Biden Proposes Free Community College, Pell Expansion

President Biden wants $109 billion for two-year colleges, $80 billion addition for Pell Grants, $62 billion for retention and completion efforts, and $39 billion for two free years at minority-serving institutions for most students.

April 28, 2021
President Biden
(Getty Images)

President Biden on Wednesday proposed a plan to make good on his promise for free community college -- and much more for higher education.

Included in his American Families Plan is:

  • $109 billion for two years of free community college "so that every student has the ability to obtain a degree or certificate." Dreamer students would be included. "American workers need and deserve additional support to build their skills, increase their earnings, remain competitive, and share in the benefits of the new economy," says the plan.
  • $80 billion for Pell Grants to increase the maximum grant by $1,400. "While nearly 7 million students depend on Pell Grants, the grant has not kept up with the rising cost of college. Over the last 50 years, the value of Pell Grants has plummeted. The maximum grant went from covering nearly 80 percent of the cost of a four-year college degree to under 30 percent -- leading millions of low-income students to take out debt to finance their education," the plan says.
  • $62 billion for a grant program "to invest in completion and retention activities at colleges and universities that serve high numbers of low-income students, particularly community colleges. States, territories, and tribes will receive grants to provide funding to colleges that adopt innovative, proven solutions for student success, including wraparound services ranging from child care and mental health services to faculty and peer mentoring; emergency basic needs grants; practices that recruit and retain diverse faculty; transfer agreements between colleges; and evidence-based remediation programs."
  • $39 billion "that provides two years of subsidized tuition for students from families earning less than $125,000 enrolled in a four-year" historically Black college, tribally controlled university or minority-serving institution.
  • Double scholarships for future teachers from $4,000 to $8,000 per year. The Biden plan also targets $400 million for teacher preparation at minority-serving institutions and $900 million for the development of special education teachers.

A story on reactions to the plan may be found here.

President Biden's plan stresses that the spending will help the economy. "It is not enough to restore where we were prior to the pandemic. We need to build a stronger economy that does not leave anyone behind -- we need to build back better. President Biden knows a strong middle class is the backbone of America," the plan says. "He knows it should be easier for American families to break into the middle class, and easier to stay in the middle class."

The plan is likely to face opposition from Republicans in Congress.

 

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Scott Jaschik

Scott Jaschik, Editor, is one of the three founders of Inside Higher Ed. With Doug Lederman, he leads the editorial operations of Inside Higher Ed, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Scott is a leading voice on higher education issues, quoted regularly in publications nationwide, and publishing articles on colleges in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Salon, and elsewhere. He has been a judge or screener for the National Magazine Awards, the Online Journalism Awards, the Folio Editorial Excellence Awards, and the Education Writers Association Awards. Scott served as a mentor in the community college fellowship program of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, of Teachers College, Columbia University. He is a member of the board of the Education Writers Association. From 1999-2003, Scott was editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Scott grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and graduated from Cornell University in 1985. He lives in Washington.

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