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

April 6, 2017 | Press Releases

Bipartisan Legislation Would Let Students Earn College Credit Through Pell Grant Program

WASHINGTON, D.C. – 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.

“While wages have been largely flat over the past 10 years, the average cost of college tuition and fees at national universities has more than doubled,” Portman said. “A lot of families are feeling squeezed, and for kids from low-income households, college can feel out of reach. Our legislation would let them get a head start on college, make it more affordable for them, and help them get on track to live out their dreams.”

“Students who get a head start on college tend to perform much better than their peers, but it is a simple fact that lower-income students face unique financial challenges in jumpstarting their college educations,” said Warner. “Broader access to the Pell Grant program will provide more qualifying high school students with an opportunity to get ahead before they even reach college, and push them one step closer to graduation and success.”

“Early colleges reimagine what the education of adolescents ought to be,” said Leon Botstein, President of Bard College. “Early college cuts the wasted time in high school and offers a challenging college curriculum for college credits within the high school years. The data proves that students from diverse backgrounds are ready to start college at an earlier age; doing so dramatically increases their likelihood of their completing associate’s and bachelor’s degrees. To date, there has been no funding stream to sustain early colleges even though they create dramatic efficiencies and savings in the provision of higher education. This bill provides a path forward. We are grateful to Senators Portman and Warner for identifying an innovative way to better invest public higher education funds through early college to increase college completion rates and thereby ensure a brighter future for our country’s youth.”

“Harlem Children's Zone Promise Academy's early college partnership with Bard College, along with similar programs across the nation, are showing just what our high school-age students can accomplish,” said Anne Williams-Isom, CEO, Harlem Children's Zone . “By identifying a sustainable funding mechanism for early colleges, the Go To High School, Go To College Act of 2017 will allow students across the country the opportunity to get the jump-start on college they need to successfully complete their degrees. This bill is an important step toward improving college access, affordability and completion, especially for the students most in need.”

“Based on years of experience working with teenagers who successfully build academic momentum in high school by completing college courses, Middle College National Consortium supports the use of Pell Grants for eligible students in early college high schools,” said Cecilia Cunningham, Executive Director, Middle College National Consortium. “Specifically, MCNC supports the Go To High School, Go To College Act of 2017.”

“We commend the sponsors of the Go to High School, Go to College Act for championing financial support for low-income students who are earning college credit throughout their high school experience,” KnowledgeWorks President and CEO Judy Peppler said. “Early College High School students deserve support and recognition for their hard work and persistence. We encourage Congress to expand Pell grant opportunities to high-quality programs that not only make college more affordable for low-income first generation college going students, but also increase college preparedness and persistence.”

NOTE: The Go to High School, Go to College Act would allow Pell grant funding for eligible students to be used for transferable college credits, including core general education requirements, that students complete in an early college program offered by an accredited Institution of Higher Education. To ensure the effectiveness of the program, and in order to avoid penalizing students, early colleges would be reimbursed for the cost of tuition and fees on behalf of eligible students retroactively, based on college credits completed up to an associate’s degree or four semesters of college coursework. This measure would allow tuition-free early colleges to be sustained and scaled nationally to serve more students, thereby increasing college access and helping more low-income students afford and complete college degrees. Higher college completion rates and reduced time to earn a degree would ultimately make the Pell grant program a better use of taxpayer dollars.