.

Ms. Smith said that in response to a recent request, Education Department officials had been unable to determine the fiscal impact of the new policy. Labor Department officials also could not pin down how many students would benefit from the new policy and what the average grant would likely be.

"It's been one of the murky areas all along," said Ms. Smith. "But it's clear that nobody wants the federal government to pay twice."

The Education Department maintains, however, that if a jtpa program has already contracted to pay for a participant's schooling, Pell Grants can only be used to pay for related costs, child care, or handicap-related expenses.

The Education Department's position appears to contrast with what some Congressional aides have understood to be department policy.

"The Education Department has been raising the question that job training should be funded by the Labor Department," said one Capitol Hill aide.

In the notice, the Labor Department also suggests that students who have defaulted on student loans still should be eligible for jtpa program funds.

The Labor Department is soliciting comments on the proposed policy. Comments should be submitted by Feb. 4 to: Administrator, Office of Job Training Programs, Employment and Training Administration, Room N-4459, 200 Constitution Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20210.

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