U.S. Department of Education Approves New Experimental Sites Initiative Giving High School Students Access to Federal Pell Grants

Published oct. 30, 2015

This morning, the U.S. Department of Education announced a new Experimental Sites Initiative that will allow high school students to access federal Pell grants in order to take credit-bearing college courses. Following the announcement, the Department will invite postsecondary institutions partnered with public secondary schools or local education agencies to participate in the experiment. In the 2016-17 academic award year, the Department will invest as much as $20 million in this experiment, which will benefit 10,000 low-income students throughout the country.

Eligible institutions are encouraged to apply. The Department has released guidelines of what promising candidates should reflect and will release more information next week.

The expansion of college courses taken by high school students—especially programs for low-income youth and first generation college students—has often been hindered by college course tuition costs that are unaffordable for students and unable to be assumed by sponsoring high school and college partners. This new experiment will afford these students the opportunity to complete a significant amount of college coursework through dual enrollment and early college high schools. Students partaking in these programs enroll in postsecondary coursework and earn college credit while simultaneously earning their high school diploma.

Studies have shown that students who earn college credit while still in high school, enter and persist in college at rates that surpass students nationwide. It is becoming increasingly important to broaden access of college courses to high school students—now more than ever. Individually, a postsecondary credential is becoming a prerequisite for economic well being. And, collectively, our economy and democracy depend on a well-educated citizenry. This new experiment is just one more positive step toward ensuring that young people have the skills and credentials needed to succeed.

Jobs for the Future applauds the launch of the Federal Pell Grant Experimental Sites along with our partner organizations, Bard College, KnowledgeWorks, Middle College National Consortium, the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships, and the Ohio Early College Association who continue to champion dual enrollment and early college efforts.

Find our original proposal here.