Portman, Warner Introduce Bill to Increase Access to College Credits for Low-Income High School Students

Bipartisan Legislation Will Let High School Students Earn College Credits Funded Through Pell Grant Program

June 18, 2019 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Mark Warner (D-VA) introduced bipartisan legislation, the Go To High School, Go To College Act, which will make college more affordable for low-income students by letting them earn college credits while still in high school, funded through the Pell Grant program. The legislation will create the College in High School Federal Pell Grant Pilot Program, which will build upon the Department of Education’s Experimental Site for Dual Enrollment. Representatives Marcia Fudge (D-OH) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY) are leading the legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“The average cost of college tuition and fees at national universities continues to skyrocket,” Portman said. “For high school students from low-income households, that can make college feel out of reach. Our legislation will let these students get a head start on college, make it more affordable for them and their families, and help them live out their God-given potential.”

“Cost alone shouldn’t deter motivated young people who are willing to work hard and get an early start on their postsecondary education," said Warner. “This legislation will provide an essential resource for low-income students for whom college or a competitive start in the workforce might otherwise seem out of reach.”

“What’s always been important is now imperative: the rising cost of college and our nation’s need for a skilled workforce mandate that all students can engage in early and affordable pathways to high-quality credential and degree programs,” said Joel Vargas, JFF vice president. “JFF applauds the Go to High School, Go to College Act for its innovative approach to expanding equitable access to high-quality dual enrollment programs that have continually proven to enable more low-income students to earn college credit while in high school. We are also pleased that a robust evaluation is included, which will ensure policymakers and practitioners can learn from the program’s results. This effort will expand access to dual enrollment programs, reduce the time and cost of earning a college credential, and improve educational outcomes while strengthening our economies and communities.”

“College in High School programs, such as dual and concurrent enrollment, engage a wide variety of students in an equivalent variety of courses. Dual enrollment programs are not just for the academically élite, although they certainly thrive here, but inclusive of aspiring welders, pilots, carpenters, nurses, engineers, database architects, and entrepreneurs: all students and all courses,” said Amy Williams, Executive Director of the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships. “Students in these programs find early access to and success in college, helping them advance to college with focus and direction. The data show that students participating in these programs are more likely to go to college, to persist in their studies, and complete a degree or credential in a timely manner. This is a high-value program that benefits educators, students, families, employers, and the American education system as a whole, yet access and affordability are still fundamental barriers to participation. The Go to High School, Go to College Act creates an innovative space to support students early exposure to a successful future through affordable access to postsecondary education and training. NACEP, the nation's leading organization working to advance quality college courses for high school students by supporting programs, practitioners, and policy. We enthusiastically support this legislation as an important step to address higher education access and affordability for all Americans.”

“At KnowledgeWorks, we’ve seen the power of early college firsthand as students who are the first in their family to go to college get a jump start on their dreams with a high school diploma and an associate degree. While a university president, I saw how dual enrollment could reduce the cost of college, reduce the time to a degree and significantly reduce student loan debt. The Go to High School, Go to College Act can provide a multiplying effect to students and their families on the basis of costs and an opportunity for institutions to provide innovative opportunities to accelerate degrees. This bill has the potential to make the opportunity of college real for many more students and the dream of a degree a reality,” said KnowledgeWorks President and CEO, Chuck Ambrose, EdD.

“Students in middle/early college programs are guided through post-secondary degree earning pathways while in high school,” said Dr. Cece Cunningham, Executive Director of the Middle College National Consortium. “Our average student completes over 20 credits prior to high school graduation, and many graduate with an associates degree. The support from the Go to High School Go to College Act is a tremendous opportunity for our first-generation low-income students.”

“Research and experience demonstrate that students who have the opportunity to earn college credits and degrees while still in high school are significantly more likely to enroll in and complete postsecondary education,” said Clara Botstein, Associate Vice President at Bard Early Colleges. “Early college high school is an effective, powerful free college approach, but access is currently far too limited. The Go to High School, Go to College Act will allow many more low-income students to access high-quality early college opportunities, increasing postsecondary completion nationwide.”

“In today’s economy, postsecondary education is not a luxury, it’s a requirement. Too often, however, students’ pathways through college are thwarted by mounting debt. Thus, a significant challenge is how to increase access to college while decreasing student debt? While it doesn’t require a silver bullet, it will take a smart policy. The Go to High School, Go to College Act is exactly that. It offers an opportunity for underserved students to earn college credit while in high school, at no cost to them,” said Deb Delisle, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education. “Given that students with early college experiences are five to seven times more likely to earn a postsecondary credential, the evidence shows that this type of solution works.  There is no question that it must be included in a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.”

NOTE: The Go to High School, Go to College Act will authorize a pilot program for 250 institutions of higher education to allow high school students participating in dual enrollment programs offered by that institution the opportunity to apply for Pell grant funding to earn transferable college credits, including core general education requirements. The proposed College in High School Federal Pell Grant Pilot Program will build upon the Department of Education’s Experimental Site for Dual Enrollment in two important ways:

  • Students will have the opportunity to earn up to two semesters worth of college credit before drawing down from their 12 semester Pell Grant limit, ensuring that students participating in dual enrollment programs are not penalized financially.
  • The pilot program includes a robust evaluation mechanism, which the current experimental site lacks.

In addition, the pilot program retains and builds upon other student protections and quality assurance mechanisms in the existing experimental site, including ensuring that students have credit transfer options available to them for college credit earned in a dual enrollment program beyond just the issuing institution of higher education.