April 28, 2015

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

Bipartisan Legislation Would Incentivize Students to Earn College Credit Through Pell Grant Program

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) introduced bipartisan legislation, the Go To High School, Go To College Act, which will increase college access for low-income students by incentivizing them to earn college credits in high school through the Pell Grant program. By providing students the opportunity to simultaneously pursue a high school diploma while earning college credits tuition-free up to an associate’s degree, this bill will maximize the efficiency of federal student aid and therefore improve secondary and postsecondary outcomes for students. U.S. Representatives Marcia Fudge (D-OH-11) and Chris Gibson (R-NY-19) introduced an identical version of this legislation in the House.

“Too many low-income students face obstacles when deciding whether to pursue a college education,” Portman stated. “Our legislation will allow these students to get a head start on college courses in high school, therefore improving their chances of completing a college degree. It also provides more flexibility within the Pell Grant program, allowing more students to graduate from college. I’m pleased to introduce this legislation and look forward to continuing my work to increase access to and affordability of college.”

“Nobody needs to be told just how hard it is for low-income students to afford a college education, and those who complete college courses before they finish high school are more likely to graduate from college than their peers who do not,” said Warner. “Expanding the Pell grant program so that students are able to earn meaningful credits for college while they are still in high school will increase college completion rates, reduce the time and cost of earning a degree, and give more talented, low-income students a fair shot at a college education.”

“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 and Representatives Fudge and Gibson 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 2015 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 2015.”

More than 300 early college high schools across the country have improved college readiness and college completion rates of low-income students who have traditionally been underrepresented in postsecondary education. These schools provide students the opportunity to simultaneously pursue a high school diploma while earning college credits up to an associate’s degree, tuition-free. A 2013 American Institutes for Research evaluation of early college high schools found significant increases in college enrollment and completion among early college students. Specifically, the study found that 81 percent of early college students enrolled in college, compared with 72 percent of comparison students.  During the evaluation period, 25 percent of early college students earned an associate’s degree, as compared with only 5 percent of comparison students.

Expanding access to early college high schools will increase college completion rates and ultimately reduce the time and cost of earning a college degree. Growth of early colleges has been stifled by rising tuition costs that are unaffordable for students and too great to be assumed by sponsoring high school and college partners. The federal government should allow greater flexibility within the need-based Pell grant program to increase opportunities for students to earn college credits and degrees. 

Read a one-page summary of the Go To High School, Go To College Act here.

 

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