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Free college could become 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 to allow students to enroll in a community college at no cost.

The department’s American Families Plan calls for $109 billion to provide two years of community college free to all students as well as invest nearly $85 billion in Pell grants to reduce reliance on student loans.

The White House said that under Biden’s plan, about 5.5 million students would not pay any tuition or fees.

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The massive spending package also includes $62 billion for programs to increase college retention and completion rates at institutions, especially community colleges, that serve large numbers of low-income students.

Biden is scheduled to detail the plan Wednesday evening, during a personal speech before a joint session of Congress.

In fact, 25 states, including Arkansas, Indiana, Minnesota, Montana, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Tennessee, already have free community college programs statewide, and more were expected before the coronavirus pandemic puts severe strain on state and local budgets.

In existing state-based programs, students receive a scholarship for the amount of tuition fees not covered by current state or federal aid.

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

Source: Campaign for Free College Tuition Fee

Most are “last dollar” scholarships, which means that the program pays for tuition and fees remaining after financial aid and other scholarships have been applied.

Enrollment at private four-year colleges will fall by about 12%, while enrollment at public universities and four-year community colleges will rise by about 18%, according to a study on the economic impact of making some college tuition free through the campaign for free college tuition and an advocacy group led by Students Rise.

“It got a net effect for about two million other students enrolled in college,” said Robert Shapiro, the study’s lead author and former economic advisor to President Bill Clinton.

Make it free and they will come.

Robert Shapiro

Former Economic Adviser to Bill Clinton

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

Shapiro found that graduation rates will also rise, leading to greater social mobility and higher incomes in general.

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

Over time, “I feel very confident that this program will eventually pay for itself,” Shapiro said. “This will increase income and raise basic productivity as well [in turn] Raising corporate income and profits.

“This is the closest thing to winning.”

Not only have millions of American workers lost their jobs since the COVID-19 outbreak and the economic crisis that followed, but with unemployment rampant, many families now say they can’t afford college.

A quarter of high school graduates last year put off their college plans, according to a survey by Junior Achievement and Citizens, largely because their parents or guardians were less able to provide financial support.

Fewer students are enrolled in community colleges due to the pandemic.

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

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

Critics say low-income students, through a combination of existing grants and scholarships, are already paying little, if any, public school tuition.

Furthermore, the funds do not cover fees, books, or room and board, which are all costs experienced by low-income students, and the transfer of funds toward free tuition may come at the expense of other operations on campus, including recruitment and retention of faculty. and officials.

In addition, community college is already significantly less expensive. In public two-year schools, tuition is $3,770 for the 2020-21 school year, according to the College Board. Alternatively, in public four-year public schools, tuition is $10,560, and in private four-year universities, it averages $37,650.

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