Six Federal Agencies Commit to Make College Access and Completion a Reality for More Americans

Today, Secretary of Education John King announced the release of a federal interagency letter, Aligning Federal Supports and Program Delivery for College Access and Completion. The interagency letter highlights the latest guidance and resources that clarify how existing provisions within federal programs of the U.S. Departments of Education, Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Labor, and Treasury can be better aligned for postsecondary access and completion. Secretary King made the announcement at the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities’ annual meeting in Austin, Texas, an event that gathered over 1,300 senior leaders from public higher institutions from across North America.

By 2020, an estimated two-thirds of job openings will require some postsecondary education or training. Studies have shown that college graduates with a bachelor’s degree earn about 66 percent more than those with only a high school diploma and are far less likely to face unemployment. Over the course of a lifetime, the average worker with a bachelor’s degree will earn approximately $1 million more than a worker without any postsecondary education. However, too many students fail to complete their education due to resource constraints. Because now, more than ever before, a college degree is a necessity for individual economic opportunity and competitiveness, alignment of federal programs and policies towards completion is essential. The strength and long-term success of our nation’s economy weighs on a robust higher education system that helps all students succeed.

The interagency letter lists actions taken by each of the six agencies to better help individuals make one the most important investments one can make in his or her future a reality. For example, the U.S. Department of Education recently issued guidance clarifying requirements that designated public school district homeless liaisons inform all unaccompanied homeless youth identified by the district of their eligibility for independent student status on the FAFSA, and this guidance is linked within the letter. Independent status can help homeless students access more aid to cover tuition and books, as well as help secure reliable room and board. Another example is guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicating that students attending an institution of higher education through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s (SNAP) Employment and Training program at least half-time are exempt from the SNAP student rule and, as a result, potentially eligible for SNAP.

In addition to the joint interagency letter, the U.S. Department of Education released the Innovating and Partnering to Support Completion and Success in Higher Education fact sheet spotlighting the results of initiatives made under the Obama Administration that have helped thousands of Americans enroll in and complete college. Such investments have helped Black and Hispanic students earn over 270,000 more undergraduate degrees in 2013-14 than in 2008-09; and a million more Black and Hispanic students enrolled in college in 2014 than in 2008.

The Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education, along with its federal partners, is committed to ensuring that federal provisions and other initiatives fulfill their promise of breaking down barriers to accessing the knowledge and skills needed to attain a well-paying job, support a family, and contribute to our community. With the help of state and local partners, together we can strengthen coordination of programs that connect more people to postsecondary opportunities and leverage federal policies that more effectively serve our communities.

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Special Assistant Office of the Assistant Secretary OCTAE