U.S. Senator Peters Visits OCC, Hosts Student Roundtable

Release credit: Office of U.S. Senator Gary Peters
ROYAL OAK, MI – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) today visited Oakland Community College’s Royal Oak campus to highlight bipartisan, bicameral legislation he introduced to expand options for high school students to obtain college credit, making higher education more affordable and accessible while improving high school and college graduation rates. Peters also hosted a roundtable discussion with students participating in the Oakland Accelerated College Experience (ACE) program to hear more about their experiences. Peters' Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act (MEAA) would expand access to dual and concurrent enrollment programs and early/middle college programs by providing grants to institutions of higher education.

"College should be affordable and accessible to any motivated student who wants to continue his or her education," said Senator Peters. "I am pleased to be at Oakland Community College today, where I have the opportunity to speak directly with students about their experiences in dual enrollment and early college. Their involvement in these innovative programs results in a cost-effective transition from high school to higher education and career readiness."

"Students participating in our early college or dual enrollment programs can graduate with a high school diploma, innovative professional experience, an associate's degree and transferable credits toward a four-year degree," said Dr. Timothy Meyer, Oakland Community College Chancellor. "I thank Senator Peters as an advocate on behalf of these programs which increase student success and foster the economic growth of our state."

"Introducing our students to college curriculum and higher education expectations while they're still in high school gives them the confidence and experience they need to succeed," said Dr. Wanda Cook-Robinson, Oakland Schools Superintendent. "I am proud of the partnership between Oakland Schools, our local school districts and Oakland Community College, which provides first-generation students and those eligible for free and reduced lunch with a cost-effective path toward a degree and a career. I am pleased that Senator Peters is working in Washington to advance programs like these."

"MEAA supports the work of the Oakland ACE early college program," said Jim Troost, Oakland Ace Program Director. "The bill recognizes that paying for college is a huge obstacle for many, but also that students face more challenges than just paying tuition and managing their coursework. The bill provides support for colleges working with programs like Oakland ACE, helping low income and first-generation college students in Oakland County earn as much as two years of college credit while still in high school. Coordinated by Oakland Schools, the Oakland ACE program provides free tuition and books at OCC for students who qualify for the Free/Reduced Lunch program, or have parents without four-year degrees. Most importantly, the program provides intentional support for dealing with the unique issues these students face while they are in college so that they don't just go. They finish."

MEAA, which Peters introduced with Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Congressmen Jared Polis (D-CO) and Tom Reed (R-NY), provides grants to institutions of higher education that can be used to:

  • Carry out dual and concurrent enrollment programs as well as early/middle college programming – this includes covering tuition and fees, books, and required instructional materials for a program so that students will not be required to pay tuition or fees for post-secondary courses;
  • Provide teachers in these programs with professional development; 
  • And, support activities such as course design, course approval processes, community outreach, student counseling and support services.

Oakland Community College's Early College (OEC) program allows students to earn up to up to 60 transferable college credits towards their undergraduate degree and/or an Associate Degree from Oakland Community College. OEC students have full access to Oakland Community College's wide range of student support mechanisms and student activities, and OEC's students are deeply involved in all aspects of campus life, assuming leadership roles in areas including student government, the college honor society, and the fine and performing arts programs. All 160+ college degree pathways at Oakland Community College are available to OEC students. Currently, 861 students are involved in OCC dual enrollment and 300 students participate in OCC's early college program.

Oakland ACE is an early college program for students in participating Oakland County districts. The program is designed for those facing challenges to college enrollment and success. Students who meet the eligibility criteria apply during the 10th grade and commit to a three-year program spanning grades 11, 12 and 13 (an added fifth year of high school). Splitting time between courses at their home high school and college classes at Oakland Community College, students work simultaneously toward their diploma and an associate degree. There is no cost to the students for tuition, fees, or books. Currently, 150 students participate in Oakland ACE.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) early college students on average earn 36 college credits, and 30% of early college students earn an associates degree. There are 23 early/middle college high schools and 66 early/middle college programs in Michigan alone. The National Alliance on Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships estimates 1.9 million high school students enrolled in a college course during the 2014-2015 school year.

Last year, Peters introduced an amendment with U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) to the bipartisan Every Child Achieves Act, which was signed into law in December. The amendment allows Title I funds to be used to support concurrent and dual enrollment programs at eligible schools, enabling high school students to simultaneously receive college-credit from courses taught by college approved teachers in secondary education. It also allows school districts to use fifth-year program partnerships to allow students to participate in concurrent enrollment in the year after their senior year.