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Polis, Peters, Cassidy, Reed Introduce Bill to Improve College Access, Reduce Costs

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Washington, February 22, 2016 | comments

Rep. Jared Polis (CO-02), Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), and Tom Reed (NY-23) today introduced bicameral legislation to expand dual and concurrent enrollment programs, which improve higher education access by enabling high school students to enroll in college courses for credit. The bill, entitled the Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act, will provide funding for colleges and universities to develop and expand dual enrollment programs at local high schools.  

“Dual enrollment has been a successful initiative in Colorado that has prepared students for college, improved university retention rates, and reduced the overall price of a college degree,” Polis said. “Summit High School, for instance, has used its proximity to Colorado Mountain College to establish an effective dual enrollment program that provides students with valuable experiences generally not offered in a high school classroom. Our bill will expand on well-tested programs like the SHS-CMC partnership to broaden access to dual enrollment throughout the country. These programs are a win for everyone – for students who get their first taste of college coursework, for families who can save on tuition, and for our education system, which benefits from lower dropout rates and higher student engagement.”

The Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act will expand existing federal grant opportunities to encompass both current and new dual enrollment programs and help train teachers for a broader role in the classroom. These programs also include funding that can be applied in various ways to assist students and faculty with tuition, books, and transportation costs.

“Dual enrollment allows the state to leverage the limited resources we have to make a college education more accessible and affordable,” said Lt. Governor Joe Garcia, executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education. “Since 2009, when the state reformed its dual enrollment programs, it has grown significantly, particularly among traditionally underserved students – increasing by 2,700 percent for Hispanic students and 4,367 percent for African American students by 2013-2014.  Dual enrollment is one tool we can use to close the divide between Coloradans who traditionally attain a postsecondary certificate or degree and Coloradans who do not.”

“Dual enrollment, also known as concurrent enrollment, is a low-cost, highly innovative and collaborative policy that enables tens of thousands of high school students throughout the nation to earn college credit while still in high school,” said Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser, Colorado Mountain College’s president and CEO. “In our own service area, we see more and more students each year receive certificates and associate degrees before they even graduate from high school. Not only does concurrent enrollment reduce the cost of a college education, it creates opportunities unknown to previous generations of students. It can be a tool that helps colleges and high schools work together to address needs for remedial education. And, it will be part of the future of all education systems across America, from urban centers to rural, remote communities.”

"Congressman Polis' proposed legislation will provide students greater opportunity to experience college-level rigor while in high school,” said Dr. Bruce K. Messinger, Superintendent, Boulder Valley School District. “In addition, younger students will have increased college level experiences and develop their career and college plans."

In 2009, Colorado’s state legislature passed a bill that created the state’s concurrent enrollment program, which allows high school students to participate in courses for college credit. The program has been a tremendous success in both large and small school districts. According to a study by the Colorado Department of Higher Education, Colorado students who participated in dual enrollment programs were less likely to need remedial courses in college. Participation in concurrent enrollment was also associated with a 23 percent increase in the likelihood of enrolling in college immediately after high school graduation.

Polis, a senior member of the House Education and Workforce Committee, has introduced several bills to make college more affordable, including the ExCEL Act, which makes student loan repayments more manageable, the Affordable College Textbook Act, which targets textbook costs, and the Simplifying the Application for Student Aid Act, which will streamline the process for completing the FAFSA and give students more time to financially plan for college.

Polis represents two major universities – Colorado State University and the University of Colorado at Boulder – as well as several leading technical and community colleges, including Colorado Mountain College and Front Range Community College. The founder of several charter schools, Polis is a longstanding advocate for using innovative models to improve access to education at all levels.

The Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act (MEAA) is supported by a broad group of education 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.

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Tags: Education

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