Universities Shut Up As Biden Withdraws From Free College Plan


The year of Joe Biden’s slow withdrawal from his free college pledge meets little or only low-key protests from U.S. higher education, in part reflecting the lack of interest in the idea among institutions across four. years.

In the latest setback to his 2020 campaign pledge, Mr Biden has publicly admitted that he doubts Congress approves “full funding for community colleges” as lawmakers seek to cut his proposed curriculum by 3, $ 5 trillion (£ 2.5 trillion) in government-wide social spending to roughly $ 2 trillion. Subsequently, Congressional Democrats suggested that the initiative – making community colleges free – would be removed from their budget plan entirely.

Another major proposal from Biden – $ 20 billion to improve scientific and research capacity in historically black institutions and other institutions serving minorities – was reduced to just about $ 2 billion in the negotiation process at Capitol Hill.

Although Democrats control both houses of the US Congress, they only have a one-vote advantage in the Senate, where two members of the Conservative Party have refused to accept the scale of the new spending Mr. Biden wants.

The idea of ​​a free college seemed politically difficult from the time Mr Biden was elected last November, even with higher education leaders questioning it. Advocates have argued that much of the modern American workplace now requires at least two years of college education, in the same way that a high school diploma has been the standard expected by employers for decades. past. But opponents have consistently questioned the cost, especially as a benefit to students and families who could afford the relatively low tuition fees at community colleges.

Opposition in academia centered on four-year institutions, which urged lawmakers to prioritize the Pell Grant, the main federal grant for low-income students instead. This position, said Martha Kanter, a leading open college strategist, largely reflected the unwillingness of many four-year universities to find ways to facilitate the transfer of credits earned at community colleges.

Eliminating tuition fees at the community college level would help large numbers of students pursuing bachelor’s degree studies if four-year institutions were simultaneously willing to “partner in new and different ways with community colleges,” he said. said Dr. Kanter, Under Secretary for Education in the Obama administration. “And they didn’t want it, mostly,” she said of the four-year colleges and universities.

Major exceptions include the State University of New York, which introduced a policy in 2015 ensuring that SUNY campuses would accept credits earned at other SUNY sites and at community colleges across the state. SUNY chancellor at the time, Nancy Zimpher, saw nearly half of the system’s graduates start their education at community colleges, but then lose up to 20 percent of their earned credits on transfer. “It’s ridiculous in the 21st century,” said Dr. Kanter, now CEO of College Promise, which has helped run free tuition programs in 17 states and more than 350 local communities across the United States. .

These Promise programs work in large part by finding public and private funding to help cover the difference between the cost of the community college and the help already available to students, including the Pell Grant. Under the Biden plan, the federal government would spend about $ 45 billion over five years to close that gap, with states ultimately paying about one-fifth of the cost. About a quarter of U.S. states are already expected to reject the offer if Congress approves it.

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