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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. TheMaking 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 group of education organizations, including the Michigan Early Middle College Association, Michigan Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (MiCEP), American Federation of Teachers Michigan, 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.
“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.”