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Peters Reintroduces Bipartisan Legislation to Make Higher Education More Affordable & Accessible

Peters’ Bill Would Help Students Obtain College Credit by Expanding Access to Dual Enrollment and Early College High School Programs

DETROIT, MI – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to expand opportunities for high school students to obtain college credit in an effort to make higher education more affordable and accessible.

Peters’ Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act (MEAA) – which he reintroduced with U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR), Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Mike Braun (R-IN) – would expand the use of existing federal grants available for higher education institutions to support dual or concurrent enrollment initiatives and early college high school programs.

“There are commonsense steps we can take to make higher education more accessible and affordable,” said Senator Peters. “My bipartisan bill would expand opportunities for high school students in Michigan and across the U.S. to obtain college credit and get a jump start on their careers, without taking on crippling student loan debt.” 

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 by institutions of higher education to:

  • Carry out dual or concurrent enrollment programs as well as early college high school programming;
  • Provide educators in these programs with professional development;
  • Assist students in the program in covering education-related costs such as tuition and fees, books, and transportation; and
  • Support 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. Early college high schools 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.

The MEAA is supported by a broad group of education organizations and institutions, including:

“Michigan’s independent colleges and universities are committed to educating the future workforce and ensuring access to higher education across the state. Dual enrollment and early credit-taking opportunities foster engagement among student groups who may not initially see themselves in college,” said Robert LeFevre, President of Michigan Independent Colleges and Universities. “In Michigan, college enrollment for recent high school graduates is rapidly declining and currently in early 1980s levels. Without more students enrolling and completing, Michigan’s businesses will not have the employees they need. Senator Peters’ Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act expands access to help buck this trend and grow the future workforce.”

“Helping high school students get a jumpstart in gaining college credit greatly increases the accessibility and affordability of earning a college credential,” said James O. Sawyer IV, President of Macomb Community College. “Instilling a college-going culture in our youth positions them on a pathway to success, from identifying and achieving career aspirations through achieving economic prosperity.”

“Dual credit programming gives students the chance to jumpstart their college experience,” said Dr. Steve Robinson, President of Lansing Community College. “Opportunities like dual enrollment and early colleges allow students to earn college credit while still in high school, and save families thousands of dollars in tuition and fees. The Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act closes a gap for our most vulnerable students by relieving the financial burden that prevents some school districts from funding these opportunities. This thereby benefits not only those individual districts and students, but benefits the workforce and broader community by helping more students earn the certificates and degrees they need to contribute.”

“Kellogg Community College serves hundreds of dual enrolled and early college high school students from numerous school districts each semester,” said Dr. Paul R. Watson II, President of Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek. “While our dual enrollment and early college populations have increased, we know our community wants us to expand and strengthen such opportunities for the benefit of students. Senator Peters’ bill, the Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act, aligns with KCC’s current goal of increasing participation levels in dual enrollment and early college, both of which save students money, lead to higher rates of degree completion and strengthen career readiness.”

“Mott Community College has been a decades-long leader in the early college and dual enrollment movements, with high school students in our Mott Middle College oftentimes graduating from college before graduating from high school,” said Dr. Beverly Walker-Griffea, President of Mott Community College. “MCC also has strong and growing dual enrollment relationships with our K-12 partners that have fostered a college-going culture and will benefit from this bi-partisan legislation introduced by Senator Peters and others.”

“The dual enrollment program at Alma College, and many other small, private, liberal arts colleges, has helped make college more affordable and accessible for countless numbers of students,” said Alma College President Dr. Jeff Abernathy. “We’re grateful for Senator Peters’ work on the Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act, which provides students with the opportunity to experience a college classroom and begin their pathway to college-degree completion.”

“We support and appreciate Senator Peters reintroducing the Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act,” said Dr. Don MacMaster, Alpena Community College President. “We currently serve Dual enrollment and Early College students in 14 K-12 districts across NE Lower Michigan.  These students comprise the fastest growing segment of our enrollment.  I often hear from K-12 administrators and parents that dual enrollment and Early College partnerships are a wonderful way for students to begin their Higher Education journey.  In fact, many Early College students now graduate from ACC with an Associate's degree after their 13th year, preparing them to either enter the workforce or transfer to a 4-year university with a valuable credential and no debt. We absolutely support this pathway for student success and thank Senator Peters for his important and informed advocacy.”

“We are committed to serving the residents of the Grand Traverse region by increasing accessibility to higher education. This includes building strong relationships with our local school districts to ensure that high school students have the opportunity to gain an advantage in pursuing a college degree,” said Dr. Nick Nissley, President of Northwestern Michigan College. “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.”

“The college readiness activities and programs in Muskegon county have had a positive effect on our college going culture,” said Dr. John Severson, Muskegon Area ISD Superintendent. “We have been able to provide an opportunity for students to minimize and even eliminate future debt through the early college program and dual enrollment options available in Muskegon county. These types of options set students up for success as they work toward a future career. We appreciate the leadership of Senator Peters in continuing to support these types of programs that have such a great impact on students.”

“Under today’s student debt crisis, too many individuals are being hampered by the financial burdens of their postsecondary education,” said Marc Egan, National Education Association (NEA) Government Relations Director.  “Expanding greater access to high quality dual enrollment courses would not only provide an accelerated opportunity for students to receive a postsecondary degree, but also reduce their student debt. NEA is proud to once again support Senator Peters on this important legislation.”

“School leaders support the Make Education Affordable and Accessible Act because it gives our students a pathway to and through college,” said Ronn Nozoe, CEO of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. “And as higher education costs far outpace teacher pay, this legislation will help hopeful educators afford the certification they need to enter the classroom.”

“Dual and concurrent enrollment programs are a key part of the connections between our secondary education, postsecondary education and workforce systems,” said Association for Career and Technical Education Executive Director LeAnn Curry. “By expanding grants to support these programs and professional development for educators, the MEAA will strengthen the talent pipeline for the 21st century American workforce. Through dual and concurrent enrollment opportunities, students can earn and make progress towards industry-recognized credentials that demonstrate the foundational skills students have obtained through CTE programs. As we confront emerging workforce challenges, we must be nimble in connecting students with career opportunities through dual and concurrent enrollment programs. We commend this bipartisan legislation and its sponsors for their leadership.”

“Expanding dual enrollment and early college high schools is a critical step towards accelerating postsecondary attainment rates and economic mobility by blurring the lines between high school, college, and careers,” said Maria Flynn, President and CEO, Jobs for the Future. “The Making Education Accessible and Affordable Act would support the expansion of college in high school programs, particularly for low-income students, as well as Black, Native American, and Latinx students.”

“Time and cost are the most significant barriers to student success. The Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act cuts the cost of college, reduces the time to a degree and helps prepare students for career and life success regardless of family income,” said Lillian Pace, KnowledgeWorks Vice President of Policy and Advocacy. “Earning post-secondary credits in high school is a proven, high-impact approach to preparing students to succeed in a rapidly changing economy. This Act is an important step to getting education barriers removed.”

Peters has long supported efforts to increase access to affordable higher education. In 2018, Peters authored bipartisan provisions incorporated into a larger bill signed into law to close the workforce skills gap by strengthening career and technical education (CTE). Peters’ provisions helped to expand school counselor training and awareness of CTE to help them inform students of post-high school education opportunities outside of the traditional four-year college degree. Peters also authored bipartisan legislation into law to allow more veterans to use their GI bill benefits toward securing a registered apprenticeship. Peters additionally helped pass significant funding through the recent government funding law for workforce development programs and registered apprenticeships across the country.