President’s Proposal for Tuition-free Community College: 75/25 Federal/State Split

President Biden described elements of his “American Families Plan” during his April 28 address – including a proposal to make two-year colleges tuition free. The details involve state opt-in, and a funding split between the federal and state governments.

The White House released a statement about the entire American Families Plan, detailing its multiple proposals. Among them, this component regarding education opportunities:

Add at least four years of free education.

Investing in education is a down payment on the future of America. As access to high school became more widely available at the turn of the 20th Century, it made us the best-educated and best-prepared nation in the world. But everyone knows that 12 years is not enough today. The American Families Plan will make transformational investments from early childhood to postsecondary education so that all children and young people are able to grow, learn, and gain the skills they need to succeed. It will provide universal, quality-preschool to all three- and four- year-olds. It will provide Americans two years of free community college. It will invest in making college more affordable for low- and middle-income students, including students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and institutions such as Hispanic-serving institutions, Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-serving institutions, and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs). And, it will invest in our teachers as well as our students, improving teacher training and support so that our schools become engines of growth at every level.

More discussion on the plan is in an article on Route Fifty:

The plan would allocate $109 billion to cover the cost of two years’ tuition at community colleges for all first-time students and workers who want to learn new skills, according to a fact sheet published by the White House. The federal government would pay for approximately 75% of the tuition costs while states would cover the remaining 25%, said a senior administration official who discussed the plan on background with reporters. The tuition program would also be available to unauthorized immigrants who were brought into the United States illegally as children.

The program is viewed as a federal-state partnership that would require state buy-in, the White House official said. But the administration has provisions in place to work directly with local institutions if a state does not choose to participate.

Read the White House press statement on the Plan, and the Route Fifty coverage of the community college elements.

New York Times subscribers may also read this more lengthy account of the entire plan.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties