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The Council for Opportunity in Education Submits College Access and Completion Priorities for the Biden-Harris Administration’s Agenda

November 30, 2020

The Council has helped low-income and first-generation students and students with disabilities achieve college access and success since 1981

The nonpartisan non-profit Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) submitted priorities Document is available for download (.pdf) today for the Biden-Harris administration’s agenda. These priorities include:

  • Link growth in Pell Grant funding to growth in the federal TRIO programs to help more first-generation college students, students with disabilities, veterans and other underrepresented groups apply to and complete college. This recommendation highlights a line in the 2020 Democratic platform, which included the promise to: “double the maximum Pell Grant award for low-income students, and double federal support for TRIO programs that help first-generation college students, students with disabilities, veterans and other underrepresented groups apply to and complete college [emphasis added]” (69).* This platform language is based on legislation Senator Kamala Harris co-introduced to annually increase TRIO funding to double in five years.
  • Focus on college completion. Support students through graduation with TRIO Student Support Services (SSS): only 49% of Pell Grant recipients graduate within six years; 40% of low-income and first-generation students graduate within six years; and 55% of first-generation students who are not low-income graduate within six years. TRIO SSS is a proven program that helps first-generation/low-income students: at two-year institutions, SSS students were 47 percent more likely to complete an associate degree or certificate or transfer to a four-year institution in four years. At four-year institutions, SSS students were 18 percent more likely to complete a bachelor's degree in six years.
  • Reconnect low-income and first-generation students and adults to the college pipeline. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated challenges for low-income, under-represented, and minority students’ college success. Expanding investment in TRIO programs such as Educational Opportunity Center programs, Talent Search, Upward Bound, Veterans Upward Bound, and McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement programs would boost support for unemployed and low-income adults, first-generation/low-income middle and high school students in their goal to access and graduate college.
  • Ensure that regulations 1) allow TRIO programs to serve DACA students (whose undocumented, immigrant parents brought them here as minors) and 2) don’t disadvantage schools or institutions that serve high percentages of low-income students. The current requirements that TRIO students must be U.S. citizens or in the country for other than a temporary purpose excludes DACA students, but these could be updated through regulations. Parts of the TRIO application requirements disadvantage institutions with the highest percentages of low-income students. These could be remedied with a short add-on to rulemaking on another topic.
  • Ensure student debt relief first targets low-income students, alumni and non-completers from low-income families — and educators and other human service professionals working with them.

“Rooted in the Civil Rights movement with Representatives Shirley Chisholm and Louis Stokes as its earliest supporters, TRIO has enjoyed tremendous bipartisan support and is critically important to students in families in red and blue states,” said Maureen Hoyler, president of the Council for Opportunity in Education.

“President-elect Biden was a first-generation student and knows the power of the dream of college for poor and working-class families. We look forward to working together to making that dream a reality for all Americans.”

*Important note — The Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization and, as such, does not endorse any candidates or political parties. The piece above is for informational purposes only and should not be construed otherwise. As a part of COE’s federal engagement with both Republicans and Democrats, COE reached out to officials sitting on both party platform committees to request inclusion of provisions favorable to TRIO programs.