U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) reintroduced legislation Thursday to help increase the number of low-income and at-risk students able to access and complete a college education. The American Dream Accounts Act would authorize the Department of Education to award three-year competitive grants to support innovative and comprehensive partnerships that support low-income students in preparation for a college education.
"If America wants to remain a leader in the global market, we must provide opportunities for our students to access and complete higher education," Senator Coons said. "College not only keeps our nation competitive, but can also provide a ladder to the middle class by preparing our students for good-quality, high-paying jobs. American Dream Accounts are a way to strengthen the ability of teachers, parents, mentors, and students to work together to make sure that young people -- throughout their entire educational experience -- prepare for, save for, train for, and then fulfill a vision for their own future."
"A college education is one of the most important investments someone can make in their future, and it's important that more young people get that opportunity," Senator Rubio said. "The American Dream Accounts Act will use existing Department of Education funds to award competitive grants to organizations that provide counseling and financial support for low-income students preparing for college, affording more students the opportunity to receive a higher education and hopefully see a better life. We should be helping more qualified students attend higher education institution, and ensuring they have meaningful counseling about their academic and professional future."
Endorsed by the Delaware PTA, Delaware State University and the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, the American Dream Accounts Act encourages partnerships among schools, colleges, non-profits and businesses to develop secure, Web-based student accounts that contain information about academic preparedness, financial literacy and high-impact mentoring and would be tied to a college savings account. Instead of approaching these threads independently, this bill connects students, parents and teachers across silos, and takes a small but significant step toward helping more at-risk students of all income levels access, afford and complete a college education.
The American Dream Accounts Act authorizes the Department of Education to award three-year competitive grants to local partnerships that:
-Create personal online accounts for low-income students that monitor higher education readiness and include a college savings account. These "American Dream Accounts" would stay with students from school to school and through college. Parents would grant vested stakeholders (including counselors, teachers, coaches, mentors, and others) access to the account to update student information, monitor progress, and provide college preparatory support.
-Open college savings accounts for students. Every ADA would include a college savings account for each student. Grantees that can provide these accounts with seed money would be prioritized.
-Support college readiness by securely monitoring students' progress online. Academic and behavioral information, including grades and course selections, progress reports, and attendance and disciplinary records would be available for review in an ADA, which would also provide opportunities to gain financial literacy, prepare for college enrollment, and identify skills and career interests.
-Collect data about effective ways to assist high-risk students in planning for college through a comprehensive monitoring and reporting system.
-Cost nothing. Funding would come from existing Department of Education funds.
Early investment is key. Sixty-eight percent of Delaware high school students graduate, and the rate drops dramatically in minority communities, with only 59 percent of Hispanic students and 59 percent of African American students earning a high school diploma. American Dream Accounts can help close that gap by giving students motivation and support early on, including the knowledge that scholarships, Pell and SEED grants will be there to support them after high school.
Senators Coons and Rubio first introduced the American Dream Accounts Act in March 2012. In addition to the Delaware PTA, Delaware State University and the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, the bill has also been endorsed by the National Parent Teacher Association, the "I Have a Dream" Foundation, Opportunity Nation, the Corporation for Enterprise Development, and First Focus Campaign for Children.
U.S. Representative Chaka Fattah (D-PA-02) is expected to reintroduce the American Dream Accounts Act in the House of Representatives later this month.