Ability to Benefit Resource Page

This resource page is for states and institutions looking to learn more about the Ability to Benefit (ATB) provision of the Higher Education Act. If you have a resource you’d like to suggest, email Shirley Doan at shirley_doan@worlded.org.

Some resources may contain some out-of-date information but are still largely relevant; please consider the date of publication when referencing.

Ability to Benefit 101 for Federal Student Aid for Students Who Are Not High School Graduates
National College Transition Network (NCTN) | 2021

Presentation on the basics of the Ability to Benefit provision of the Higher Education Act.


Ability to Benefit Fact Sheet
Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) | 2019

This fact sheet provides an overview of Ability to Benefit (ATB), which allows postsecondary students without a high school diploma or equivalency to receive Title IV student financial aid when they are dually enrolled in a career pathway program and in adult education.


The Ability to Benefit Game
Career Ladders Project (CLP) | 2019

This board game introduces both ATB and California's Adult Dual Enrollment options through an engaging 'chutes and ladders' type experience.


Ability to Benefit at Whatcom Community College: Access and Opportunity
Whatcom Community College | 2018

A short video with student and staff testimonials about the power of Ability to Benefit.


Ability to Benefit in 60 Seconds
Austin Community College | 2022

A short video summarizing the benefits of ATB for eligible students at Austin Community College.


Ability to Benefit at Austin Community College Adult Education
Austin Community College | 2019

A short video with student testimonials about the power of Ability to Benefit.

Ability to Benefit: Dual Enrollment for Adult Learners
U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education; Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) | 2019

Presentation by Erin Berg and Judy Mortrude detailing Ability to Benefit, explaining how to use it with career pathways, providing examples of adult program education that fit its criteria, addressing what prevents its use, and discussing related matters.


Ability to Benefit Frequently Asked Questions
U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education | 1/15/21

FAQs from US ED Financial Services Administration staff on ATB.


(GEN-24-08) Ability to Benefit State Process and Eligible Career Pathway Programs
U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid | 6/12/24

Detailed guidance on the new state process application and eligible career pathway program process in effect as of July 1, 2024.


(GEN-24-07) Implementation of Regulations Related to Ability to Benefit (ATB) (Updated May 23, 2024)
U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid | 5/23/24

Guidance on the new eligible career pathway program approval process in effect as of July 1, 2024.


(ANN-20-02) Live Internet Webinars – Ability to Benefit – Approved State Process
U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education | 1/24/20

Presentation from US ED on the ATB State Defined Process rules.


List of Approved “Ability-to-Benefit” (ATB) Tests and Passing Scores
U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education | 6/14/24

US ED-approved exams for ATB eligibility via test.


Letter of Re-Approval for Washington's State Defined Process
U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education | 8/17/2023

Includes guidance for institutions participating in a state defined process on the new Ability to Benefit State Code field.


Federal Student Aid Handbook
U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid


(GEN-16-09) Subject: Changes to Title IV Eligibility for Students Without a Valid High School Diploma Who Are Enrolled in Eligible Career Pathway Programs and Q&A
U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid | 5/9/16

Ability to Benefit Action Lab
National Governors Association (NGA) | 12/21/21

Ability to Benefit can help students without a high school diploma or equivalency qualify for federal financial aid for postsecondary career pathways programs. This virtual action lab, held in partnership with Education Strategy Group, focused on leveraging ATB to expand access to postsecondary education.


Ability to Benefit State Leadership
National College Transition Network (NCTN) | 2020

Learn about three different strategies that state agencies are using to expand Ability to Benefit and make it easier for adults to simultaneously earn their high school and college credentials. Part of NCTN's Adult Dual Enrollment through Ability to Benefit project.


Ability to Benefit User Guide
Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS)

The Wisconsin Technical College System Office and colleges collaborated on this ATB toolkit in order to build awareness and support implementation.


Transitioning Adult Learners to College: A User Guide for Ability to Benefit and Adult Dual Enrollment
Career Ladders Project (CLP) | 02/23

This guide is intended to help institutions in California - adult schools and community colleges - work in partnership to use ATB and adult dual enrollment as postsecondary transition strategies for adult students without a high school diploma/equivalency. The guide provides background information and outlines the basic requirements for ATB and adult dual enrollment. It also includes tools and approaches to successfully align adult education and college services.


Ability to Benefit (ATB): Developing a Toolkit for Texas
Amarillo College | 11/14/22

This pre-conference session for Texas Pathway Institute #6 discusses considerations for community colleges to create and implement ATB models to support accelerated learning pathways, leading into an activity where attendees started building an ATB toolkit for their institutions in real time. Access the toolkit template.


New Regulations for Ability to Benefit - What Do They Mean for California's Career Pathways?
National College Transition Network (NCTN) & Career Ladders Project (CLP) | 2/14/23

(Passcode: gm*vf^1F) This presentation for the California adult education, community college, and career and technical education systems discusses how partners are building pipelines in partnerships between adult education and CTE, as well as how to ensure that California's career pathway efforts will meet the new ATB criteria and process that is expected to be established by 2024. Access the slide deck. Part of NCTN's Advancing ATB for Equitable Access to Opportunity project.

(Note: The recording and slide deck mistakenly state that in order to be eligible for ATB, male students must be registered with Selective Service. As of the enactment of the FAFSA Simplification Act in December 2020, male students no longer need to register with Selective Service in order to receive Title IV aid.)


What is Ability to Benefit?
Adult Options in Education

An example of a student-facing page with information on ATB.


Ability to Benefit (ATB) Process Plan: Financial Aid, Applications/Enrollment, and Adult Basic Education (ABE) Partnerships
Minnesota State Colleges and Universities & Minnesota Department of Education | 11/21/22

The second in a series of five webinars on ATB for Minnesota practitioners, this presentation details the Minnesota state defined process and best practices and compliance around financial aid, enrollment, and partnering with adult education.


Ability to Benefit (ATB) Process Plan: Monitoring and Compliance
Minnesota State Colleges and Universities & Minnesota Department of Education | 1/30/23

The fourth in a series of five webinars on ATB for Minnesota practitioners, this presentation details monitoring and compliance activities for institutions.


Accessing Ability to Benefit: Building on What Works
Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE) | 11/16/23

Adult education directors discuss how they are making Ability to Benefit work for their colleges in Mississippi. Learn how they have eliminated financial aid barriers and what processes they have put in place to support career pathways and student success. Access the slide deck.


Steps for Utilizing/Expanding Ability to Benefit (ATB) Use at Washington State Community & Technical Colleges
Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) | 2017

Sample action plan for colleges and college systems looking to implement and/or expand ATB usage.


Minnesota State Intra-Agency ATB Agreement
Minnesota State Colleges and Universities | 2023

Sample intra-agency agreement for institutions participating in Minnesota's state defined process.


Pima Community College Agreement with Arizona@Work - Pima County
Pima Community College

This collaborative agreement between Pima Community College and Arizona@Work - Pima County demonstrates how a community college and the local workforce system can work together to financially support co-enrolled students.


Minnesota State Ability to Benefit Partnership Checklist
Minnesota State Colleges and Universities | 2023

Sample checklist to ensure ongoing commitment and communication between institutions/programs participating in Minnesota's state defined process.


Minnesota State Career Pathway Checklist
Minnesota State Colleges and Universities | 2022

Sample checklist to ensure that selected career pathways are a good fit for the Minnesota state defined process.


Minnesota State Ability to Benefit State Process Student Agreement
Minnesota State Colleges and Universities | 2022

Sample agreement for individuals looking to enroll as ATB students under Minnesota's state defined process.


Minnesota State ATB Student Readiness Checklist
Minnesota State Colleges and Universities | 2022

Sample checklist for prospective ATB students to self-assess their readiness for college-level work.


Ability to Benefit: Developing a State-Defined Process
Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) | 2019

This brief encourages states to develop a state-defined process for Ability to Benefit (ATB). The ATB provision makes financial aid available to low-income people without a high school diploma or its equivalent (HSD/E). Challenges to implementing ATB are building awareness, educating actors about ATB’s requirements, and supporting proliferation. Policymakers and practitioners should understand these challenges as well as solutions for states and institutions.


Policies and Procedures for Administering Ability to Benefit (ATB) Tests
College Board | 2019

College Board testing manual for administering the ACCUPLACER test for ATB purposes.

Integrated Education and Training: Model Programs for Building Career Pathways for Participants at Every Skill Level
Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) | 2016

CLASP's Opportunities for Action memo defines Integrated Education and Training as a core education strategy for career pathways.


Career Pathways Toolkit: An Enhanced Guide and Workbook for System Development
U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (DOLETA) | 2016

The Toolkit features the Introduction, Resources and the Six Key Elements of Career Pathways. Each element includes embedded – and writeable – worksheets to help State and local teams with implementation.


Designing and Delivering Career Pathways at Community Colleges
U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences | 2021

This practice guide provides community colleges with five specific recommendations for supporting occupational skills training through career pathways.


Career Pathways Checklist
NOVA Research Company | 2017

Checklist for federal career pathways definition in WIOA, Perkins V, and HEA.


Ten Tenets - College Integration Pathways
Texas Peer Mentor Network

A list of ten recommendations for successful college integration pathways, with an accompanying literature review.


Introduction to Stackable Credentials
Center for Occupational Research and Development | 2021

Introduction to Stackable Credentials provides practical steps for enhancing employer engagement, designing programs with stackable credentials, supporting student completion, and sustaining programs responsive to employer needs. See p. 5 for a graphic illustrating alignment between CTE Programs of Study and Adult Career Pathways.

Memorandum Proposing an Alabama State-Prescribed Ability to Benefit Pathway
Alabama Governor's Office of Education and Workforce Transformation | 2021


California State Process for Ability to Benefit (Pending Approval)
California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office | 2024


Illinois Ability to Benefit Alternative State Plan
Illinois Community College Board | 2021


Iowa Process for Ability to Benefit (ATB)
Iowa Department of Education, Division of Community Colleges and Workforce Preparation | 2019


Minnesota State's Ability to Benefit State-Defined Process Plan
Minnesota State | 2022


Mississippi State Defined Process for Ability to Benefit
Mississippi Community College Board | 2021


Washington's State Defined Process for Ability to Benefit
Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges | 2023

Washington State's re-approved state defined process, including their ATB success rate report. (Related: Washington's original state defined process from 2020.)


Wisconsin Technical College System Process for Ability to Benefit
Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) | 2019

Data on Ability to Benefit Usage
U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education | 3/14/22

US ED data on ATB use in recent years.


Analysis of Ability to Benefit Usage
U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education | 3/14/22

Analysis describing data on the number of students who qualified and received federal student aid through the Ability to Benefit (ATB) provisions in recent years.


Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on the use of Ability to Benefit nationwide
U.S. Department of Education, Office of Management, Office of the Chief Privacy Officer | 4/23/18

2018 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on the use of ATB since its reinstatement in 2014. Contains four documents: 1) the FOIA request response letter; 2) a spreadsheet of ATB usage by year, institution, and state; 3) a PDF of the same data; and 4) a spreadsheet of aggregate ATB usage by institution.

World Education's Public Comment on Docket ID ED-2023-OPE-0089
National College Transition Network (NCTN) | 6/12/23

World Education's response to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education 5/19/23 notice of proposed rulemaking on ATB (Docket ID ED-2023-OPE-0089).


New Rules Coming for Ability to Benefit
National College Transition Network (NCTN) | 2022

A blog post on upcoming changes for Ability to Benefit as a result of the U.S. Department of Education negotiated rulemaking in 2021-2022.


Issue Paper 1: Ability to Benefit
U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education | 3/18/22

Draft rule updating US ED's definition of "eligible career pathway programs" in ATB as a result of the Department's negotiated rulemaking in 2021-2022.


Negotiated Rulemaking for Higher Education 2021-22
U.S. Department of Education

This page provides information regarding the Department's negotiated rulemaking in 2021-2022 to make regulatory changes for the programs authorized by Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended.

Legislative text of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015 | 12/9/14

Establishes the Ability to Benefit provision on p. 926.


Legislative text of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 | 1/6/2015

Subsequent update to the definition of an eligible career pathway program on p. 397.


Legislative text on § 668.156 Approved state process | 1/3/17