Press Releases

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), along with Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), pressed U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to continue an experimental pilot program that has already helped put 41 low-income high school students on the pathway to college by allowing them to take courses for college credit through Central Virginia Community College in Lynchburg.

In 2016, the Department began a dual enrollment Pell experiment that will allow an estimated 10,000 eligible high school students taking college-credit courses to access, for the first time, federal Pell Grants to pay their tuition costs. In a letter, Sens. Warner and Portman urged Secretary DeVos to commit to collecting data that will help policymakers evaluate the success of the experiment and glean best practices. The letter is a follow-up to a similar letter Sens. Warner and Portman sent in April, which was signed by 16 bipartisan Senators.

“Students who get a head start on college tend to perform much better than their peers, but it’s a simple fact that lower-income students face unique financial challenges in jumpstarting their college educations,” said Sen. Warner. “Central Virginia Community College is leading the way in promoting our understanding of how broader access to the Pell Grant program will help push eligible dual enrollment students one step closer to college completion and success.” 

“As the Commonwealth continues working towards its goals for credential attainment and workforce readiness, we must continue promoting access for low- and moderate income students,” said John Capps, President of Central Virginia Community College. “CVCC is proud to have been selected as a dual enrollment Pell experimental site, and will continue working with state and federal partners to ensure its success. We should take advantage of every opportunity to learn from this process, identify best practices, and bring them to scale.” 

Central Virginia Community College is one of 42 sites nationwide participating in the experiment. As of fall 2017, 41 students participating in the experiment at Central Virginia Community College have been awarded Pell Grants totaling $193,720, expanding opportunities for low-income students who might not have otherwise been able to access higher education. 

Sens. Warner and Portman have championed legislation that would permanently expand Pell Grant eligibility to early college high school students. Sen Warner also led efforts to expand access to dual and concurrent enrollment in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

A copy of the Senators’ letter is available here. The full text also appears below.


The Honorable Betsy DeVos


U.S. Department of Education

400 Maryland Avenue, SW

Washington, DC 20202-1510


Dear Secretary DeVos:

We write to follow up with you regarding the bipartisan letter that we and 14 of our colleagues submitted in April 2017 regarding our interest in and commitment to the U.S. Department of Education’s ongoing institution-based experiment to provide access to Pell Grants for students participating in dual enrollment programs. As part of that letter, we also requested that the Department continue the experiment and determine an appropriate mechanism for evaluating this important project. A copy of the previous letter is attached. 

In the Department’s recent announcement of its information collection activities for the experimental site, entitled “Agency Information Collection Activities; Comment Request; Experimental Sites Initiative Reporting Tool 2017,” we were disappointed to see so few questions specifically addressing the dual enrollment experiment. There is significant useful information that can be gleaned from descriptive statistics, and we encourage the Department to amend its information collection activities for the experimental site for dual enrollment to include such questions.

We appreciate your consideration of this request.