Today, U.S. Representatives Dale E. Kildee (D-MI), Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) and Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI) introduced a bill to put students on a pathway to earning a postsecondary degree while attending high school. The Fast Track to College Act authorizes the Secretary of Education to award grants to partnerships of school districts and local universities and colleges to establish "early college high schools" and "dual enrollment programs." These programs reduce drop out rates, keep students engaged and provide a seamless transition for students as they graduate from high school and move on to college.
"Today, a college degree is what a high school diploma used to be - an indispensible part of a student's ability to succeed economically and be an informed citizen," said Kildee, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education. "The Fast Track to College Act will provide students around the country with the opportunity to earn up to two years of college credit at no cost to their families, at the same time they earn their high school diploma, giving them a critical boost towards a college degree."
"Now, more than ever, America's success depends on what the next generation can learn, but we have an education system built on last-century ideas," said Emanuel. "It is simply unacceptable that one out of every three students does not graduate from high school. Providing students with the opportunity to succeed in college-level classes will not only keep students engaged, but will also be an important step in readying our children to lead our next generation into a new century."
The Fast Track to College Act will target at-risk students by coordinating with the community, designing and implementing curriculum, professional development, academic and social support services, and other activities that promote academic achievement. It will provide greater access to high quality early college high schools, such as those that are now preparing students for college and the workplace in Michigan and around the country. Dual Enrollment Programs allow students to enroll in college level courses at their local institutions of higher education. According to a 2007 report issued by the Community College Resource Center, dual enrollment programs have proven to be successful in New York and Florida.
"The innovative concept of challenging students to live up to their potential is an investment worth making," said Kohl. "With this legislation, we do just that by establishing a resource for high schools to challenge students to accomplish more, graduate, and get on the fast track to a college degree and a well paying job. Congressmen Kildee and Emanuel deserve high praise for their leadership on this issue in the House of Representatives."
"Early College High Schools and Dual Enrollment Programs are two of the most promising innovations for expanding college access and success today," said John Podesta, President and Chief Executive Officer at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. "This bill will put more students on a path towards a college degree, better preparing them to succeed in our knowledge-based economy."
"The schools supported by this Act provide a jump start on college for students who might not otherwise have the opportunity to attendand succeed. This innovative legislation recognizes that young people need a postsecondary education to reach their maximum potential to ensure our communities and our nation are prosperous over the long-run," said Marlene Seltzer, President and CEO, Jobs for the Future.
"Far too many students, particularly minority and low-income students, fail to graduate high school or attend college," said National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel. "In October 2006, NEA released our 12-point drop-out prevention action plan. One of our proposals called for creative partnerships between high schools and colleges to expand students' graduation options. The Fast Track to College Act by Representative Kildee, Representative Emanuel, and Senator Kohl will move us closer to that goal by providing funds for early college high schools and other dual enrollment programs that will assist students to earn both a high school diploma and up to one or two years of college credit. I am also pleased that the bill ensures that secondary school teachers and college faculty will be involved in the design of these schools."