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States Find New Ways to Expand Access to Higher Education

May 14, 2015

Forty-one states are spending less per student than before the 2008 recession, according to a recent study from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. As a result, more of the burden of higher education costs is being passed on to students, putting college out of reach for many. With state budgets still tight, many states are experimenting with new ways to make a college education accessible to all students.

Last week, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed legislation removing barriers to dual enrollment for high school students taking post-secondary courses. SB 132 streamlines requirements for high school juniors and seniors to take universities courses, including virtual courses, for credit. The revisions are based on the findings of the state's 2014 Dual Enrollment Task Force. High schools will be able to apply for grants to provide transportation to dual enrollment students, and tuition will be covered by the state. A separate bill, SB 2, will allow students to simultaneously pursue credit for a high school degree and a technical college or associate's degree at a public institution. Gov. Deal said the program will target training in strategic industries.

By allowing secondary students to pursue college credit, the state hopes to keep students engaged and encourage them to achieve a post-secondary degree. Dual enrollment also can reduce reliance on student loans, reducing debt and providing more opportunities for low-income households. The Newnan Times-Journal reports that a student who takes the equivalent of one year of college coursework while in high school could save $16,000.

Tennessee is expanding dual enrollment options by allowing students to take college classes through Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) at no charge for the first two courses. While dual enrollment has long existed through the state's community colleges, the MTSU program is the first to be offered by a four-year institution. Classes may be taken on campus or online.

Maryland is pursuing a similar route toward increasing access and reducing debt. A pair of new bills would launch pilot efforts to steer low-income students toward post-secondary training. SB 816 establishes a pilot outreach program, funding public-private collaborations to encourage low-income students to pursue a college degree. SB 942 creates an apprenticeship pilot program that would allow students to receive hands-on training in strategic industries while earning college credit and a wage. Together, these efforts are intended to provide more students with the skills they need to succeed in the new economy while lessening tuition barriers.

 

Georgia, Maryland, Tennesseehigher ed