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Advocates Call on Congress to Include Dual Enrollment in Free Community College Funding

New report shows that paying for community college tuition could discourage high school students from enrolling in early college programs

For Release: Sept. 14, 2021

Contact: Dorie Turner Nolt, (404) 861-1127,

Education and civil rights advocates today called on Congress to include high school classes that also count as college credit in any plans to offer free community college to U.S. students.

As part of the sweeping American Families Plan, the Biden administration wants to expand free public education to include two years of college, an important step in making college more accessible and affordable for students. But a new report from the All4Ed, Education Reform Now, Empower Schools, Jobs for the Future, KnowledgeWorks, National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships and UnidosUS warns that a national free community college program could unintentionally discourage high school students from enrolling in evidence-based programs like dual enrollment and early college if those classes are not also free.

As Congress considers the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill, the report explores three policy options for integrating these critical programs into American Families Plan programs.

“Today, 80% of good-paying jobs require higher education, yet we also see excessive remediation rates demonstrating that many high school students are not prepared for what comes after graduation, leading to dismal college completion rates. Dual enrollment and early college programs are critical to improving college retention and completion for students, particularly for low-income and first generation students,” said All4Ed President and CEO Deborah Delisle. “With college enrollment down because of the pandemic, particularly among students of color and low-income students, it’s more critical than ever that we invest in programs leading to students securing degrees that prepare them for success. Our country’s economy depends upon a well-educated citizenry. We must invest today for our future.”

Legislation passed by the House Committee on Education and Labor to offer free community college as part of the reconciliation bill supports greater alignment between high school and higher education, including allowing states to use extra free community college funds to expand dual enrollment programs and to use new funding supporting college retention and completion for college-in-high-school programs. In addition to these important steps, the new report from All4Ed and others recommends allowing high school students to be eligible to receive a limited number of free, transferable credits through the free community college program.

Years of research has shown the significant impact of college-in-high-school programs on outcomes for students. A What Works Clearinghouse Intervention Report from the Institute of Education Sciences on dual or concurrent enrollment and a long-running American Institutes for Research study on early college high school show that these approaches effectively improve both student access and success in college, particularly for low income-students and historically marginalized students. In addition, recent state-specific studies in Colorado, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Texas and North Carolina show the same kind of impact.

Read the new report and more about college and career readiness at


All4Ed is a Washington, DC–based national policy, practice, and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring that all students, particularly those underperforming and those historically underserved, graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship.

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September 13, 2021

Advocacy, Publication | College and Career Pathways, Congress, COVID Response & Recovery, High Schools, Higher Education

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