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

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), John Boozman (R-AR) and Al Franken (D-MN), and U.S. Representatives Jared Polis (D-CO) and Tom Reed (R-NY) today announced they are reintroducing bipartisan, bicameral legislation to help make college more affordable and accessible by expanding opportunities for high school students to earn college credit. The Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act (MEAA) would improve access to higher education by providing grants to eligible institutions of higher learning to create dual and concurrent enrollment and early/middle college programs that allow high school students to earn college credits before their high school graduation.

“Some form of higher education or technical certification is increasingly essential to joining today’s workforce, and the rising cost of tuition should not be a barrier that keeps students from getting the skills and education they need to succeed,” said Senator Peters. “I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation that helps students save money while getting a head start on their college education. The Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act will help ensure students are well-prepared for their chosen careers and employers have trained workers to fill the jobs of the future.”

“This legislation will help reduce the financial strain on Louisiana families and help students receive the quality education they can use to excel,” said Dr. Cassidy. “In order to bring high-skilled, well-paying jobs with good benefits to Louisiana and our nation, we need a highly capable workforce. This bill provides a next step in training American workers for the jobs of tomorrow.”

“This legislation creates an affordable opportunity for students to develop real-world skills employers need while pursing higher education. These programs have been beneficial in Arkansas by helping prepare students to enter the workforce as future employees for local businesses,” Senator Boozman said.

“As a member of the Senate Education Committee, one of my top priorities is to help make college more affordable for Minnesota students and families who are grappling with skyrocketing costs and crippling debt after graduation,” said Senator Franken. “Our commonsense, bipartisan bill would help more high school students earn college credits before they pay a dime in tuition—and it could also support professional development opportunities for educators in Minnesota who teach courses in dual enrollment programs. I look forward to working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass it into law.”

“Allowing more students to attain college credit while still in high school puts them on a clear track to achieve a college degree and excel in the workforce,” Representative Polis said. “In a day and age when college costs are skyrocketing, dual or concurrent enrollment programs are one of the most effective ways to bring down the cost of college dramatically and quickly.  These programs already work across Colorado, from urban to suburban to rural areas, from large to small school districts. They show students, especially students who are the first in their family to go to college, that earning a college degree is possible.”  

“We care about expanding educational opportunities that would lower the cost of college for hardworking families,” said Representative Reed. “Dual and concurrent enrollment programs offer students quality educational options that will prepare them for meaningful careers. This bill is a bipartisan, common sense higher education solution and I am proud to work with the other sponsors of this legislation to ease the burden of paying for college.”

The Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act (MEAA) would allow Higher Education Act Title VII Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) funding to be used to provide grants to colleges and universities. These grants can be used to:

  • Offer dual and concurrent enrollment programs as well as early/middle college programming, including covering tuition, fees, books and materials for students;
  • Provide professional development services to teachers in these programs; and
  • Support course design, course approval processes, community outreach, student counseling and support services.

Concurrent enrollment programs allow high school students to earn college credit by taking college-level courses that are taught by college-approved high school instructors within a supportive high school environment. High school students in dual enrollment programs take college-level courses while separately enrolled in both their high school and a college or university. Middle and early college high schools and programs introduce students to college-level courses as they work towards an associate’s degree or technical certification while completing their 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 coalition of educational organizations, including the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships, Council of Chief State School Officers, ACT, National Association of State Boards of Education, National Council for Community and Education Partnerships, National Education Association, Knowledge Alliance, Community Training and Assistance Center, the American Federation of Teachers, BARD College, Jobs for the Future, Middle College National Consortium and Education Northwest.

“On behalf of the Michigan Early Middle College Association (MEMCA) and its 25 Michigan-member early middle college schools 93 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.”

“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).

“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.

“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 these programs aimed at growing the state's college-educated population.”

“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 Ivery, 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.”

“Early college and dual enrollment programs are a vital way to increase college accessibility and affordability. It is important to develop sustainable funding mechanisms to support and expand these opportunities for students,” said James Jacobs, President, Macomb Community College.

“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 Mark Haag, 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.”

“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 over 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 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 29 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.”

“This legislation will help motivated students customize their coursework to create the learning environment that works best for them,” said Steven Ender, President of Grand Rapids Community College. “By introducing students to the academic expectations of college while still in high school, we can dramatically improve college preparedness and significantly boost graduation rates.”

“High quality dual enrollment classes are critical to ensuring that students get a jumpstart on their path to a postsecondary degree,” said Marc Egan, NEA Government Relations Director. “Not only can students earn college credits at a lower cost, but many dual enrollment classes provide resources on important topics such as financial literacy and exposure to university academics and faculty. NEA commends Senator Peters on this important legislation.”    

“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.”

“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.”

“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.” 

“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.”

“NASBE strongly supports Senators Peters, Cassidy, Boozman, Franken and Reps. Polis and Reed’s bipartisan effort to expand students' access to high quality dual enrollment opportunities,” said National Association of State Boards of Education Executive Director, Kris Amundson. “Dual enrollment is a proven high school and college completion strategy and a critically important tool for strengthening the nation's workforce.”

“Providing access to college courses while in high school offers kids a head start, helps them transition to a full college course load, and helps trim their college bill,” said American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten. “The Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act equips educators and students with the guidance and support they need to make these programs successful—especially for students who may see college as out of reach.” 

“ACT enthusiastically supports the Making Education Affordable Act, which expands opportunities for students to participate in dual and concurrent enrollment programs, and we applaud Senators Peters, Cassidy, Boozman, Franken and Reps. Polis and Reed for introducing it,” said Scott Montgomery, senior vice president for public affairs at ACT, Inc. “The incentives in this bill would help high school students earn college credit and move closer to a college degree. They would also communicate that high-quality programs require qualified, 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.”

“The evidence is clearer: dual enrollment helps students accumulate credits and complete their degrees,” said Michele McLaughlin, President, Knowledge Alliance. “Knowledge Alliance strongly supports the Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act, which will help expand dual enrollment to more students. Moreover, the bill requires grantees to evaluate their efforts, which will help ensure the continuous improvement of these programs.”

“Early college high schools allow students to use their time in high school to get a critical academic and financial head start on higher education, and they significantly increase students' chances of completing a college degree, and at a greatly reduced cost. We applaud Senators Peters, Cassidy, Boozman, Franken, Congressman Polis, and Congressman Reed for introducing the Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act, which would provide support to these innovative educational models that provide an effective alternative to the traditional high school through college pathway,”  said Stephen Tremaine, Vice President of Bard Early Colleges.

“Early college and dual enrollment are proven strategies to increase the number of students graduating high school, attending college, and ultimately completing postsecondary credentials and degrees.  Now more than ever, students need accelerated routes to credentials that lead to meaningful career opportunities, and the chance to earn college credit while still in high school is a critical step on that pathway,” said Maria Flynn, President and CEO, Jobs for the Future. “The Making Education Accessible and Affordable Act would support the expansion of early college and dual enrollment so more students, particularly those from underserved backgrounds, can benefit from these opportunities.”

“With college accessibility, affordability and attainment of national concern, The Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act promises bold support for early college high school and dual enrollment models, which are proven, high-impact approaches to teaching and learning,” KnowledgeWorks President and CEO Judy Peppler said. “By providing grants for these learning options, MEAA will make college a reality for hundreds of thousands of low-income, first-generation students and will help students be better prepared for successful careers.”

“Rigorous, high-quality career and technical education provides millions of students with opportunities to earn college credit and industry credentials through concurrent and dual enrollment programs,” said Association for Career & Technical Education (ACTE) Executive Director LeAnn Wilson. “The Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act (MEAA) will strengthen the secondary-postsecondary transition for high school CTE students pursuing college credit and will support professional development activities for CTE teachers. ACTE is pleased to endorse MEAA and thanks the bill’s sponsors for their leadership.”

"Today, more than half of jobs require some form of postsecondary education and yet, far too many students face steep barriers to accessing these opportunities," said Kimberly Green, Executive Director of Advance CTE.  “The Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act would greatly improve access to critical dual and concurrent enrollment programs so that more students can earn a postsecondary degree or credential at a faster rate, vastly improving their career prospects and success."