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Collins, Hassan Lead Effort to Support Students in Rural Communities

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.  Their bill would assist rural students in reaching their higher education goals and connect them with employment opportunities in their hometowns. The legislation is co-sponsored by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Tina Smith (D-MN).

“Supporting 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 connect rural students with educational and economic opportunities across the country.”

“We must do more to ensure that rural students can access higher education opportunities that lead to good-paying jobs in their communities,” said Senator Hassan. “This bipartisan bill builds on our success last year to increase funding that supports rural students. Senator Collins and I will keep working together to strengthen rural education, which in turn supports rural communities, by boosting the local workforce and helping the economy thrive.”

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 with 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.

Due in part to Senators Collins and Hassan’s advocacy, the year-end government funding bill doubled funding for the Rural Postsecondary and Economic Development Program, which provides grants to improve enrollment, completion rates, and employment opportunities for post-secondary rural students. The bipartisan Success for Rural Students and Communities Act would further strengthen this grant program.

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