Press Releases

Warner, Portman Introduce Bill to Increase College Access for Low-Income Students

Bipartisan legislation would let students earn college credit through Pell Grant program

Apr 06 2017

WASHINGTON—U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced bipartisan legislation to make college more affordable for low-income students by letting them earn college credits while still in high school with the help of the Pell Grant program. The Go to High School, Go to College Act would allow Pell Grant funding for eligible students to be used for transferable college credits, including core general education requirements, that students complete in an early college program offered by an accredited institution of higher education.

“Students who get a head start on college tend to perform much better than their peers, but it is a simple fact that lower-income students face unique financial challenges in jumpstarting their college educations,” said Sen. Warner. “Broader access to the Pell Grant program will provide more qualifying high school students with an opportunity to get ahead before they even reach college, and push them one step closer to graduation and success.”

“While wages have been largely flat over the past 10 years, the average cost of college tuition and fees has more than doubled,” Sen. Portman said. “A lot of families are feeling squeezed, and for kids from low-income families, college can feel out of reach. Our legislation would let them get a head start on college, make it more affordable, and help put them on a path to live out their dreams.”

In addition, this measure would allow tuition-free early colleges to be sustained and scaled nationally to serve more students, thereby increasing college access and helping more low-income students afford and complete college degrees. Higher college completion rates and reduced time to earn a degree would ultimately make the Pell Grant program a better use of taxpayer dollars. Senator Warner has also championed efforts to expand access to dual and concurrent enrollment, which similarly helps improve outcomes and bolster completion rates. Virginia has been at the forefront of this work, with two colleges participating in the U.S. Department of Education’s dual enrollment Pell experiment and a statutory requirement that every school division partner with a community college to provide dual enrollment opportunities.

Sen. Warner is the author of two measures to help ease the burden of student loan debt through income-based and employer provided tax-exempt repayments. He is also the sponsor of legislation to combat the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses and improve support for survivors.