Policies, Systems, and Structures Supporting Youth Transition

While there are an array of policies, systems, and structures that aim to reduce youth disconnection, these services are often poorly aligned with each other, outdated, or lacking sufficient investment to meet the needs of priority populations. Ensuring alignment of systems and support structures related to education and employment is imperative to keep youth connected to school and work. As both education and employment are social determinants of health, preventing disconnection through systems alignment will safeguard youth as they navigate their academic, professional, and personal futures.

To better support both opportunity youth and those most at risk of disconnection, the federal government can prioritize investment in programs aimed at critical transition points and work to fine-tune these supports to increase opportunities.


Congress can:

  1. Fully fund ESSA programs that are proven to support youth connections to and success in postsecondary education, including Dual Enrollment and Early College High School.
  2. Strengthen the Pell Grant Program by:
    • Increasing the maximum Pell Grant Award;
    • Amending the legislation to annually adjust Pell Grants for inflation;
    • Ensuring that the entirety of Pell Grant funding is made “mandatory” in the annual appropriations process; and
    • Expanding the range of programs covered by Pell Grants to include short-term credentials and other workforce programming offered by institutions of higher education and expand eligibility to undocumented immigrant youth who are ineligible for DACA.
  3. Maintain pandemic-era expansions to foster care support funds introduced in the Supporting Foster Youth and Families through the Pandemic Act.
  4. Require colleges to accept multiple forms of documentation for a disability, including an IEP, 504 Plan, or prior evaluation, and fund The National Center for College Students with Disabilities to provide training and resources on services, supports, and accommodations for students with disabilities.
  5. Create additional federally subsidized employment opportunities for youth with barriers to employment, including homelessness, including homelessness, and allocate funding for locally run essential services for participants in youth employment programs.
  6. Strengthen investments in existing, evidence-based federal programs for young people, such as Job Corps, YouthBuild, AmeriCorps, WIOA Title I Youth Activities and Title II Adult Secondary Education Programs, the Reentry Employment Opportunities Program, and the Chafee Education and Training Vouchers Program.
  7. Fund a new round of grants through the Juvenile Justice Reentry Education Program in the Department of Education Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education and direct states to maximize set-asides for incarcerated youth under Perkins V.
  8. Establish a 21st Century Civilian Climate Corps prioritizing the engagement of recent veterans, Native, and disadvantaged youth.
  9. Expand pathways to high-quality, well-paying apprenticeships by:
    • Extending the Federal Work-Study Program to cover tuition and fees for students enrolled in degree apprenticeship programs;
    • Incentivizing the establishment of pre-apprenticeships linked directly to registered apprenticeships with career advancement supports and direct entry agreements for graduates to enter two- or four-year institutions; and
    • Establishing a federal loan program for employers interested in developing new apprenticeship programs.
  10. Expand eligibility of large-scale federal employment initiatives to include undocumented immigrant youth and young people with DACA, temporary protected, refugee, or asylee status and allow for additional flexibility at the state and tribal levels to match requirements to specific populations.
  11. Expand and increase funding for Native workforce development programs and establish a new Indian Youth Corps program.
  12. Create a new funding stream for organizing low-income youth to create and implement community improvement projects of their own design to address local concerns.