Thirty concurrent enrollment professionals joined NACEP in Washington, DC for two days last week, for its annual Washington Policy Seminar. The delegation met with key policymakers to learn about current policies and legislation affecting concurrent enrollment programs. NACEP members traveled from Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia and Washington and represented public and private universities and colleges, state/system offices and secondary schools.
Jonathan Bryant, Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs, Herkimer College stated, “The Washington Policy Seminar is a great opportunity to stay informed on issues affecting Herkimer at the federal level. I want to make sure that we are serving our students the best that we can, and staying abreast of what is happening at the national level, as well as connecting to national organizations, is crucial to making sure we can do that.”
Participants heard from a number of organizations actively working on educational policy in Washington, DC. Topics covered included the current federal policy landscape, college affordability, common core state standards, and competency-based education. (Agenda)
Organizations and government agencies represented included:
- Alliance for Excellent Education
- American Association of State Colleges and Universities
- Bard College
- Council of Chief State School Officers
- Jobs for the Future
- Middle College National Consortium
- National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity
- National Association for College Admission Counseling
- National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium
- National Governors Association
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce
- U.S. Department of Labor
This year, NACEP’s Washington Policy Seminar was held simultaneously with the Middle College National Consortium (MCNC) Student Leadership Conference. At the conference, one hundred fifty students from seventeen high schools from across the country converged on Capitol Hill to lobby their congress members and senators for increased funding for Early/Middle College high schools and dual enrollment programs. A participating student, Gerald Williams, from Edgecombe Early College High School, stated, “Education is key; education is purpose.” Gerald explained that because of early college he now knows how to get the help he needs to make sure he continues his education.
There is currently bipartisan support for concurrent and dual enrollment in Washington; however, the availability of federal funds for such programs is limited. In partnership with Bard College, Jobs for the Future, the Middle College National Consortium, and the KnowledgeWorks Foundation, NACEP hosted a congressional briefing -- Investing in Student Success: Maximizing the Return on Financial Aid Through Early College and Dual and Concurrent Enrollment -- to explain the benefits of dual and concurrent enrollment to Congressional staff and other DC-based policy-makers. Presenters described how the lack of federal student financial aid for college courses taken by low-income high school students adversely impacted students and programs.
During the briefing, Senator Christopher Coons from Delaware, expressed that dual and concurrent enrollment programs have already proved successful; however, the challenge is to get Congress to catch up to the idea.
NACEP’s President-elect Kent Scheffel, Vice President of Enrollment Services at Lewis and Clark Community College (IL) who participated as a panelist stated, “Many secondary students realize they have the potential to earn a certificate or degree after completing assignments in their concurrent enrollment classes.” Lewis and Clark’s concurrent enrollment program currently has enrolled 2,636 secondary students in 420 career and technical education classes. Scheffel explained that, unfortunately, not all students can take advantage of the opportunity because of limited funding.
Toria Hawkins an 11th Grade Student at the Academy of Health Sciences (MD) who also participated as a panelist explained that her early college experience has eliminated distractions, encouraged her to take initiative, challenged her, and made her more independent. Toria stated that because there are higher expectations placed on early college high school students, it has taught her “not to fear yourself” and to “raise your goals.”
Research has shown that dual and concurrent enrollment students, including low-income and first-generation college students, are significantly more likely to enroll in college and complete college degrees than comparison students who do not take college courses while in high school. In addition to improving academic outcomes, dual and concurrent enrollment programs can also save students and their families a significant about of money as they are generally offered at reduced cost or for free, but high school students who would otherwise be eligible for Pell grants are unfairly penalized for starting their college education early if they have to contribute to tuition, fees, books and/or equipment.
Other speakers at the briefing included Dr. Cecilia Cunningham, Director, Middle College National Consortium; Kathryn Young, Director of National Education Policy, Jobs for the Future; Yevgeniya Bulayevskaya, Alumna, Bard High School Early College (NY); and Michael Carter, Superintendent of School and Community Partnerships at Sinclair Community College (OH).