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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



By Mr. KOHL:

S. 3508. A bill to authorize the Secretary of Education to make grants to support early college high schools and other dual enrollment programs; to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Mr. KOHL. Mr. President, today I am doing my part to end the growing crisis of high school dropouts. I am introducing the Fast Track to College Act, a bill to increase high school graduation rates and improve access to college through the expansion of dual enrollment programs and early college high schools. Such programs allow young people to earn up to 2 years of college credit, including an associate's degree, while also earning their high school diploma.

As we work to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act, we must find solutions to the growing dropout crisis facing our Nation's high schools and provide opportunities for young people to pursue higher education. Recent reports have illustrated the enormous challenge: the national graduation rate is only 70 percent and is significantly lower in many large urban school districts. For example, my home State of Wisconsin has a relatively high graduation rate of 86 percent, but that rate drops to only 46 percent in the urban schools in Milwaukee. Such an achievement gap cannot continue.

For America to remain a leader in today's increasingly global economy, we must ensure that all young people obtain not only a high school diploma, but a postsecondary education as well. High dropout rates and low college attendance rates hurt individuals, families, and society. Young people who drop out of high school are at increased risk for unemployment and incarceration, and they are more likely to depend on public assistance for healthcare, housing and other basic needs. Conversely, adults with a bachelor's degree will earn two thirds more than a high school graduate over the course of their working lives and are much less likely to experience unemployment or rely on social programs.

For these reasons, I ask my colleagues to support this bill, which provides competitive grant funding for dual enrollment programs that allow low-income students to earn college credit and a high school diploma at the same time. The Gates Foundation has been funding and evaluating such programs for several years now, and they have found that these programs work. Students can be motivated by a challenging curriculum and the tangible rewards of achievement, including free college credit and exposure to career opportunities. These programs have shown incredible promise as a tool for increasing attendance, graduation, and college enrollment rates, particularly among low-income high school students. Dual enrollment puts students on the fast track to college and increases the odds that they will not only graduate, but go on to continue their education and secure higher-paying jobs.

Specifically, this bill authorizes $100,000,000 for competitive 6-year grants to schools, with priority given to schools that serve low-income students. The funding will help defray the costs of tuition, textbooks, transportation, and other associated costs for students in early college high school and other dual enrollment programs. The bill also includes an evaluation component so we can measure the program's effectiveness.

I believe this investment in our schools will help solve the dropout crisis and secure America's future by ensuring that all young people can compete in today's global economy. Further, I believe that all children, regardless of income or other factors, deserve equal opportunities to fulfill their potential, and it is both morally and fiscally responsible for this Congress to invest in high-quality educational programs that help them reach that potential.

I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.


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