Early Access to Pell Grants for Dual Enrollment

October 30, 2015
For more information, contact:
Adam Lowe
Executive Director
(919) 593-5205 or alowe@nacep.org

Federal Government Experiments with Allowing Low-Income Dual Enrollment Students to Access Student Financial Aid Early

NACEP Executive Director Adam Lowe Joins Secretary Duncan for Announcement
on the Largest Federal Investment in Dual and Concurrent Enrollment to Date

In a visit to Memphis, where NACEP has documented a sustained effort to expand access to dual and concurrent enrollment to all students, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced a one-time $20 million investment in dual enrollment to increase low-income student participation in these successful programs. At the announcement, NACEP Executive Director Adam Lowe will moderate a dual enrollment roundtable featuring Secretary Duncan, a dual enrollment student, alumnus, instructor, and counselor, as well as officials from the Shelby County School District, Southwest Tennessee Community College, and the Tennessee Department of Education.

While many states and 70% of colleges and universities subsidize the tuition costs of these programs, many students who would be eligible for Pell Grants if they had completed high school traditionally find themselves ineligible and thus penalized for embarking on their college education early.

By waiving the high school diploma requirement for students taking dual and concurrent enrollment courses from colleges and universities that participate in the Department's experiment, low income students will be able to have early access to their Pell Grants, the largest federal program of student financial aid.

“While this experiment is not the long-term, sustainable funding approach necessary to ensure access to dual and concurrent enrollment by low-income students, it’s certainly going to benefit the 10,000 participating students,” remarked NACEP Executive Director Adam Lowe. “The lessons we learn from the experiment will inform local, state, and federal policy-makers on how an early investment in low-income students’ college education can have a positive return-on-investment.”

Of the 2,000 colleges and universities that offer dual and concurrent enrollment programs, 66% of institutions report that some parents and students contributed toward tuition. As a result, lower income students take dual and concurrent enrollment courses at a lower rate than their higher income counterparts—unpublished data from the Department's ten state High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 shows that 19% of lower income students completed a dual enrollment course as compared with 23% of higher income students.

“A postsecondary education is one of the most important investments students can make in their future. Yet the cost of this investment is higher than ever, creating a barrier to access for some students, particularly those from low-income families,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “We look forward to partnering with institutions to help students prepare to succeed in college.”

Secretary Duncan’s administration has included dual and concurrent enrollment in a number of the Department's programs throughout his six year term, including Race to the Top, College Access Challenge Grants, Investing in Innovation grants, Promise Neighborhoods, Youth CareerConnect, School Improvement Grants, and ESEA Flexibility Waivers. For the last five years, the Administration has proposed budgets that include funding for low-income student participation in dual and concurrent enrollment in a proposed College Pathways and Accelerated Learning fund—which Congress has not funded.

While there is strong bipartisan support in both Congressional chambers for including dual and concurrent enrollment programs in the reauthorization of the Elementary & Secondary Education Act, federal funding provided to states for low-income student participation in accelerated courses invests solely in exam-based coursework such as Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate rather than dual and concurrent enrollment.

In making the Pell experiment for dual enrollment announcement in Memphis, the Department highlighted the city’s sustained multi-year effort to broaden access to dual and concurrent enrollment courses for all high school students. This initiative is noteworthy among the nation’s large urban school districts, where fewer dual and concurrent enrollment opportunities exist, and those tend to be available only to select students in relatively well-off schools. Last year NACEP published a case study on Memphis’ strategies to reduce financial and other barriers to student participation and development of partnerships and administrative structures to support schools to grow dual and concurrent enrollment course offerings.


About the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships: NACEP works to ensure that college courses offered in high schools are as rigorous as courses offered on the sponsoring college campus. As the sole accrediting body for concurrent enrollment partnerships, NACEP helps these programs adhere to the highest standards so students experience a seamless transition to college and teachers benefit from meaningful, ongoing professional development. To advance the field and support our national network of 370 colleges and universities, 45 high schools and school districts, and 22 state agency and system office partners, we actively share the latest knowledge about best practices, research, and advocacy. Our recently concluded national conference in Denver, Colorado provided eight hundred fifty attendees with the latest information and strategies to develop effective college transition programs.



From a press release from the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships.