Over the last two years, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and his staff have publicly stated their support for dual and concurrent enrollment and have worked to incorporate dual and concurrent enrollment into administrative policy and legislative proposals. In March 2010, President Obama spoke on dropout prevention and the administration’s education priorities at an America’s Promise Alliance event launching the next phase of their Grad Nation campaign. In discussing college and career readiness, the President stated that his administration will encourage schools to “allow students to earn a high school diploma and an associate’s degree or college credit at the same time.”
2010 was a year of great promise for dual and concurrent enrollment on Capitol Hill, with two significant legislative proposals backed by the Obama Administration that would have provided funding for dual and concurrent enrollment. These two proposals, the American Graduation Initiative (AGI) and the College Pathways and Accelerated Learning program, were both set aside by Congress due to competing priorities, as with many other education improvement initiatives during 2010.
American Graduation Initiative
The American Graduation Initiative (AGI) was designed as a mechanism to achieve the Administration’s goal of an additional 5 million community college graduates by 2020. It would have provided $630 million in competitive challenge grants to community colleges to develop new strategies and implement proven programs. College grantees would have been required to implement at least 2 of 10 activities identified as increasing college attendance and success, one of which was “[b]uilding or enhancing linkages, including the development of dual enrollment programs and early college high schools.” The administration proposed to fund AGI using cost savings from student financial aid reform. AGI was included in the version of the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009 (SAFRA) (H.R. 3221) that passed the U.S. House of Representatives in September 2009. Congress ultimately passed SAFRA in conjunction with health care reform (the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010); however, AGI was eliminated to reduce the total budgetary impact of the bill. While there was support for AGI in both the House and the Senate, it is unlikely that a source of funding necessary to launch as ambitious an initiative will reappear anytime soon.
College Pathways and Accelerated Learning
In March 2010, the Obama administration released its Blueprint for Reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Included in the Blueprint was a proposed new College Pathways and Accelerated Learning program to provide competitive grants to school districts to better prepare students for high school graduation and college success through dual enrollment, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and other accelerated learning opportunities. Optimistic that the ESEA would be reauthorized this year, the President’s FY 2011 budget requested $100 million for the College Pathways program.
Throughout the spring and summer 2010, both the House and Senate held hearings on ESEA Reauthorization, on topics including improving America’s secondary schools, rural high school reform, and school turnaround. However, no reauthorization bills were introduced in either chamber of Congress. Some political commentators believe ESEA Reauthorization stands a good chance of passing during 2012, as it is one of the few topics where bipartisan cooperation has succeeded in the past. The last reauthorization, known as No Child Left Behind, was proposed by President George W. Bush and passed by wide margins in both the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate.
The administration’s budget request for the College Pathways program for the 2011 federal fiscal year similarly faced Congressional inaction. The 111th Congress adjourned in late December without passing a budget for the fiscal year which began on Oct. 1, 2010. Instead it passed a series of Continuing Resolutions temporarily funding all federal programs through March, based on fiscal year 2010 appropriations. The Continuing Resolution does not make any statutory changes to the ESEA, which would be required to establish the College Pathways and Accelerating Learning initiative. Meanwhile, the President’s budget proposal for the 2012 federal fiscal year once again proposes funding the College Pathways program.