Sens. Peters & Cassidy and Reps. Polis & Reed Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Make College More Affordable & Accessible

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Congressmen Jared Polis (D-CO) and Tom Reed (R-NY) today 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 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. “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; 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. 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:

“On behalf of the Michigan Early Middle College Association (MEMCA) and its twenty-three Michigan-member early middle college schools and sixty-seven early college programs, it is with excitement and appreciation that MEMCA supports the Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act (MEAA),” said Chery Wagonlander, Director of the Michigan Early Middle College Association. “This bill would lessen the financial burden significantly for these highly effective K16 models of collaboration, thus providing greater equity and access across the state of Michigan to students who will leave high school not only college and career ready but higher education experienced.”

“These programs provide a great opportunity to motivate and engage high school students by letting them know that higher education is within reach—and that they have a jump-start on succeeding at it. It’s also important that early college students, the institutions they will attend, and the faculty who will instruct them get the guidance and support embodied in the Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act,” said David Hecker, President of AFT Michigan.

“Providing greater access to dual and concurrent enrollment will increase the number of students who are able to obtain a college credential while reducing time to degree and student debt,” said Deedee Stakley, President of the Michigan Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (MiCEP) and Director of Transfer and Secondary School Partnerships at Ferris State University.

“UM-Dearborn supports efforts to make college more accessible and affordable,” said Mitch Sollenberger, Ph.D., Associate Provost for Undergraduate Programs and Integrative Learning at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. “Strengthening programs like dual enrollment allows high school students to participate in higher education while acclimating them to the rigors of a college curriculum. The Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act would provide the additional resources needed to expand programs these aimed at growing the state's college-educated population.”

“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," said Dr. Stan Jensen, President of Henry Ford College.

“Dual enrollment programs play a significant role in helping students discover their passions and select their majors early on," said Dr. Kojo Quartey, President of Monroe County Community College (MCCC). “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."

“The Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act will help students look toward the future,” said Dr. Curtis Ivory, Chancellor, Wayne County Community College District. “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.”

“We can help make college more affordable and more accessible by offering expanded opportunities for students to earn college credit while in high school in a cost effective manner,” said Ferris State University President David Eisler. “Ferris State University is proud to partner with 20 schools across Michigan to help students begin work on their college requirements, giving them a head start on completing their degrees. I thank Senator Peters for his efforts to support dual and concurrent enrollment and early college programs that will give students in Michigan more opportunities to start their college careers.”

“Earning college credit in high school prior to graduation is a life changing experience for our students,” said Rockford Public Schools Superintendent Michael Shibler. “The opportunity to experience the rigor of college coursework as well as prepare students to make more informed decisions about their postsecondary path is invaluable. We appreciate our postsecondary partners and Senator Peters’ support in bringing such an important educational option to our students and their families.”

“Early College programs are essential in accelerating academic and personal growth,” said Lansing Community College President, Dr. Brent Knight. “This bill promotes access and affordability to higher education—which will help close the skills gap and improve college attendance and completion rates.”

“Every student should have the opportunity to attend an early/middle college while in high school,” said Jim Philip, Lenawee Intermediate School District Superintendent. “These programs give students, regardless of their economic background, an opportunity to further their education and greatly increase their potential for employment and increased earnings over their lifetime. By participating in an early/middle college the student experiences the rigors of taking college coursework and must develop the maturity to determine how to use their time as their schedules are not regimented like those in a traditional high school, better preparing them for life. Senator Peters’ bill, the Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act, will greatly increase these opportunities for students and I fully support this legislation.”

“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,” said Timothy J. Nelson, President, 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.”

“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,” said Alpena Community College President, Dr. Don MacMaster. “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.”

“Opportunities while still in high school for students in rural Northern Michigan are critical for early exposure and long term success in community college, trade schools, or universities,” said Jeff Crouse, Superintendent of Charlevoix-Emmet Intermediate School District. “The opportunity to find success and build credits through an early college or direct credit program supported by federal funding is the opportunity that many first generation or other underserved populations need to build confidence, compete, and be successful at the secondary level. With issues such as geographic barriers, equal access to programs, and affordable credit cost working against them, our students need the support of federal programs to give them a great start at the next level.”

“I am a strong supporter of the Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act,” said Dr. Beverly Walker-Griffea, President, Mott Community College. “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.”

"We are grateful for Senator Peters' leadership on this issue,” said Lisa A. Hagel, Superintendent, Genesee Intermediate School District. "This bill helps remove barriers that prevent our students from exploring college level learning experiences while in high school. When we remove hurdles and allow students to grow and learn in ways that match their unique skills, we are doing the right thing."

“Northern Michigan University is deeply committed to helping students decrease their time and cost in attaining a college degree,” said Dr. Fritz Erickson, Northern Michigan University President. “Concurrent enrollment courses do exactly that for students in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula high schools who are participating in NMU’s Northern Promise program. The Northern Promise is a great opportunity for students to begin transitioning into college while still in the familiar environment of their high school. We want to thank Senator Peters for recognizing the importance of these types of programs and providing funding that will broaden their reach.”

“Dual enrollment opportunities provide university-level training early on so students get acclimated to college expectations,” said Jay Kulbertis, Gladstone Area Public Schools Superintendent. “This bill can help students accelerate their path toward an affordable degree while jumpstarting their careers after graduation.”

"High-quality dual and concurrent enrollment programs have demonstrated positive impact on college transition, persistence, and completion, especially for students traditionally underrepresented in higher education," stated Adam Lowe, Executive Director, National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP). "This bill will encourage colleges and universities to expand access to the students who will benefit the most from an early exposure to college."

“ACT applauds Sens. Peters and Cassidy on the introduction of the Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act, which brings additional attention to dual and concurrent enrollment programs,” said Scott Montgomery, Vice President at ACT, Inc. "These programs not only help college-ready high school students move closer to a college degree, but also recognize that high-quality programs require qualified and effective teachers and extensive support services.”

“The Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act grant monies will address the unmet college access challenges that economically disadvantaged students persistently encounter – course tuition costs and fees associated with textbooks and limited transportation,” said Dr. Cecilia Cunningham, Executive Director, Middle College National Consortium (MCNC). In addition the MCNC welcomes the proposed bill’s inclusion of funding for outreach, course articulation, and professional development – critical elements of successful dual enrollment and early and middle college programs.”

"Knowledge Alliance strongly supports the Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act, which will provide critical support to institutions of higher education, in the form of competitive grants, to carry out dual and concurrent enrollment programs, as well as early/middle college programming,” said Michele McLaughlin, President, Knowledge Alliance. "The research evidence supporting the successful student of outcomes of dual enrollment and early college programs is very strong, and Knowledge Alliance is therefore supportive of efforts to expand such programs. In addition, the Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act requires grantees to evaluate their efforts, which will help ensure the continuous improvement of these programs."

“Early College high schools are an innovative educational model that helps students use their time in high school to get a critical academic and financial head start on higher education, significantly increasing their chances of completing a college degree. We applaud Senator Peters, Senator Cassidy, Congressman Polis, and Congressman Reed for the Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act and urging the inclusion of funding for these proven models in the Higher Education Act,” said Stephen Tremaine, Vice President of Bard Early Colleges.

“Getting a head start on college courses while in high school can help students see college in their future. We urge the Senate to pass the Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act, which provides the guidance and support that educators and students need to make dual enrollment programs a successful pathway to higher education and good jobs,” said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers.

“The Making Education Accessible and Affordable Act would provide critical support for the development and implementation of Early College High Schools and dual or concurrent enrollment programs,” said Lexi Barrett, Director of National Education Policy, Jobs for the Future. “These schools and programs have a key role to play in increasing the number of students, particularly from underserved backgrounds, who complete high school, go on to college, and ultimately achieve postsecondary credentials and degrees.”