Archived Information

College Completion Challenge Grant Initiative


The College Completion Challenge Grant Act of 1999

Section-by-Section Analysis


Section 101. Section 101 of the bill would amend subpart 2 of Part A of title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1132a et seq., hereinafter referred to as the Act) by adding a new chapter 4, authorizing the College Completion Challenge Grant (CCCG) Program.

Proposed new section 408A of the Act would set out the Congressional findings for the proposed new program. Students from low-income families are significantly more likely to leave a 4-year institution of higher education without a baccalaureate degree than are students with higher incomes. Specifically, the baccalaureate degree attainment rate for full-time students from families from the bottom income quartile was 24 percentage points less than the rate for full-time students from families from the top income quartile (44% vs. 68%).

Even among students with above average grades, low-income students are still more likely to leave a 4-year institution of higher education without a baccalaureate degree than are students with higher incomes, especially at private institutions. Contributing to the gap in educational attainment between disadvantaged students and their more affluent classmates is the fact that the focus of Federal student financial assistance and higher education programs has traditionally been to ensure access to postsecondary education, and not on the lack of persistence to a baccalaureate degree. The amount of grant assistance provided to postsecondary students is also critical to their persistence and degree attainment. Through the proposed new CCCG program, the Federal Government would expand its role in student financial assistance programs for postsecondary education to address this lack of persistence to baccalaureate degree completion.

In addition to economic disadvantage, a number of other factors contribute significantly to a student dropping out of a 4-year institution of higher education. Those factors include: a delayed entry into postsecondary education after graduating from high school; a low grade point average; working full time while enrolled; being a first-generation college student; and being less engaged with an academic program. Grants to institutions under this program would assist these institutions in providing services that could mitigate the effects of these factors on a student's likelihood of dropping out of a 4-year institution of higher education.

Further, most students who leave college without a degree drop out during the first two years of study. Nearly half of all low-income students will have dropped out of their programs of study by the end of the second year, as compared to only 27 percent of higher income students.

Additionally, at-risk students who receive targeted support services persist to degree completion at higher rates than do at-risk students who do not receive such services. The Department's ongoing evaluation of the Student Support Services program has shown that support services do make a significant difference on three separate student outcomes—grades, credits earned, and retention. The effects, although not large, usually persist over three years. Students' grade point averages were increased by a mean of 0.15 in the first year, 0.11 in the second year, and 0.11 in the first three years combined. The number of credits earned was increased by a mean of 1.25 in the first year, 0.79 in the second year, 0.71 in the third year, and 2.25 in the first three years combined. Retention at the same institution to the second year was increased by 7 percent, and by 9 percent for retention to the third year. Retention to the third year at any institution of higher education was increased by 3 percent. These results could be improved by combining these kinds of services with the other services that would be offered by the proposed program.

Finally, educators interested in student retention have long viewed intensive summer programs for incoming first-year students as very important in helping students from disadvantaged backgrounds become acclimated to college life and in improving retention. This program would provide, at the most critical time, the kinds of services most likely to achieve retention for those students most at risk of leaving their programs of study without their baccalaureate degrees.

Proposed new section 408B of the Act would establish the program's statement of purpose and program authority. Under proposed new section 408B(a), the purpose of the CCCG program would be to assist institutions of higher education in helping students who are at risk of ending their postsecondary education prior to obtaining a baccalaureate degree, particularly those who are economically disadvantaged, to stay in school until they complete their baccalaureate degrees. Proposed new section 408B(b) would authorize the Secretary, from funds appropriated for each fiscal year and in accordance with the requirements of the proposed new CCCG program, to award competitive grants to eligible institutions to enable them to pay the Federal share of the costs of carrying out programs designed to meet the purpose stated in proposed new section 408B(a).

Proposed new section 408C of the Act would establish the institutional eligibility requirements for receiving a grant under the proposed new CCCG program. Proposed new section 408C(a) would provide that eligible applicants for grants under the proposed new CCCG program would be institutions of higher education that meet the requirements of section 102 of the Act, (the definition of an institution of higher education used for purposes of title IV of the Act), and that award baccalaureate or associate degrees. An institution that awards only associate degrees, however, could apply for a grant under the proposed new CCCG program only if it applied as part of a consortium that included one or more institutions of higher education that awarded baccalaureate degrees. Proposed new section 408C would also establish the requirement that an institution that receives a grant under the proposed new CCCG program may receive no more than two such grants.

Proposed new section 408D of the Act would establish the application process requirements. Proposed new section 408D(a) would provide that an applicant that desires a grant under the proposed new CCCG program must submit to the Secretary an application at such time and containing such information as the Secretary may prescribe. Proposed new section 408D would also require that an applicant demonstrate in its application, to the satisfaction of the Secretary, its prior successful commitment to assisting institutions of higher education in helping students who are at risk of ending their postsecondary education prior to obtaining a baccalaureate degree stay in school until they complete those degrees. While students are primarily responsible for their own success, institutions have a responsibility to assist them, particularly those students at risk of failing to complete their baccalaureate degrees. The new program is therefore intended to assist institutions that have made efforts to increase the retention of students.

Proposed new section 408D(b) of the Act would describe the matching requirement for institutions that receive a grant under the CCCG program. Proposed new section 408D(b)(1) provides that the Federal share of the cost of the program cannot be more than 50%, and the matching funds must be from non-Federal sources. However, the Secretary intends to use his authority under section 395 of the Act to waive this matching requirement for institutions eligible for assistance under Part A or B of title III of the Act, and under section 515 of the Act to waive the matching requirement for institutions eligible for assistance under title V of the Act, namely, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and other institutions of higher education that have relatively low educational and general expenditures and serve low-income students. The Secretary also intends to regulate on the matching requirement as it pertains to a consortium of institutions in which only some of the institutions would be eligible for the waiver of the matching requirement.

Proposed new section 408D(c) of the Act would require an institution applying for a grant to ensure that the activities it would provide if it received a grant under the proposed new CCCG program would be coordinated with, complement, and enhance related services under other programs, and would not duplicate services already provided at that institution. Proposed new section 408D(d) of the Act would provide that funds under the proposed new CCCG program would have to be used to supplement, and not supplant, non-Federal funds expended for existing programs.

Proposed new section 408E of the Act details the authorized uses of funds received under the proposed new CCCG program. Proposed new section 408E(a) would require an institution, except as provided in subsection (b), to use a grant to provide services or assistance to students at risk of leaving their programs of study without baccalaureate degrees, particularly economically disadvantaged students. The three types of activities for which institutions could use funds received under the proposed new CCCG program would be: intensive summer programs, student support services, and grants for students. While summer intensive programs have been shown to be effective in increasing student persistence, they are most effective when the institution is committed to student retention in other ways as well. Therefore, institutions could implement an intensive summer program for incoming first-year students, (or students entering their second or third year of postsecondary education if the institution can demonstrate that it is addressing the needs of its first-year students and that a summer program could help retention of second- or third-year students at risk of dropping out), but could do so only if they could demonstrate a strong commitment to student retention through other activities.

Under proposed new section 408E(a)(2), an institution could also use funds under the proposed new CCCG program to develop a strong student support service program, targeted to students in their first two years of postsecondary education. This could include activities such as peer tutoring; mentoring by faculty or upper class students; activities to assist students currently enrolled in a 2-year institution secure admission and financial assistance in a 4-year program of postsecondary education; activities to assist students in securing admission and financial assistance for enrollment in graduate and professional programs; course selection assistance; and cultural events.

Finally, proposed new section 408E(a)(3) would provide that institutions could use funds received under the proposed new CCCG program to provide grants to students in their first two years of postsecondary education, but only if it also provided an intensive summer program for incoming first-year students, or developed a student support service program, targeted to students in their first two years of postsecondary education, or both. The goal of the program is not simply to create another Federal grant program; the grant aid provided under the new CCCG program would be in the context of specific efforts to increase student success.

Although the proposed new CCCG program would require institutions to target services to students in their first two years of postsecondary education, proposed new section 408E(b) of the Act would allow an institution to serve students who have completed their first two years only if it could demonstrate in its application, to the satisfaction of the Secretary, that these students are at high risk of dropping out, and it will first meet the needs of all its eligible first- and second-year students for services under the CCCG program. While most students who drop out leave during the first two years of study, some do leave during the subsequent years. For example, many students fail to make the transition from a 2-year institution to a 4-year institution. This program could allow institutions to provide services to those students even after completing two years of postsecondary education.

Proposed new section 408E(c)(1) of the Act would provide the Secretary with the authority to set, by regulation, a minimum student grant award level for those institutions that provide grants to students. In setting a minimum student grant award level, the Secretary would take into account such factors as the different costs of attendance associated with public and private institutions. If the Secretary did not establish a minimum student grant award, or if an institution wanted to provide grants below the minimum set by the Secretary, proposed new section 408D(c)(2) would require the institution to demonstrate in its application, to the satisfaction of the Secretary, that the size of the grants it would provide were appropriate and likely to have a significant effect on the persistence problem at that institution.

Proposed new section 408F of the Act would describe how a grant to a student would affect the calculation of that student's need for other title IV assistance. Under proposed new section 408F, a grant provided to a student by an eligible institution from an award made under the proposed new CCCG program would not be considered in determining that student's need for grant or work assistance under title IV of the Act. However, the total amount of financial assistance awarded to a student under title IV, including a grant provided under the proposed new CCCG program, could not exceed that student's cost of attendance, as defined by section 472 of the Act.

Proposed new section 408G(a) of the Act would authorize the appropriation of $35,000,000 to carry out this program for fiscal year 2000, and such sums as may be necessary for each of the 4 succeeding fiscal years. Proposed new section 408G(b) of the Act would authorize the Secretary to reserve up to 1% of the appropriation for that fiscal year in order to carry out an evaluation of the CCCG program.

Section 102. Section 102 of the bill would state that the amendments made by this bill would be effective on October 1, 1999.

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College Completion Challenge Grant Initiative