Recently, U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Congressmen Jared Polis (D-CO) and Tom Reed (R-NY) announced they are introducing new bipartisan, bicameral legislation to expand options for high school students to obtain college credit, making higher education more affordable and accessible while improving high school and college graduation rates. The Advocate of Affordable College applauds this effort to reach across the aisle to tackle this critical issue.
The Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act (MEAA) 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.
“The escalating cost of higher education should not deter hardworking, motivated students from obtaining a quality higher education,” said Senator Peters in a press release. “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.”
“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.
“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.”
“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.”
The Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act (MEAA) 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; andSupport 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 Education Affordable and Accessible Act (MEAA) is supported by a broad group of education organizations, including:
Dr. Stan Jensen, President of Henry Ford College, said, “Henry Ford College has the largest dual credit effort in the state of Michigan, while its early college and Collegiate Academy programs aid hundreds of high school age students each year, providing a free associates degree for those who complete them. However, like many innovative educational programs, demand outpaces resources, especially with course design and developing online options. The ‘Making Education Accessible and Affordable Act’ would enable our college to continue growing dual credit, early college and Collegiate Academy, acting as a laboratory to test the tools for training future generations.”
Dr. Kojo Quartey, President of Monroe County Community College (MCCC), said, “Dual enrollment programs play a significant role in helping students discover their passions and select their majors early on.” Quartey added, “I have seen firsthand how Monroe County Middle College students benefit from the opportunity to take a closer look at their area of academic interest before stepping foot in a college classroom. The Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act will strengthen these programs, which will in turn help students save time and money.”
Dr. Curtis Ivory, Chancellor, Wayne County Community College District, said, “The Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act will help students look toward the future.” Ivory added, “Dual enrollment programs, like the one at Wayne County Community College, sharpen students' academic skills by providing new challenges and opportunities in a familiar learning environment. We are proud to support this legislation so more students are given a head start on success.”
Lansing Community College President, Dr. Brent Knight, said, “Early College programs are essential in accelerating academic and personal growth.” Knight added, “This bill promotes access and affordability to higher education—which will help close the skills gap and improve college attendance and completion rates.”
Timothy J. Nelson, President, Northwestern Michigan College, said, “To best serve all learners in the Grand Traverse region, Northwestern Michigan College has developed integrated relationships with our local school districts to ensure that high-school students have the opportunity to gain an advantage in earning a college degree.” Nelson added, “Expanding access to our early college program through the passage of the Making Education Accessible and Affordable Act would greatly assist students and parents who recognize significant tuition cost savings and support a fast track to obtaining a college degree.”
Alpena Community College President, Dr. Don MacMaster, said, “Alpena Community College strongly supports the Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act and salutes Senator Peters for his leadership on this issue. The College and many of the K-12s it serves have already established strong dual enrollment and Early College relationships. This bill should further accelerate these partnerships, leading to more opportunities to Northeast Michigan K-12 secondary students.” MacMaster added, “We believe it's in everyone's interest to help our young people get ahead through earlier access to higher education because our young people represent the future. And future careers increasingly require education and training beyond a high school diploma.”
Dr. Beverly Walker-Griffea, President, Mott Community College, said, “I am a strong supporter of the Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act.” Walker-Griffea added, “Providing opportunity for high school students to simultaneously earn their high school diplomas and attain a significant number of college credits is embedded in our DNA at Mott Community College. Mott has been at the forefront of the dual enrollment and middle college movement for 25 years, and we have on our campus one of the very first middle colleges established. Mott Middle College serves at-risk students from diverse backgrounds drawn from all 21 public school districts across Genesee County. I believe the passage of the MEAA will give more high school students an exciting valuable head start.”
The Advocate of Affordable College congratulates U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Congressmen Jared Polis (D-CO) and Tom Reed (R-NY) for introducing new bipartisan, bicameral legislation to expand options for high school students to obtain college credit, making higher education more affordable and accessible while improving high school and college graduation rates. This is the best news we’ve seen on Capitol Hill for a long time.
(Greg Jarboe is the editor of The Advocate of Affordable College blog and the former editor of the Knowledge Transfer blog. He’s also the president and co-founder of SEO-PR, an instructor at the Rutgers Business School, the content marketing faculty chair at Market Motive, as well as the author of YouTube and Video Marketing: An Hour a Day.)