March 24, 2017

Sens. Peters, Cassidy, Boozman, Franken and Reps. Polis & Reed Reintroduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Make College More Affordable & Accesable

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), John Boozman (R-AR) and Al Franken (D-MN), and U.S. Representatives Jared Polis (D-CO) and Tom Reed (R-NY) today announced they are reintroducing bipartisan, bicameral legislation to help make college more affordable and accessible by expanding opportunities for high school students to earn college credit. The Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act (MEAA) would improve access to higher education by providing grants to eligible institutions of higher learning to create dual and concurrent enrollment and early/middle college programs that allow high school students to earn college credits before their high school graduation.


“Some form of higher education or technical certification is increasingly essential to joining today’s workforce, and the rising cost of tuition should not be a barrier that keeps students from getting the skills and education they need to succeed,” said Senator Peters. “I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation that helps students save money while getting a head start on their college education. The Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act will help ensure students are well-prepared for their chosen careers and employers have trained workers to fill the jobs of the future.”


“This legislation will help reduce the financial strain on Louisiana families and help students receive the quality education they can use to excel,” said Dr. Cassidy. “In order to bring high-skilled, well-paying jobs with good benefits to Louisiana and our nation, we need a highly capable workforce. This bill provides a next step in training American workers for the jobs of tomorrow.”


“This legislation creates an affordable opportunity for students to develop real-world skills employers need while pursing higher education. These programs have been beneficial in Arkansas by helping prepare students to enter the workforce as future employees for local businesses,” Senator Boozman said.


“As a member of the Senate Education Committee, one of my top priorities is to help make college more affordable for Minnesota students and families who are grappling with skyrocketing costs and crippling debt after graduation,” said Senator Franken. “Our commonsense, bipartisan bill would help more high school students earn college credits before they pay a dime in tuition—and it could also support professional development opportunities for educators in Minnesota who teach courses in dual enrollment programs. I look forward to working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass it into law.”


“Allowing more students to attain college credit while still in high school puts them on a clear track to achieve a college degree and excel in the workforce,” Representative Polis said. “In a day and age when college costs are skyrocketing, dual or concurrent enrollment programs are one of the most effective ways to bring down the cost of college dramatically and quickly.  These programs already work across Colorado, from urban to suburban to rural areas, from large to small school districts. They show students, especially students who are the first in their family to go to college, that earning a college degree is possible.”  


“We care about expanding educational opportunities that would lower the cost of college for hardworking families,” said Representative Reed. “Dual and concurrent enrollment programs offer students quality educational options that will prepare them for meaningful careers. This bill is a bipartisan, common sense higher education solution and I am proud to work with the other sponsors of this legislation to ease the burden of paying for college.”


The Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act (MEAA) would allow Higher Education Act Title VII Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) funding to be used to provide grants to colleges and universities. These grants can be used to:


·         Offer dual and concurrent enrollment programs as well as early/middle college programming, including covering tuition, fees, books and materials for students;

·         Provide professional development services to teachers in these programs; and

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

Concurrent enrollment programs allow high school students to earn college credit by taking college-level courses that are taught by college-approved high school instructors within a supportive high school environment. High school students in dual enrollment programs take college-level courses while separately enrolled in both their high school and a college or university. Middle and early college high schools and programs introduce students to college-level courses as they work towards an associate’s degree or technical certification while completing their 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 Education Affordable and Accessible Act (MEAA) is supported by a broad coalition of educational 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.”


“NASBE strongly supports Senators Peters and Cassidy and Reps. Polis and Reed’s bipartisan effort to expand students’ access to high quality dual enrollment opportunities,” said National Association of State Boards of Education Executive Director, Kris Amundson. “Dual enrollment is a proven high school and college completion strategy and a critically important tool for strengthening the nation’s workforce.”


“Providing access to college courses while in high school offers kids a head start, helps them transition to a full college course load, and helps trim their college bill,” said American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten. “The Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act equips educators and students with the guidance and support they need to make these programs successful—especially for students who may see college as out of reach.” 


“ACT enthusiastically supports the Making Education Affordable Act, which expands opportunities for students to participate in dual and concurrent enrollment programs, and we applaud Sens. Peters and Cassidy and Reps. Polis and Reed for introducing it,” said Scott Montgomery, senior vice president for public affairs at ACT, Inc. “The incentives in this bill would help high school students earn college credit and move closer to a college degree. They would also communicate that high-quality programs require qualified, effective teachers and extensive support services.”


“The Making Education 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.”


“The evidence is clearer: dual enrollment helps students accumulate credits and complete their degrees,” said Michele McLaughlin, President, Knowledge Alliance. “Knowledge Alliance strongly supports the Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act, which will help expand dual enrollment to more students. Moreover, the bill requires grantees to evaluate their efforts, which will help ensure the continuous improvement of these programs.”


“Early college high schools allow students to use their time in high school to get a critical academic and financial head start on higher education, and they significantly increase students’ chances of completing a college degree, and at a greatly reduced cost. We applaud Senator Peters, Senator Cassidy, Congressman Polis, and Congressman Reed for introducing the Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act, which would provide support to these innovative educational models that provide an effective alternative to the traditional high school through college pathway,”  said Stephen Tremaine, Vice President of Bard Early Colleges.


“Early college and dual enrollment are proven strategies to increase the number of students graduating high school, attending college, and ultimately completing postsecondary credentials and degrees.  Now more than ever, students need accelerated routes to credentials that lead to meaningful career opportunities, and the chance to earn college credit while still in high school is a critical step on that pathway,” said Maria Flynn, President and CEO, Jobs for the Future. “The Making Education Accessible and Affordable Act would support the expansion of early college and dual enrollment so more students, particularly those from underserved backgrounds, can benefit from these opportunities.”


“With college accessibility, affordability and attainment of national concern, The Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act promises bold support for early college high school and dual enrollment models, which are proven, high-impact approaches to teaching and learning,” KnowledgeWorks President and CEO Judy Peppler said. “By providing grants for these learning options, MEAA will make college a reality for hundreds of thousands of low-income, first-generation students and will help students be better prepared for successful careers.”


“Rigorous, high-quality career and technical education provides millions of students with opportunities to earn college credit and industry credentials through concurrent and dual enrollment programs,” said Association for Career & Technical Education (ACTE) Executive Director LeAnn Wilson. “The Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act (MEAA) will strengthen the secondary-postsecondary transition for high school CTE students pursuing college credit and will support professional development activities for CTE teachers. ACTE is pleased to endorse MEAA and thanks the bill’s sponsors for their leadership.”


“Today, more than half of jobs require some form of postsecondary education and yet, far too many students face steep barriers to accessing these opportunities,” said Kimberly Green, Executive Director of Advance CTE.  “The Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act would greatly improve access to critical dual and concurrent enrollment programs so that more students can earn a postsecondary degree or credential at a faster rate, vastly improving their career prospects and success.”