US Dept of Education Announces Pilot Expansion of PELL Grants for Dual Enrollment Programs

It is with great excitement and optimism that we share this hard won opportunity for Middle and Early college high schools to tap into a new Federal opportunity to support more college for more of your students. We have worked tirelessly over the last four years in partnership with Jobs for the Future, National Alliance for Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships, and Bard Early College to move legislation to this end. Dr. Cecilia Cunningham, Dr. Chery Wagonlander and Dr. Scott Jenkins have made multiple testimony in Washington to make this possible on our behalf. Please meet with representatives from your college as soon as possible to avail yourselves of these important resources. For specific information contact at: (202) 401-1576,


The Department of Education is announcing the launch of an experiment that will expand access to college coursework for high school students from low-income backgrounds. For the first time, high school students will have the opportunity to access Federal Pell Grants to take college courses through dual enrollment. Dual enrollment, in which students enroll in postsecondary coursework while also enrolled in high school, is a promising approach to improve academic outcomes for students from low-income backgrounds.

The Department of Education has taken into consideration that earning a college degree is an increasingly important step towards entering the middle class. By 2020, approximately 35 percent of job openings will require at least a bachelor’s degree, and another 30 percent will require at least an associate’s degree or some college. [  1  ] However, many high school students—especially those from low-income backgrounds—lack access to the rigorous coursework and support services that help prepare students for success in college.

A Federal Register Notice invites postsecondary institutions, in partnership with public secondary schools or local education agencies, to apply to participate in the dual enrollment experiment. The Department will invest up to $20 million in the 2016-17 award year, benefiting up to 10,000 students from low-income backgrounds across the country. As you read from their statement, below, you will recognize their findings rest, in great part, on the work we have been doing for years.

Promoting College Access and Success Through Dual Enrollment

More than 1.4 million high school students took courses offered by a college or university for credit through dual enrollment. [  2  ] A growing body of research suggests that participation in dual enrollment can lead to improved academic outcomes, especially for students from low-income backgrounds and first-generation college students. [  3  ] Research suggests that participation in dual enrollment can lead to better grades in high school, increased enrollment in college following high school, higher rates of persistence in college, greater credit accumulation, and increased rates of credential attainment.[  4  ] [  5  ]

Early college high schools, a type of highly structured dual enrollment program, have been shown to significantly increase the chances of high school completion, college enrollment, and degree attainment for students from low-income backgrounds. [  6  ] [  7  ] [  8  ] [  9  ]

While dual enrollment models have shown promising academic outcomes for students, cost can be a barrier: at nearly half of institutions with dual enrollment programs, most students pay out of pocket for tuition. [  10  ] Under the experimental site authority of section 487A(b) of the Higher Education Act, which allows the Department to test the effectiveness of statutory and regulatory flexibility for postsecondary institutions that disburse federal financial aid, the Secretary will waive existing financial aid restrictions that prohibit high school students from accessing Federal Pell Grants. Through this experiment, the Department hopes to learn about the impact of Federal Pell Grants on low-income students’ participation and academic success in dual enrollment programs.

Candidates for Participation

Title IV-eligible institutions of higher education, in partnership with one or more public secondary schools or local education agencies, are encouraged to apply. Promising candidates for this experiment would:

  • Require dually enrolled students to enroll in a title IV eligible postsecondary program as regular students
  • Provide that students will receive Federal Pell Grants only for coursework that applies towards completion of a postsecondary credential at the participating institution. Such coursework may, but is not required to, apply towards a secondary school diploma. Participating institutions should ensure that dual enrollment arrangements do not impede participating students’ academic progress and persistence in secondary school
  • Offer students the opportunity to earn the equivalent of at least 12 postsecondary credit hours while also enrolled in a public secondary school.
  • Ensure that students are adequately prepared academically for postsecondary-level coursework. This may include ensuring that students meet any relevant requirements that may apply for enrollment, such as grade point average, placement tests, and course prerequisite requirements.
  • Prohibit the use of Federal Pell Grant funds for remedial coursework taken by students who are enrolled in a public secondary school.
  • Provide appropriate student support services, such as academic tutoring, high school to college transition support, guidance counseling, or other comparable services designed to increase student preparation for and success in postsecondary education. These services may be provided by the public secondary school, the institution, the LEA, or by another entity.
  • Provide assistance completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This assistance may be provided by the public secondary school, the institution, the LEA, or by another entity.

Building on Efforts to Make College More Affordable

Supporting Community Colleges

By allowing students to take college courses for credit to cut costs and time-to-completion, the dual enrollment experimental site builds on President Obama’s efforts to make higher education more affordable and to support community colleges to ensure they are gateways to economic prosperity and educational opportunities for American families. Community colleges offer over 70 percent of dual enrollment courses taken by high school students nationwide, and the Administration continues to place a strong emphasis on offering responsible students the opportunity to pursue an education and training at community colleges for free. [  11  ] By offering Federal Pell Grants to eligible public high school students enrolling in college courses, the Administration is expanding opportunities for students to enroll in high-quality dual enrollment programs with robust systems of student support.

Over just the past four years, this Administration has invested approximately $2 billion for 700 community colleges to partner with employers to design education and training programs that prepare workers for jobs in-demand in their regional economies, such as health care, information technology, and energy. These programs are promising—by the end of 2014, more than 1,900 new or modified training programs had been launched. In addition, 85 percent of the more than 176,000 individuals who had enrolled in these programs either completed a program or continued the program into a second year.

Building on Evidence to Expand Access, Keep Costs Down, and Strengthen Quality

The dual enrollment experimental site also builds on the Administration’s efforts to support innovative solutions while building the evidence base to identify and promote promising strategies that improve educational outcomes.

The Department’s First in the World program and the Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund support grantees working to develop, validate, and scale innovative, evidence-based solutions in both postsecondary and PK-12 education. Through this experimental site, the Department hopes to better understand which types of dual enrollment programs are most beneficial to students from low-income backgrounds, and how best to help students in these programs succeed.

Investing in Pell Grants

This experimental site builds on the Obama Administration’s efforts to increase college graduation rates of students from low-income backgrounds with the support of Federal Pell Grants. Since 2008, the Administration has increased Federal Pell Grant funding by 70 percent, and has increased the maximum award by $1,000. As of the 2015-16 school year, Federal Pell Grants will have helped more than 2 million additional students each year since the President took office.

Application Guidelines

To be considered for participation, interested postsecondary institutions must submit a letter of interest to the Department of Education, following the procedures outlined in the Federal Register Notice. The Federal Register Notice will provide detailed information about the experiment, including application procedures.


  1. Anthony P. Carnevale, Nicole Smith and Jeff Strohl. “Recovery, Job Growth and Education Requirements Through 2020.” Georgetown Public Policy Institute Center on Education and the Workforce (2014). Available at:
  2. Marken, Stephanie et al. (2013). Dual Enrollment Programs and Courses for High School Students at Postsecondary Institutions: 2010—11. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.
  3. Karp, M, and Hughes, K. (2008). Study: Dual Enrollment Can Benefit a Broad Range of Students. Techniques: Connecting Education and Careers (J1) 83.7, 14-17.
  4. An, B. P. (2012). “The Impact of Dual Enrollment on College Degree Attainment: Do Low-SES Students Benefit? Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 35, 57—75.
  5. Karp, M. M., Calcagno, J. C., Hughes, K. L., Jeong, D. W., & Bailey, T. R. (2007). The Achievement of Participants in Dual Enrollment: An Analysis of Student Outcomes in Two States. Saint Paul, MN: University of Minnesota, National Research Center for Career and Technical Education.
  7. American Institutes for Research & SRI. (2013). Early college, early success: Early College High School Initiative impact study. Washington, DC: American Institutes for Research. Retrieved from
  8. American Institutes for Research & SRI. (2013). Early college, early success: Early College High School Initiative impact study. Washington, DC: American Institutes for Research. Retrieved from
  9. An, B. P. (2012). The impact of dual enrollment on college degree attainment: Do low-SES students benefit? Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 35, 57—75. doi: 10.3102/0162373712461933.
  10. Marken, Stephanie et al. (2013). Dual Enrollment Programs and Courses for High School Students at Postsecondary Institutions: 2010—11. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.
  11. Marken, Stephanie et al. (2013). Dual Enrollment Programs and Courses for High School Students at Postsecondary Institutions: 2010—11. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.


Hollis F. Price Middle College HS Named One of Newsweek’s Top Ten Schools

Hollis F. Price Middle College High School, one of the most awarded public schools in the county, this week was named to Newsweek’s Top 10 high schools among those “Beating the Odds” to help low-income students succeed.

Nearly 90 percent of the students attending the school, located on the LeMoyne-Owen College campus, come from families living within the federal poverty guidelines.

Hollis F. Price ranked eighth on the Top Ten list.

“We’re elated to see Hollis F. Price recognized by Newsweek magazine as one of the top high schools in America. It is further evidence that given strong school leadership and effective teachers, students will be successful,” Kristin Tallent, SCS spokeswoman, said.

The recognition is part of Newsweek’s annual list of the 500 best high schools in the nation, based on student performance.

Since 2014, Newsweek has published two lists to address the complexities of assessing the “best” high schools when students’ socioeconomic backgrounds are taken into account.

Students at Hollis F. Price earn college credits at LeMoyne-Owen, one of the nation’s Historically Black Colleges. Students remaining in the program five years can earn their high school diploma, plus 60 college credits.

In 2012, Hollis F. Price was recognized as a state Department of Education “reward” school, a distinction earned by being among the top 5 percent of schools for both the amount of growth students made and their overall performance.

In 2014 and 2015, it earned Reward School status for performance, which means its students scored in the top 5 percent on state tests.


Those of us who work in Early and Middle College High Schools have long understood the potential impact, accomplishment and success of our model. It seems that the US Department of Education is validating our experience in the naming of five Consortium schools as Blue Ribbon award winners in the last year.

San Joaquin Delta Early College and Santa Ana Middle College HS have won the prestigious award multiple times . This year we can add North Houston Early College HS, Middle College HS at Christian Brothers University in Memphis and Academy of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, California to the ranks of the country’s most prestigious schools.

The Blue Ribbon award is granted to schools after completing a rigorous application process and documentation Students at these schools attain high levels of achievement despite obstacles. Only 335 schools achieved this status this year.

Middle College HS at Christian Brothers University, under the leadership of Docia Generette-Walker was only 1 of 7 schools selected in the entire state. Dr. Generette Walker stated, “ I credit our success to the outstanding group of educators who spend countless hours supporting our students each day.” The school is also being recognized this year by the US DOE as an “Exemplary Performing School, “ a category that recognizes schools with achievement scores in the top 10 percent in their state and received recognition from the State of Tennessee as a Reward School, ranking in the top 5 percent of schools in the4 state for both academic achievement and student growth.

North Houston Early College High School credits their success to their ability to grant opportunities for successful accomplishment to their students. As part of the MCNC network they enhanced the traditional Early College model of access to college courses with free books, job shadowing, college visits, and STEM camp. A graduation requirement for all their students is completion of 400 hours of community service. Their consistent success in both their accelerated academic work and their commitment to their communities are one cited feature for students’ success once they leave and move on to complete their bachelors and post graduate degrees. Despite their humble beginnings, these, mostly first generation college going youngsters earn as many as 60 college credits along with completing their high school requirements.

At San Joaquin Delta, principal Sherry Balian proudly states that most of her 240 students manage high school and college while maintaining all As and Bs. They outperform their college counterparts. Last year 32 graduated with both a high school and AA college degree. For over four years 80% of graduates have obtained 30+ transferable college units by the end of their high school career and 70% move on to a 4-year institution. Their credo is to foster belonging and do so by encouraging participation in clubs where students and teachers interact on an equal level, allowing students to gain leadership schools. Principal Balian states that San Joaquin Delta MCHS “exemplifies the power of a small school where students, faculty and staff thrive.”

Dr. Pete Getz, principal of Academy of the Canyons is proud to be one of 28 schools in the state of California to receive this recognition., seven of which are Early Colleges. Superintendent, Vicki Engbrecht dentified AOC’s uniqueness in giving students the opportunity to earn college credits and experience college life while still earning their high school diploma. The school consistently ranks at the top academically of all schools throughout the county and state and we are proud of the teachers and staff who make this happen.

At Santa Ana ECHS, founded in 1997, Principal Kathleen Apps stresses the fact that her students occupy two stories of a building for their high school classes, but inhabit and thrive in the campus of a multi building, landscaped college campus. This feature of most of the Consortium schools has always been a hallmark of the Middle/Early College model: a way to integrate who you are as an adolescent with who you can become: especially when there are few “college going” mentors, role models and peers in your neighborhood. At Santa Ana 62 of this year’s 77 potential graduates are on their way to earning their associate’s degree. The strong partnership the high school has with the college and the Santa Ana Partnership, a collaboration that includes Santa Ana Unified School District, UC Irvine, Cal State Fullerton and the city of Santa Ana provides students with support to attend and graduate from college. The principal and staff are committed to making the initial pathway into college experiences for students, but then fostering independent experiences for individuals by allowing them freedom to enjoy to campus, choose their courses and engage in extracurricular activities.

MCNC staff joins all of its members in congratulating these exemplary programs and wishes them continued success.


Dr. Erin Craig, founding principal of NOVA-Academy in Santa Ana, California has announced the approval of a charter for Unity Middle College High School. After a long struggle to raise the necessary supports and resources we are happy to celebrate her victory; which is, in fact a victory for the community at large.

The school, located in Orange County and partnered with Santiago Canyon College, is focused on preparing at-risk students for college. Unity Middle College High School aims to open by summer 2016 and will follow the Middle College National Consortium model, which partners with local colleges to provide courses to high school students.In addition to providing high school-level and community college courses, Unity will allow each student to choose a career pathway, such as business, arts or science, technology, engineering and math.

“It’s optimal for Middle College high schools to have a strong relationship with college partners,” Craig said. “Unity Middle College High School is thrilled with the willingness from Santiago Canyon College to work with us and support our students because our students are their students as well.”

Though the Middle College model has a proven success record obstacles surfaced in the approval process. Orange board members who supported the school said the Middle College model is effective, while those who opposed said they worried about issues in the charter such as budget and governance. The county approval also came with conditions that changes be made to the charter, including the description of the educational program, school governance and budget. After the changes are made, there will need to be a memorandum of understanding, but the county board will not need to take a second vote.

As a charter school, Unity will receive public funding. The school has budgeted for $1 million in revenue for its first year, Craig said, with that increasing to $3 million by the third year. Unity plans to fundraise for its start-up costs, estimated to be at least $320,000.

Enrollment will start with 100 ninth-grade students, with a grade being added each year for a total of 400 students. The school, which has not bought a property yet, plans to open its doors in June for a summer transitional program for its incoming students. To find out more about Unity and it’s progress go to their website:

Dr. Mattie Adams Robertson has moved on from a celebrated career as founding principal of Harbor Teacher Preparation Academy at LA Harbor Community College to open a new Early College in Compton. Compton Early College HS opened it’s doors this September and this tireless educational leader is already accumulating accolades. Superintendent Micah Ali, stated in a recent article about the turnaround in the Compton school system,“We started an Early College program that allows student starting in the 9th grade this fall to earn community college credit. Imagine being able to graduate from high school and have a two year college degree as well. That’s now possible right here in Compton. “

In celebration of its recent opening, Compton Early College High School welcomed the community inside its classrooms on Saturday, October 24, to learn first-hand how its students are being prepared for success in college. Parents met with instructors and experienced the academic rigor their children are exposed to as they work their way towards AA degrees and college credits before graduating high school. One parent, visiting his son’s analytic writing class, remarked,

“We moved out here in the summer and we looked for schools in the area and heard about the early college. My son had excelled in his academics in Orange County but Compton Early College maximizes his potential,” he said. “My son just received his report card. He’s still excelling but it has been challenging for him. I really appreciate this program.”


We know this is just the beginning of a model program that this energetic, committed principal will initiate and innovate as she continues to be a leader in the Middle College National Consortium, the California Consortium of Early Colleges and Compton Unified School District: Making history every day.