The U.S. House Education and Workforce Committee Chairwoman, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY), Chairman of the Higher Education and Workforce Development Subcommittee introduced the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act. COE staff, and our advisors, are currently unpacking the details of the legislation and will keep you informed regarding that analysis and what actions the TRIO community might need to take in working with Congress in the weeks and months ahead.
The TRIO chapter of the PROSPER Act reflects an openness to recommendations from our community by Dr. Foxx, Congressman Guthrie and the Committee as well as a commitment to promote greater college access and successful completion. There are many aspects of the PROSPER Act that COE applauds, including:
- The continued authorization of all TRIO programs including Educational Opportunity Centers and the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program;
- The appropriate renaming of "Prior Experience" to "Accountability for Outcomes";
- Acceptance of the community’s recommendations to make more meaningful outcome criteria for most of the TRIO programs;
- The creation of a closer connection between TRIO and the Pell Grant by establishing Pell Grant eligibility as a means of determining low-income status; and
- A prohibition on absolute, competitive, or other preference priorities.
Despite these welcome provisions, the PROSPER Act also includes a number of concerning proposals that COE and the TRIO community must address. These include:
- The undermining of the principle of continuity in college access and support services by the inclusion of a set-aside for new applicants that could absorb all available funds in a competition and eradicate any protection provided by what is now called "prior experience";
- The addition of a 20 percent matching requirement for all TRIO programs that must be provided by institutional, agency, private or state funds; and
- The inclusion of additional documentation requirements in TRIO outreach programs (i.e., Talent Search and EOC).
The House Committee on Education and the Workforce is expected to "mark up" this legislation very soon. The Council for Opportunity in Education's government relations team is actively working with other stakeholders to develop a robust strategy and assure that the views of the TRIO community will be represented throughout the reauthorization process.