Bills Look To Expand Workforce Training Funding Sources

Bipartisan efforts are underway on both the House and Senate sides of Capitol Hill to broaden the eligibility of 529 plans used to pay for college.

The plans--named for the federal tax code section that covers them--were originally set up to encourage families to save money to pay for degrees from four-year universities. But Congress has expanded the list of eligible expenses, covering many trade schools, for instance. Two recently introduced, identical bills would add aviation programs to the list.

Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) introduced the Aviation Workforce Development Act in the Senate, while Mike Collins (R-Ga.) backed an identically named bill in the House. The bills would permit 529 money to pay for certain pilot and aviation technician training not already eligible for the funds. 

ATEC is among some 20 industry groups that have expressed support for the bills, as they fit into the broader strategy of helping encourage more candidates to consider aviation careers. The legislation would not change anything for most aviation maintenance schools, however, as the majority of them are accredited and therefore are eligible recipients of 529 funds. 

“Families use 529 plans to save for their children’s future education. But we know that our next generation of workers need options beyond traditional four-year college degrees, such as apprenticeships, trade schools, and more," said Senator Cantwell. "By allowing 529 plans to cover FAA-certified commercial pilot and aviation maintenance courses, this bill helps remove cost barriers for students considering a career path in Washington state’s thriving aviation industry."

The council will continue to urge Congress to expand workforce development initiatives through these and other bills.