Bridging Systems and Politics
An Alliance Forms to Promote College in High School
By Lillian Pace
Students throughout the U.S. face persistent challenges of postsecondary readiness, access, affordability and completion. Because of these challenges, students often must enroll in remedial courses, drop out before earning a degree or graduate with thousands of dollars of student loan debt.
But there’s a way to address these barriers to postsecondary success while also rethinking our traditional education system. And policymakers, practitioners and education stakeholders are starting to take notice.
Early college high schools and dual and concurrent enrollment break down traditional silos between K-12 and higher education, enabling students to earn postsecondary credit while in high school. Both options put students on a more efficient pathway to college, lower the cost of postsecondary education and reduce the amount of time needed to complete a college degree.
Unfortunately, traditional policy and funding silos have made it challenging to bring these programs to scale.
Fortunately, more than three dozen organizations have joined together to form the College in High School Alliance (CHSA) in an effort to better leverage federal and state policies to support these evidence-based models. Alliance members share the belief that greater support for dual and concurrent enrollment and early college high school programs at the federal, state and local levels will significantly improve the secondary and post-secondary outcomes of students, particularly those from low- and moderate-income backgrounds.
Current Policy Opportunities With a new Presidential Administration and the 115th Congress well underway, there hasn’t been a shortage of opportunities to promote policies that advance these evidence-based models. Additionally, enactment of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has generated significant activity at the state level as policymakers work to craft new plans for implementation of the law. Here is an overview of opportunities on the federal level to expand early college and dual and concurrent enrollment opportunities throughout the country. Here are some policy initiatives that can support students in earning college credit in high school:
ESSA State Plans – ESSA empowers states and local decision-makers to implement the strategies they choose for improving teaching and learning, provided they are grounded in evidence of success. Because of this, there is a unique opportunity to create more early college high school and dual and concurrent enrollment opportunities for students. As states collaborate with stakeholders to design new education systems that comply with ESSA, CHSA is working to elevate opportunities in the new law to expand and scale dual and concurrent enrollment and early college high school programs. We released guidance and recommendations to states aligned to these opportunities in ESSA and we continue to track and engage with states as they release public drafts of their state plans for comment. CHSA hopes to serve as an ongoing resource to states throughout plan development and implementation to expand high-quality postsecondary pathway options for students.
U.S. Department of Education (ED) Pell Experimental Site – Building on the 2016 launch of ED’s Experimental Site to provide Pell Grants to high school students in 43 participating dual enrollment programs, CHSA has engaged in advocacy with the new presidential administration and Congress to support the evaluation of this experiment as well as expansion to additional sites. This experiment has the potential to inform national conversations about how to provide financial stability for school models that straddle the K-12 and higher education systems. We hope to see this work continue so we may learn valuable lessons about the experiment’s impact on institutions, financial aid systems and student participation and success.
Perkins Reauthorization – With legislative activity underway to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, the CHSA has convened a working group of its members to develop a set of recommendations for advancement of dual and concurrent enrollment and early college high school programs in the law. We continue to engage with congressional champions to help advance these recommendations, providing relevant information to guide the policymaking process. Some of the most impactful early college high school and dual enrollment programs are part of a career and technical education pathway. Greater funding flexibility and alignment for these programs within the goals of the nation’s federal career and technical education law would help ensure that more students benefit from these evidence based models.
HEA Reauthorization – Similarly, the CHSA has begun to engage around reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Members are participating in a working group to develop recommendations for advancing these programs through the law and continue to work closely with our congressional champions to help them integrate these programs into their priorities for reauthorization. The Higher Education Act could be a powerful vehicle for scaling these programs particularly as we look to modernize the federal financial aid system to increase student access and affordability of higher education.
This activity is just the start of what we believe will be a long, and successful track record of work to help practitioners and policymakers break through traditional systems so high school students have greater access to high-quality postsecondary options. The powerful results of these programs speak for themselves. As policymakers debate solutions for tackling the nation’s college access and affordability problems, early college and dual and concurrent enrollment are a simple and obvious solution.
- The Daily Advance – Camden Early College grads make history
- Sioux City Journal – Four students earn college associate degrees before graduating from high school
- Naples Daily News – TIF students get healthy start on college while still in high school