ERN Releases 4 Recommended Congressional Actions on College Completion Fund

Higher-Ed Quality & Affordability

September 8, 2021

ERN Releases 4 Recommended Congressional Actions on College Completion Fund
Report details opportunities to address higher ed retention & completion

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Sept. 8) — As Congress takes up the Reconciliation Bill, a new report released today by Education Reform Now (ERN) details four recommendations for how existing proposals for a federal college completion fund can be strengthened to facilitate college completion.

Current proposals—including The Biden American Families Plan several Congressional bills, and the Retention and Completion Grants proposed in in the $3.5T reconciliation bill—would help address both affordability and college completion rates, yet they overlook a critical weakness in the American education system: the bridge between high school and higher ed. As a result,

“Too many students arrive at college unprepared, poorly matched, and underfunded, and too many students leave college with debt and no degree,” said report author and ERN Senior Policy Analyst James Murphy. “We have the opportunity to change that. A college competition fund has the potential to fundamentally transform higher education from a focus on student access, to student success—but only if it addresses the roots of the problem and expands the scope to include institutions beyond colleges.”

To maximize the investment in free college and a college completion fund, ERN and Murphy recommend that existing proposals include:

  1. Eligibility to participate in a federal-state partnership for free college should be tightly paired with eligibility to participate in a federal-state partnership for college completion, and vice versa.
  2. The distribution formula for a College Completion Fund should include incentives to states & colleges to distribute their own higher education funding more equitably.
  3. A portion of college completion funds should be dispersed through competitive grants available to community-based and to partnerships between high schools and institutions of higher education.
  4. A federal-state free college and college completion fund partnership should contain accountability measures, including rewards and punishments, to ensure that both programs are actually increasing college completion overall and among disaggregated subgroups.

You can read ERN’s full “Title I for High School – Higher Ed” proposal here.