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Bipartisan Bill to Help Rural Students and Communities Succeed Introduced by Collins, Hassan

Washington, D.C.—In a bipartisan effort to help rural communities thrive, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) introduced The Success for Rural Students and Communities Act of 2020 today.  Their bipartisan bill would help rural students reach their higher education goals and connect them with employment opportunities in their hometowns.

“Investing in the educational aspirations of rural students not only helps them to achieve their personal and career goals, but also contributes to the success of our communities,” said Senator Collins.  “Our bipartisan bill encourages schools and employers to forge partnerships that will put students on pathways to the high-need jobs available where they live.  I encourage our colleagues to join us in supporting this legislation that will create additional jobs and economic opportunities in rural towns across the country.”

“Far too many young people in rural communities struggle to find higher educational opportunities that align with the needs of businesses in their local communities,” Senator Hassan said. “Our bipartisan bill would help build partnerships between local businesses and schools to ensure that students can get the education they need both to expand their own opportunities and also spur innovation and economic growth in their communities.”

“It's validating to see the Success for Rural Students and Communities Act reflecting some of the most important learnings about how to clear the path to educational opportunity for students in rural America,” said Noa Meyer, President of rootEd Alliance. “Grant programs like these will drive innovation to take on this challenge and help us enable rural students and their communities to thrive."

“Rural students can have a tough time pursuing postsecondary pathways due to a lack of resources and opportunities in their communities,” said Lexi Barrett, JFF Associate Vice President. “JFF applauds the Success for Rural Students and Communities Act because it would provide much needed investment to strengthen rural postsecondary pathways, particularly at community colleges. This is a critical step in supporting rural economic growth, which in turn ensures students in these areas have access to good jobs and career opportunities."

“All students should be able to realize the promise of higher education, but geographic and economic challenges in rural communities often make these opportunities more difficult,” said Allen Pratt, Ed.D., Executive Director of the National Rural Education Association.  “Investments in programs and innovative strategies that will help rural students achieve their education and career goals are critical to the success of rural communities. We applaud Senator Collins and Senator Hassan for their work on the Success for Rural Students and Communities Act and for their efforts on behalf of America’s rural students.”

"We are very excited to see the focus on providing support and erasing barriers for students in rural areas to pursue higher education,” said President of White Mountains Community College, Charles Lloyd. “At the end of the day there will be a significantly positive impact on students, their families, and the local economy."

“Partnerships created through this important legislation will increase college access for students from rural communities, ensuring an educated workforce for NH’s future.” said Deborah Scire President of New Hampshire College and University Council.  “These strategic efforts between our colleges and universities and community based organizations will be leveraged in new ways to create new opportunities and economic growth.

Rural students tend to graduate from high school at higher rates than their peers in urban districts, and at about the same rate as their suburban peers; however, only 59 percent of rural graduates go straight to college, whereas 62 percent of urban graduates and 67 percent of suburban graduates do so.

The Success for Rural Students and Communities Act would improve college access for rural students by spurring innovation and investment in new strategies.  Specifically, the bill would create a demonstration program to encourage rural community stakeholders to partner together to help their students matriculate, graduate, and enter the workforce. These partnerships would draw on the talents of local school districts, institutions of higher education, regional economic development entities, and rural community-serving organizations.

The bill takes a holistic approach that assists students from high school to obtaining their first job by:

Encouraging rural students to pursue higher education

The bill calls for partnerships to coalesce around approaches that boost the higher education enrollment rates of rural students, including by exposing students and their families to college campuses, courses, programs, and internships, and to the career pathways to jobs at home. 

Removing barriers to graduation from post-secondary education

Many rural students are the first in their families to attend college.  The bill would give partnerships the authority and resources to help rural students navigate some of the common challenges of higher education, such as financial aid and selecting the educational programs that meet their needs. 

Putting students on pathways into the high-need jobs available where they live

The bill would encourage partnerships to work with employers to determine what credentials are needed for rural students to be hired, whether that is a college degree, a skilled trade credential, or a professional certificate.

A number of strategies could be developed and tested, including work-based learning opportunities such as apprenticeships, internships, and stackable career credentials. 

Click HERE to read the text of The Success for Rural Students and Communities Act.