Written by Ripon Advance News Service for The Ripon Advance on July 9, 2020

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) on July 6 proposed a bipartisan bill to establish a rural postsecondary and economic development grant program toward improving college access and success for America’s rural students.

“I am proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation, which seeks to close the attainment gap that is present in many of our rural communities and economies,” Rep. Stefanik said. “We must support our students by providing them with early support and information for higher education, create programs that offer students training locally, and work with local stakeholders to retain a skillful workforce.”

Rep. Stefanik sponsored the Success for Rural Students and Communities Act of 2020, H.R. 7497, with five original cosponsors, including U.S. Reps. Billy Long (R-MO) and Josh Harder (D-CA), to prepare rural students to complete their credentials and step into high-demand jobs in their communities. U.S. Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) on Jan. 8 introduced the same-named companion bill, S. 3155, in their chamber.

If enacted, the proposal would authorize demonstration grants to be awarded to stakeholder partnerships to support activities that accomplish several goals, including increased postsecondary enrollment and completion rates for rural students, according to a bill summary provided by Rep. Stefanik’s staff.

To meet that goal, for instance, students would be provided with early supports, such as counseling, exposure to higher education programs, access to dual enrollment courses, pathways to regional employment opportunities, and help with transitions to and from high school and higher education, according to the summary.

Additionally, the bill would create or strengthen postsecondary programs and training opportunities in locally relevant fields, including by developing work-based learning and supporting associated costs; awarding prior-learning and competency-based credits; and engaging local employers and boards in developing programs and curricula, the summary says.

“The North Country is comprised of many rural school districts that have high graduation rates and students who are eager to enter the workforce,” said Rep. Stefanik. “I will continue to work with my colleagues on initiatives like this bill to ensure our students have access to local opportunities and the support they need to seek them out.”

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