Reps. Sherrill, Castro Lead Letter to Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Schumer Urging Support for the College Completion Fund in Upcoming Budget Reconciliation

Reps. Sherrill, Castro Lead Letter to Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Schumer Urging Support for the College Completion Fund in Upcoming Budget Reconciliation

Washington, DC–– Representatives Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) and Joaquin Castro (TX-20) led a letter today to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer urging the inclusion of funding for proven college completion initiatives in the upcoming “Recovery Package.”

By including a $62 billion student success grant program in the American Families Plan proposal, President Joe Biden and his administration recognized the importance of evidence-backed programs that help college students graduate on time with a degree or credential. This letter stresses how important keeping this critical funding in the upcoming legislative package is to helping students complete their education and access good-paying jobs in the workforce.

The institutions of higher education most likely to serve students of color and low-income communities often have the fewest resources to meet student needs,” wrote the lawmakers in their letter to Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Schumer. A major investment in student success programs that have been shown through rigorous evaluations to improve key postsecondary outcomes could tackle this disparity, equipping all institutions to adequately support students with advising, mentoring, and financial, academic, and personal support.

This letter, and the $62 billion student success program, would support the same type of evidence-based college completion programs as Rep. Sherrill’s bipartisan H.R. 1521, the Fund for Innovation and Success in Higher Education (FINISH) Act. That legislation authorizes innovation grants to develop and scale evidence-based initiatives that improve outcomes in higher education, and was co-led by Rep. John Katko in the House (NY-24) and Sens. Michael Bennet (CO) and Todd Young (IN) in the Senate.

Read the full text of the letter here:

Dear Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Schumer:

As Congress begins the process of drafting a proposal to invest in our communities and families, we write to express our strong support for significant new funding for college completion initiatives. President Biden’s FY22 budget and American Families Plan proposes significant investments in college affordability, but it also recognizes that affordability isn’t enough and outlines a $62 billion evidence-based student success grant program.

Although over the last two decades the U.S. has made demonstrable progress in increasing the college-going rate among students from low-income communities, first-generation college-goers, and students of color, the college completion rate among these populations remains low compared to other students. The six-year graduation rate for Black and Latino students is almost twenty percentage points lower than that of white students, and student loan default rates are more than 20 percentage points higher among Black students than white ones. These discrepancies are unacceptable.

A large federal investment in evidence-based college completion programs has the potential to improve outcomes for students who traditionally are less likely to complete their degree programs. Research is clear that investments in academic supports and other services can help low-income, first-generation, and students of color overcome the range of impediments to college completion that they face. Comprehensive student success initiatives such as CUNY ASAP in New York, Project Quest in San Antonio, and One Million Degrees in Chicago have been shown to increase college persistence, credit accumulation, or student earnings in randomized controlled trials. For example, multiple rigorous evaluations found that CUNY ASAP doubled completion rates. Project Quest was found by multiple studies and evaluations to move people out of poverty by achieving large earnings impacts continuously over the long-term. And, a matched comparison study found that TRIO Student Support Services increased student transfer and completion rates.

Unfortunately, too often institutions serving students with the greatest barriers to completion do not have the financial resources to invest in these initiatives. The institutions of higher education most likely to serve students of color and low-income communities often have the fewest resources to meet student needs. A major investment in student success programs that have been shown through rigorous evaluations to improve key postsecondary outcomes could tackle this disparity, equipping all institutions to adequately support students with advising, mentoring, and financial, academic, and personal support. The $62 billion student success grant could help ensure that all students fulfill their potential.

As you consider a bold investment in college affordability, we urge you to pair it with a major new program to support evidence-based college completion initiatives, including those that meet the criteria for an expansion grant under the Education Innovation and Research program, an established and rigorous criteria for evaluating impact. Investing in proven student support models at two- and four-year colleges as well as affordability measures would maximize the impact of these investments, and our nation, state and local economies, and students and families themselves will reap the rewards.

Sincerely,

Mikie Sherrill, Member of Congress
Joaquin Castro, Member of Congress
J. Luis Correa, Member of Congress
Debbie Dingell, Member of Congress
Anna G. Eshoo, Member of Congress
Ruben Gallego, Member of Congress
Raúl Grijalva, Member of Congress
Carolyn B. Maloney, Member of Congress
Lucille Roybal-Allard, Member of Congress
Haley Stevens, Member of Congress
Marilyn Strickland, Member of Congress
Bennie G. Thompson, Member of Congress
Nydia Velázquez, Member of Congress

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