Amy Klobuchar

Klobuchar's Plan: Free Community College, Expanded Pell

Senator Amy Klobuchar, the Minnesota Democrat who is seeking her party's presidential nomination, on Friday rolled out a higher education plan that would fund free community college through a federal-state partnership, and which would substantially expand the federal Pell Grant program.

Klobuchar's tuition-free community college proposal is based on a bill from Senator Tammy Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat. The feds would match $3 for every $1 from states for subsidies for students who qualify for in-state tuition, are enrolled at least half-time and maintain satisfactory academic progress. The plan would cover one-year certificates and associate degrees, as well as technical certifications and industry-recognized credentials. To be eligible, states would be required to maintain their support for higher education, limit tuition hikes and better ensure that students can transfer to four-year programs.

The plan would double the maximum annual Pell Grant award (to $12,000) and expand eligibility to families making up to $100,000 per year. It also would increase investment in apprenticeships, improve tax incentives for employee training, expand childcare for students who are parents and include in-demand occupations for the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

"To pay for these investments," according to the proposal, "Senator Klobuchar will raise the capital gains and dividends rate for people in the top two income tax brackets, limit the amount of capital gain deferral allowable through like-kind exchanges and implement the Buffet [sic] Rule through a 30 percent minimum tax for people with incomes over $1 million."

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Klobuchar Releases Plan for First 100 Days

Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat seeking her party's presidential nomination, promised Tuesday to restore Obama-era higher education rules and beef up staffing at the Education Department as part of a list of policies she would pursue in her first 100 days as president.

Among the policies Klobuchar outlined:

  • Propose higher ed legislation that would provide free community college, expand the value of Pell Grants and allow student borrowers to refinance their loans at lower rates.
  • Restore staffing levels at the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights and Office of Federal Student Aid. She said diminished staffing levels under the Trump administration has slowed work pursuing Title IX investigations and work on borrower-defense claims.
  • Enforcement of gainful-employment rules that hold career education programs -- including those at for-profit colleges -- accountable for student outcomes. The majority of programs that failed GE standards were in the for-profit sector. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has halted enforcement of gainful employment and said she plans to repeal the regulations.
  • Strengthen the borrower-defense rule so defrauded student borrowers can receive loan relief. DeVos blocked enforcement of the rule and is crafting her own version of the rule that would add tougher standards for borrowers seeking loan forgiveness.
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Klobuchar Comes Out Against Free College

At a CNN town hall event this week, Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat running for her party’s presidential nomination, said she does not support proposals to make college tuition-free.

“No, I am not for four-year college for all,” she said in response to an audience member’s question.

Klobuchar instead said she supports free community college, expanded Pell Grants and refinancing of student loan interest rates. She also said she wants to help more students get certificates or two-year degrees to enter trades -- “everything from welding to technology to robotics” -- where a bachelor’s degree isn’t necessary.

Rejecting calls for free college puts Klobuchar at odds with most contenders for the Democratic nomination. The other Senate Democrats to declare campaigns for the nomination have either introduced or supported legislation that would provide free or debt-free public college. Julian Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio, has also argued for making community college -- but not four-year college -- free as part of a higher education platform.

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