President Joe Biden on Wednesday officially announced his proposal to allow any student in the US to study at community colleges for free.
In his first address to a joint session of Congress, Biden detailed his $1.8 trillion plan for families, children, and students as the country recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The proposed spending package includes a $109 billion allotment for the free community college initiative, which the White House believes could benefit around 5.5 million students.
“When this nation made 12 years of public education universal in the last century, it made us the best-educated and best-prepared nation in the world. But the world is catching up… 12 years is no longer enough today to compete in the 21st century,” Biden said.
“Research shows that when a young child goes to school — not day care — they are far more likely to graduate from high school and go on to college. And then we add two years of free community college, it begins to change the dynamic,” he added.
Students React to Biden’s Proposal
In an interview with KHOU 11, a female fine arts student stated that removing tuition for community colleges is an “amazing” and “awesome” move by the administration.
“I’m just trying to get the cheaper route and go to community college to help my parents out. I have another little brother, so that’s another debt on the list,” she explained.
Another student, interviewed by FOX 10 Phoenix, called the cost “one of the main factors why I haven’t gone to community college, or just a university in particular.”
Biden’s Other Plans for Higher Education
In addition to his free community college initiative, the president is proposing the investment of $62 billion in retention and completion programs at schools that serve higher numbers of low-income students.
He also called for the expansion of the Pell Grant program, which will 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.
In March, Biden signed into law the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill to address the ongoing health and economic crisis, as well as to provide much-needed funding for higher education.