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Peters, Cassidy, Kaine, Boozman Reintroduce Bipartisan Legislation to Make Higher Education More Accessible & Affordable

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), Tim Kaine (D-VA) and John Boozman (R-AR) today reintroduced bipartisan legislation to expand opportunities for high school students to obtain college credit in an effort to make higher education more accessible and affordable. The Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act (MEAA) would help improve high school and college graduation rates by expanding the use of existing grants to institutions of higher education to support dual or concurrent enrollment initiatives and early college high school programs.  

“The rising costs of higher education should not deter hardworking, motivated students from furthering their careers and obtaining a quality higher education degree or credential,” said Senator Peters. “This bipartisan bill will help students in Michigan and across the country earn college credit and pursue their dreams without having to take on crippling student loan debt that is damaging to their financial future. I’ll continue working to ensure education opportunities beyond high school are more accessible and affordable for families and students.” 

“The high price tag of higher education holds far too many Louisiana students back,” said Dr. Cassidy. “This bill reduces the financial strain on Louisiana families by making college and career level courses available to more high school students. This creates a highly capable workforce that brings high-skilled jobs with good pay and benefits to our state and the rest of the country.”

“College costs are too burdensome for too many students,” said Senator Kaine. “I benefitted from dual enrollment as a high school student, and I’ve been committed to ensuring that students today can benefit from dual enrollment too. I’m proud to help introduce this bipartisan legislation to make higher education more accessible and affordable for every American and strengthen access to programs that will support our future leaders.” 

“Creating more affordable opportunities for students to pursue higher education will give them the tools and skills they need to be successful in today’s job market,” said Senator Boozman. “Concurrent enrollment and early college programs have a proven track record of effectiveness in Arkansas. This bill will improve access to courses that put students on the path to well-paying careers.”

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:

  • 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:

“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.” 

“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.” 

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

“Strengthening the connection between high school, college and career accelerates postsecondary attainment and leads to stronger economic outcomes, particularly for low-income students, as well as Black, Native American, and Latinx students,” said Maria Flynn, President and CEO, Jobs for the Future. “Earning college credit in high school, through dual enrollment or early college high schools, is a critical step in creating an education system that works for everyone. The Making Education Accessible and Affordable Act would support the expansion of college in high school programs so that more students can benefit from these opportunities.”

“This bipartisan plan is a tremendous step in supporting high school students on their pathway to a college, technical degree, or other post-secondary opportunity by investing in and expanding dual-enrollment and stackable credit programs,” said Ronn Nozoe, CEO of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. “The Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act is a commonsense approach that school leaders across the country support.”  

“Strengthening the connection between secondary and postsecondary education, and expanding dual and concurrent enrollment programs, is critical to ensuring students have the skills that today’s labor market demands,” said LeAnn Wilson, Executive Director of the Association for Career and Technical Education. “By improving access to higher education for secondary students and by providing professional development resources to educators, MEAA makes important strides in fueling the talent pipeline for the 21st century American workforce. ACTE is pleased to endorse the bill and commends its bipartisan sponsors.” 

“Industry and education must collaborate to find innovative ways to address the workforce readiness gaps in the country's high demand fields,” said Mark Smith, Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning (MACUL) Executive Director. “The MACUL sees great promise in MEAA's focus on reducing the costs of education, while increasing both career opportunities and skills attainment. MEAA can make a difference for America's students and industries.” 

“Funding to expand programs that help high school students earn college credit is a meaningful investment in bolstering student success and degree completion,” said James O. Sawyer IV, President of Macomb Community College. “With nearly 2,500 students in dual enrollment and our early college program, we have seen the significant impact that results from these experiences, not only in making in college more accessible and affordable, but by also providing clear, achievable pathways to careers.”

“During my eight years as superintendent in Muskegon County, I have seen firsthand the positive impact of our early college program on the many students who have completed an associate’s degree at our community college while attending high school,” said Dr. John Severson, Muskegon Area ISD Superintendent. “We are so proud of our students who have also earned stackable credentials in STEM and other great career programs and degrees.  Such success has allowed many of our students to transfer to a four-year college or immediately start their careers. With the shortage of talent for future jobs, early college programs provide fantastic career opportunities for students, some of which are the first to go to college in their families. We thank Senator Peters for leading this effort to expand these programs and help students jumpstart their careers.”

“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.”  

“Dual credit programming, including dual enrollment and early colleges, allows our students to experience a smooth transition from high school to higher education, and saves families thousands of dollars,” said Dr. Steve Robinson, President of Lansing Community College. “The Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act benefits our most vulnerable students by relieving the financial burden that prevents some school districts from offering these valuable opportunities. This not only benefits individual students, by helping them achieve the education they need to succeed, but benefits entire communities and workforces.”

“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.” 

“Kellogg Community College currently serves about 1,000 dual enrolled and early college high school students from numerous school districts each semester,” said Dr. Adrien L. Bennings, President of Kellogg Community College. “While our dual enrollment and early college populations have steadily increased in recent years, 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 strategic 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 expand career readiness.”