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Shifting Focus From Access to Completion

Shifting Focus From Access to Completion

Inside Higher Ed

Alexis Gravely
May 3, 2021
Details surrounding President Biden’s proposed investment of $62 billion to support student completion and retention in higher education are scarce, but experts say there’s potential for the program to be the most transformative of the administration’s postsecondary proposals.
The grant program would offer funding to colleges and universities that serve high numbers of low-income students, particularly community colleges, to adopt success solutions that help students stay enrolled and earn a degree.
“This, to me, seems like the most revolutionary and has the most potential to really address equity gaps and get resources to schools and students that need them the most and that haven’t gotten them historically,” said Amy Laitinen, director for higher education at New America.
The $62 billion proposal is a part of Biden’s American Families Plan, released last week, which includes a total of $290 billion in higher education spending to offer tuition-free community college, support for historically Black colleges and other minority-serving institutions, and increased Pell Grant awards. According to a fact sheet for the plan, states, territories and tribes would receive grant funding to allocate to colleges “that adopt innovative, proven solutions for student success,” including wraparound services, emergency basic needs grants and transfer agreements between colleges.
The student success proposal represents a partial shift in focus at the federal level — from helping students access and afford college to now helping students stay in and complete college, said Tamara Hiler, director of education at Third Way.
“Unlike in K-12, we do very little at the federal level in higher education to recognize and reward institutions that are taking in either an above-average share of Pell students or underserved populations and providing them additional resources and capacity to help them improve student success,” Hiler said.
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