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Warner, Portman lead Senate push for analysis of dual enrollment programs

(© W. Scott McGill –

U.S. Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, are encouraging the Department of Education to expand its planned analysis of federal K-12 education spending to include dual and concurrent enrollment programs and early college high schools.

In their letter, the senators urged the department to examine utilization, outcomes and best practices of college in high school programs that receive funding through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

The most recent reauthorization of ESEA – the Every Student Succeeds Act – passed on a bipartisan basis in 2015 with the support of Sens. Warner and Portman, who both successfully included a number of provisions to increase access to dual and concurrent enrollment programs.

“As strong supporters of college in high school programs such as dual enrollment, concurrent enrollment, and early college high school programs, we write to urge the U.S. Department of Education to examine how school districts are using federal funding opportunities created by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to support increasing student access to high quality programs that promote academic success,” wrote the senators. “ESSA recognizes the important roles that these college in high school programs can play in preparing students—particularly those from low-income and underrepresented backgrounds—for success in college and career. Through these programs, high school students gain exposure to the academic challenges of college, earning transcripted, transferable college credit often at reduced or no tuition cost.”

“Numerous rigorous, multi-institution, and statewide quantitative research studies in more than a dozen states have proven that these programs increase high school graduation, college readiness, and college access, persistence, and completion, especially for students traditionally underrepresented in higher education,” they continued. “An examination by the Department of school districts’ use of funds to support college in high school programs would be timely and help inform future policymaking to ensure more low-income and underrepresented students have access to these successful models.”

In December, the Department of Education announced its plan to analyze the dollars spent by 400 of the nation’s school districts on five programs (Part A of Titles I, II, III and IV of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and Title I, Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).

This analysis would be the government’s first education spending study of its kind to occur since 2009.

Warner and Portman have been strong advocates of expanding access to dual and concurrent enrollment. They introduced legislation last year to allow eligible low-income students to use their Pell Grant funding to pay for college credits they accrue while still in high school. Sens. Warner and Portman have also been supportive of the Department of Education’s dual enrollment Pell experimental program, which allows eligible students at 42 sites across the country – including Central Virginia Community College – to access their Pell Grant dollars while enrolled in dual enrollment courses.

In 2018, they urged the Administration to consider expanding the dual enrollment Pell experiment to meet the goal of 10,000 participating low-income high school students.

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