The free college could become a reality under Biden’s American Families Plan

As part of a massive new spending package, President Joe Biden is calling on Congress to pass legislation that will allow students to enroll in community college for free.

The government’s American Families Plan provides $ 109 billion to make two years of community college free for all students, in addition to an investment of approximately $ 85 billion in Pell Grants to reduce reliance on student loans.

Under Biden’s plan, about 5.5 million students would not pay tuition or fees, the White House said.

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Also included in the massive spending package is $ 62 billion for programs to increase student retention and graduation rates at institutions, particularly community colleges, that serve high numbers of low-income students.

Biden will detail the plan during a personal address Wednesday evening prior to a joint congressional session.

In fact, 25 states, including Arkansas, Indiana, Minnesota, Montana, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Tennessee, already have statewide free community college programs, and more were expected to follow before the coronavirus pandemic hits state and local households heavily burdened.

In existing state programs, students receive a scholarship for the amount of tuition that is not covered by existing state or federal grants.

When will your state’s colleges be tuition-free?

Source: Free Tuition Campaign

Most are “last dollar” scholarships, meaning that the program pays all tuition fees that remain after applying for grants and other grants.

Enrollment in four-year private colleges would decrease by about 12%, while enrollment in four-year public universities and community colleges would increase by about 18%. This emerges from a study of the economic impact of tuition release by the Free College Tuition campaign and student-led advocacy group Rise.

“You have a net effect of nearly 2 million more students enrolled in college,” said Robert Shapiro, lead author of the study and former economic advisor to President Bill Clinton.

Set it free and they will come.

Robert Shapiro

former economic advisor to Bill Clinton

“Make it free and they will come,” he said.

Shapiro noted that graduation rates would also rise, leading to increased social mobility and overall higher incomes.

“I can’t think of a single policy change that would affect the long-term prospects of as many people as it would.”

Over time, “I’m pretty confident that this program will eventually pay for itself,” Shapiro said. “It will increase incomes and also underlying productivity, which would [in turn] Increase income and company profit.

“That comes closest to a win-win situation.”

Not only have millions of American workers lost their jobs since the Covid outbreak and the economic crisis that followed, but many families say they cannot afford college as unemployment is rampant.

A quarter of high school graduates last year have delayed their college plans, largely because their parents or guardians have been less able to provide financial assistance, according to a survey by Junior Achievement and Citizens.

Because of the pandemic, even fewer students have enrolled at Community College.

Community college students are likely to be older, have lower incomes, and often balance work, children, and other responsibilities. They are also disproportionately colored people – all groups that have been particularly hard hit by Covid.

However, not all experts agree that free college is the best way to tackle the college affordability crisis.

Critics say that through a combination of existing grants and scholarships, lower-income students are already paying little or no tuition to state schools, if at all.

Additionally, the money doesn’t cover fees, books, or room and board, all of which are costs faced by lower-income students, and redirecting funds towards free tuition could come at the expense of other operations on campus, including the recruitment and retention of faculty and administrators.

In addition, the Community College is already significantly cheaper. For two-year public schools, the 2020-21 school year tuition fee is $ 3,770, according to the College Board. Alternatively, four-year state public schools have an average tuition fee of $ 10,560 and four-year private universities an average of $ 37,650.

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