February 22, 2016

Sens. Cassidy & Peters, Reps. Polis & Reed Introduce Legislation to Make College More Affordable & Accessible

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) joined U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), U.S. Representative Tom Reed (R-NY) and U.S. Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) to introduce bipartisan, bicameral legislation to expand options for high school students to obtain college credit.  


The Making College Affordable and Accessible Act (MCAA) would make higher education more affordable and accessible while improving high school and college graduation rates. It would expand access to dual and concurrent enrollment programs and early/middle college programs by providing grants to institutions of higher education. The National Alliance on Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships estimates 1.9 million high school students enrolled in a college course during the 2014-2015 school year.


“Students benefit when they are introduced to college classes when in high school. Not only does it prepare for success, but it lowers the expense to attend college when enrolled full time,” said Senator Cassidy.


“The escalating cost of higher education should not deter hardworking, motivated students from obtaining a quality higher education,” said Senator Peters. “I am pleased to introduce this bipartisan bill to help reduce the price tag for higher learning by allowing students to complete college-level courses in while they are still in high school. Students will save time and money as they kick-start their careers through a personalized curriculum.”


“We care about ensuring our students have access to a quality education that will prepare them for the career opportunities of today and tomorrow,” said Congressman Reed. “Dual and concurrent enrollment programs are a valuable tool in reducing the cost of college and expanding educational access for hardworking local families. That is why I am proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation with Congressman Polis and Senators Peters and Cassidy, and look forward to continuing to work with them in promoting commonsense higher education solutions.”


“Dual and concurrent enrollment has helped Colorado students get college credit and even associates degrees while they are in high school,” said Congressman Polis. “Students who participate in dual enrollment courses can save on the cost of a year or two of college. For families struggling to pay tuition, those savings can make a huge difference. Our bill will expand dual enrollment opportunities so that even more students have access to this cost-saving strategy.”


The Making College Affordable and Accessible Act (MCAA) would allow money from the Higher Education Act Title VII Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) to be used to provide grants to institutions of higher education. These grants can be used to:


·       Carry out dual and concurrent enrollment programs as well as early/middle college programming;

·       Provide teachers in these programs with professional development; and

·       Support activities such as course design, course approval processes, community outreach, student counseling and support services.


Concurrent enrollment provides high school students the opportunity to take college-credit bearing courses taught by college-approved high school teachers, while dual enrollment involves students being enrolled in two separate institutions. Middle and early college high schools and programs are located on college campuses or within schools respectively and allow students to begin working toward an associate’s degree while they complete the necessary coursework for a high school diploma. This model often includes a 13th year to allow students to complete their associate’s degree. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) early college students on average earn 36 college credits, and 30% of early college students earn an associate’s degree.


The Making College Affordable and Accessible Act (MCAA)is supported by a broad group of education organizations, including the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships, Council of Chief State School Officers, ACT, National Association of State Boards of Education, National Council for Community and Education Partnerships, National Education Association, Knowledge Alliance, Community Training and Assistance Center, the American Federation of Teachers, BARD College, Jobs for the Future, Middle College National Consortium and Education Northwest.


“High-quality dual and concurrent enrollment programs have demonstrated positive impact on college transition, persistence, and completion, especially for students traditionally underrepresented in higher education,” stated Adam Lowe, Executive Director, National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP). “This bill will encourage colleges and universities to expand access to the students who will benefit the most from an early exposure to college.”


“ACT applauds Sens. Peters and Cassidy on the introduction of the Making College Affordable and Accessible Act, which brings additional attention to dual and concurrent enrollment programs,” said Scott Montgomery, Vice President at ACT, Inc. “These programs not only help college-ready high school students move closer to a college degree, but also recognize that high-quality programs require qualified and effective teachers and extensive support services.”


“The Making College Affordable and Accessible Act grant monies will address the unmet college access challenges that economically disadvantaged students persistently encounter – course tuition costs and fees associated with textbooks and limited transportation,” said Dr. Cecilia Cunningham, Executive Director, Middle College National Consortium (MCNC).  “In addition the MCNC welcomes the proposed bill’s inclusion of funding for outreach, course articulation, and professional development – critical elements of successful dual enrollment and early and middle college programs.”


“Knowledge Alliance strongly supports the Making College Affordable and Accessible Act, which will provide critical support to institutions of higher education, in the form of competitive grants, to carry out dual and concurrent enrollment programs, as well as early/middle college programming,” said Michele McLaughlin, President, Knowledge Alliance. “The research evidence supporting the successful student of outcomes of dual enrollment and early college programs is very strong, and Knowledge Alliance is therefore supportive of efforts to expand such programs. In addition, the Making College Affordable and Accessible Act requires grantees to evaluate their efforts, which will help ensure the continuous improvement of these programs.”


“Early College high schools are an innovative educational model that helps students use their time in high school to get a critical academic and financial head start on higher education, significantly increasing their chances of completing a college degree. We applaud Senator Peters, Senator Cassidy, Congressman Polis, and Congressman Reed for the Making College Affordable and Accessible Act and urging the inclusion of funding for these proven models in the Higher Education Act,” said Stephen Tremaine, Vice President of Bard Early Colleges.