Graduates of Bowie State University put messages on their mortarboard hats during the school’s graduation ceremony at the Comcast Center on the campus of the University of Maryland May 17, 2013, in College Park, Maryland. First lady Michelle Obama delivered the commencement speech for the 600 graduates of Maryland’s oldest historically black university and one of the ten oldest in the country. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Rep. Joe Neguse said he plans to introduce legislation Thursday to promote college completion by funding programs to reduce the needs that can lead a student to drop out early.
The College Completion Fund Act would authorize $62 billion over the next 10 years to fund items such as child care, food and housing assistance, mental health services and career training.
“The chance to complete a college degree must be an opportunity provided to all students, no matter their background or socio-economic status,” Neguse, a Democrat who represents Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District, said in a statement. “As a former Regent at CU Boulder, during my time on campus I saw firsthand the many life circumstances or unexpected barriers that may keep students from completing a degree.”
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The legislation is also sponsored by Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.) and Rep. André Carson (D-Ind). Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) introduced the Senate version of the bill last September, where it was referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
The national six-year college completion rate is just over 62%, according to recent data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Colorado sits right at that national standard with a 62.1% completion rate. Rhode Island and Vermont have the highest completion rates at nearly 75%, while Alaska shows the lowest at approximately 35%.
Neguse’s office notes that students of color, veterans and low-income students are among the least likely to complete college or obtain a degree.
The chance to complete a college degree must be an opportunity provided to all students, no matter their background or socio-economic status.
– Rep. Joe Neguse
The bill would require a state to develop a strategic plan to increase completion rates for students enrolled in public colleges and universities. Colorado currently has 29 public institutions, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Funds would be allocated to states based on a formula using census tract poverty data in an effort to get money to under-resourced schools.
The plans would be developed with input from community colleges, four-year universities, people involved in state workforce development, tribal colleges in the state, state service providers and whichever department has jurisdiction over youth and family services.
They could include “evidence-based” initiatives like comprehensive academic support services, incentives for students to stay on track, reforms to developmental education and direct student support.
“This critical legislation would advance federal higher education policy to focus not only on increasing college access and affordability, but also ensuring more students complete college with a degree in hand,” Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, said in a statement. “Public universities are squarely focused on increasing college access, affordability, and completion and this bill would bolster their efforts and scale promising strategies.”
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