KIPP Weighs In on Higher Education Act Rewrite, Calls on Congress to Make College More Accessible to Low-Income Kids
The KIPP Foundation released a report today urging Congress to take action to improve the affordability of college and help students on their journey towards successful careers. The organization proposes that by using federal funds to increase the number of high school guidance counselors and expand existing college completion programs, lawmakers can create opportunities for millions of low-income and minority students to earn their degrees.
This report comes at a crucial time as both the House and Senate are considering the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, a federal law that governs various aspects of postsecondary education. With the last update to the act occurring in 2008, concerns have arisen about its adequacy in addressing college access and affordability. With Senator Lamar Alexander, Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, set to retire soon, there is a hope for a bipartisan effort to revisit the law before the 2020 election season.
While reauthorizing the act aligns with Senator Alexander’s goals, it remains uncertain whether the KIPP Foundation’s concerns will be addressed. The national conversation surrounding college has primarily focused on addressing the burden of student loan debt and simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
The foundation’s CEO, Richard Barth, emphasizes their commitment to providing students with choices and believes it is their responsibility to share their insights with policymakers. The report shares the challenges faced by many KIPP students, who predominantly come from low-income and minority backgrounds, during their college experience. The KIPP network, known for its initiatives to track graduates and provide support throughout their college years, conducts annual surveys with their alumni at campuses nationwide.
Among the report’s findings are the obstacles faced by KIPP alumni, including a lack of career-related summer jobs or internships, negative judgments based on race, concerns about food insecurity, and sacrificing meals to meet education expenses. These findings are supported by a recent survey of 86,000 college students across the country, which highlights housing and food insecurity issues. It is evident from these findings that the KIPP Foundation has a valuable perspective to contribute to ongoing higher education debates.
In response to these challenges, the KIPP Foundation proposes five recommendations to be included in a revised Higher Education Act. These recommendations aim to make college more accessible and affordable for students attending KIPP charter schools and similar institutions:
1. Allocate federal funding to provide additional college counselors in high-need schools that currently lack sufficient support.
2. Create a federal-state partnership that incentivizes spending on public university systems, with a focus on need-based student aid.
3. Establish and implement pilot programs that increase college completion rates among low-income, minority, and first-generation college students.
4. Invest directly in schools that serve a large number of disadvantaged students, including historically black colleges and universities.
5. Expand the federal work-study program to assist students in securing internships and summer jobs that offer meaningful workplace experience.
Addressing the shortage of high school guidance counselors, improving financial aid, and providing targeted support for underrepresented student populations are crucial steps towards ensuring equal access to higher education and unlocking opportunities for success in students’ future careers.
KIPP has recently demonstrated a willingness to involve itself in public policy matters. In the previous year, the organization lobbied Congress to find a permanent solution for students protected under DACA. Moreover, the foundation submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in March, presenting arguments against the administration’s proposed inclusion of a citizenship question in the 2020 census.
According to Barth, the organization is not afraid to act as a public advocate, especially when the well-being of its students is at stake. He emphasized the plethora of real-life experiences and existing research that KIPP possesses, which he believes obligates them to contribute their voice to the conversation.
Note: CEO, Stephen Cockrell, served as the director of external impact for the KIPP Foundation from 2015 to 2019. However, he had no involvement in the reporting or editing of this particular story.
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