Statement on America's College Promise Act

Media Contact:
Lynn Reddy, (240) 450- 3830, lreddy@achievingthedream.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                    

The America’s College Promise Act, introduced yesterday by Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Rep. Bobby Scott, would waive two years of community college tuition, making higher education affordable for millions of students seeking the skills and credentials that offer a foothold in today’s economy. Modeled on a proposal unveiled by President Obama in his 2015 State of the Union, the legislation recognizes that more than two-thirds of jobs will require post-secondary education or training within just a few years. Today’s high school graduate already must expect to earn $1 million less than a college graduate over the course of his or her working life.

Congress is now joining the President in directing the path to middle class life in 21st century America through institutions of higher education, especially community colleges, where almost half of all undergraduates, more than a third of first-generation students, and the lowest-income students in non-profit higher education are enrolled. Achieving the Dream applauds the introduction of this legislation, the next step in a process that brings our nation closer to providing wider access to higher education for the next generation. The America’s College Promise Act would make it possible for a full-time student to save an average of $3,800 in tuition each year. If all 50 states participated in the program, as many as nine million students could benefit.

But all efforts to increase access, especially one as sweeping as the America’s College Promise Act, must be accompanied by deep, sustained attention to community college reforms that address persistently low graduation rates. In other words, our commitment to access must be matched or even exceeded by a commitment to success. The America’s College Promise Act will encourage essential conversations about success, and Achieving the Dream, a national nonprofit leading more than 200 reform-minded institutions, welcomes the opportunity to contribute knowledge drawn from a decade of experience leading and supporting change aimed at both access and success in community colleges.

Colleges like Community College of Philadelphia, Harper College in Illinois, Roane State Community College and Jackson State Community College in Tennessee and now ten Achieving the Dream colleges in Oregon are giving us bold tuition-free models to learn from. To boost completion, institutions like Miami Dade College and Davidson County Community College are narrowing course choices and providing the guidance students need to move efficiently through programs of study that lead to credentials required for jobs that offer family-sustaining wages. Other colleges like Northern Virginia Community College have developed programs like Pathways to the Baccalaureate that establish collaborative relationships between area public school systems and regional public and private four-year institutions to guarantee students’ smooth transitions to and through college to employment. At the state level, community college systems such as those in North Carolina and Virginia have redesigned the way students become college-ready and succeed in entry-level coursework. All of these innovations are assuring that the communities and the people they serve will have brighter economic and civic lives.

The combination of innovation on the ground, supportive state policies, and meaningful investment will not only guarantee access but success for all low income students attending any community college in any state. The time has come to invest in the institutions and the strategies that can restore our nation’s economic competitiveness and fulfill America’s promise for a better life for ourselves and our children.

Achieving the Dream (ATD) leads a growing network of more than 220 community colleges committed to helping their students, particularly low-income students and students of color, achieve their goals for academic success, personal growth, and economic opportunity. ATD is making progress in closing academic achievement gaps and accelerating student success through a unique change process that builds each college’s institutional capacities in seven essential areas. ATD, along with nearly 75 experienced coaches and advisors, works closely with Network colleges in 41 states and the District of Columbia to reach more than 4 million community college students.

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