Congressman Dale E. Kildee (D-MI) and Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), introduced yesterday the Fast Track to College Act of 2009 to establish new early college high school partnerships and dual enrollment programs and support existing programs. These programs enable students to earn college credits while they are in high school, 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.
H.R. 1578, the Fast Track to College Act, would create a competitive grant program to support early college high school partnerships and other types of dual enrollment programs that combine high school and college curriculum to allow students to earn credit toward a postsecondary degree while still in high school. By exposing students to college-level work and a college-going culture, these programs better prepare students for a college education, motivate them to complete a postsecondary degree, and save them time and money in the process.
"Today, a college degree is what a high school diploma used to be - an indispensible part of a student's ability to succeed," said Kildee, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education. "With tuition rising in an historically harsh economic climate, the Fast Track to College Act will provide students around the country the opportunity to earn up to two years of college credit at no cost to their families while they earn their diploma -- a critical boost toward a college degree."
"Early college high schools and dual enrollment programs put students on the fast track to college and increase the odds that they will not only graduate, but go on to continue their education and secure higher-paying jobs," Senator Herb Kohl said. "I am proud to sponsor this legislation because I believe that all children, regardless of income, 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."
"The Fast Track to College Act will greatly expand postsecondary opportunities, especially for disadvantaged students, by offering dual enrollment and early college programs that allow students to get a head-start on engaging and rigorous college courses. Such programs motivate students to continue and complete their educations and promise to reverse the decline in the proportion of American students attaining postsecondary credentials," said Cynthia G. Brown, Vice President for Education Policy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
"Early college high schools are meeting President Obama's recent charge: By 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world," said Marlene B. Seltzer, President and CEO of Jobs for the Future. "This innovative legislation aligns with the President's vision and recognizes that young people need a postsecondary education to reach their maximum potential to ensure our nation is prosperous over the long run."
"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. "One of the proposals in our 12-point drop-out prevention plan is calling for creative partnerships between high schools and colleges to expand students' graduation options. The Fast Track to College Act will move us closer to that goal. It provides funds for early college high schools and other dual enrollment programs that will help students earn both a high school diploma and college credit. It also ensures that secondary schoolteachers and college faculty will be involved in the design of these schools."
The Fast Track to College Act will target at-risk students by supporting grantees' efforts to coordinate with the community to design and implement programs that include 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 school partnerships and other dual enrollment programs, such as those that are now preparing students for college and the workplace.
Kildee joined Senator Kohl, who introduced a companion bill in the Senate, at an event hosted by the Center for American Progress Action Fund and Jobs for the Future. The event featured a panel of experts and practitioners who discussed their experiences with dual enrollment and early college programs and their potential for increasing college access and completion. The archived webcast can be viewed at the following web address: http://www.americanprogressaction.org/events/2009/03/fasttrack.html.