Tuition-free university movement gains momentum, despite Biden’s plan stalled –

Political negotiations spell the collapse of Biden’s Universal Community College Plan

University pledging programs, commonly known as free learning initiatives, have broad support across the political spectrum. Fifty-seven states and DC have at least one of these programs at the college, city, or state level. There are 33 state programs that include tuition at community colleges or universities and higher education, and experts say the number will increase.

Critics of the Universal Public College say the price is unsustainable. Opponents of a free community college for education say too many schools fail where fewer than 40% of students teach a degree within six years. Advocates argue that this could be solved by providing more institutional dollars and financial aid to keep students on track.

Several bills have been tabled at this Congress to provide free access to education in community colleges or public universities, but none have gone unnoticed.

Biden is once again urging the federal government to strengthen its role in funding the college. In his first speech this week, the President urged Congress to “invest in what our First Lady Jill … calls America’s best kept secret: community colleges.”

Neither Biden nor First Lady Jill Biden, a professor at North Virginia Community College, admitted defeat in forming a federal state partnership to reduce college costs. Their plan failed as the Democrats failed to reach consensus on the president’s Build Back Better package. But Biden still emphasizes politics as a priority.

Attorneys welcome the commitment because they say the federal dollar is critical to the lifespan of college pledging programs.

Have the Democrats lost the idea of ​​free public higher education?

“There is a real opportunity to improve what local communities and states are doing,” said Martha Canter, executive director of the Nonprofit College Promise campaign. The federal government partnership “will create a sustainable funding process for all who fund it fully.”

Meanwhile, Canter, the Obama administration’s former deputy director of education, said state leaders are increasing investment in secondary education as part of their economic strategy.

Take New Mexico, where Governor Michel Lujan Grisham signed on Friday and this went into law to fund tuition for up to 35,000 residents to get certificates, associate degrees, and bachelor’s degrees. The bill would create one of the most comprehensive college promising programs in the country, covering tuition fees for part-time students and returning adult students.

Most educational plans only include full-time students who have just graduated from high school and will receive funding after considering other state and federal grants, known as the latest dollar model. However, New Mexico will provide funding before applying for other scholarships. This means that a student whose household income is low enough to qualify for the Pell Grant can use that federal dollar for other college expenses.

There seems to be a lost idea: free university. But no one can agree on the details.

“The signing of this law sends a clear message to the new Mexicans that we believe in them and in the contribution they can make to their families and the future of our great state,” Lujan Grisham said Friday. He said.

The legislation expands the New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship Program to one of four available state scholarships. New Mexico was one of the first states to offer high school graduates a lottery-free path to college in 1996.

The lottery scholarship paid students full tuition through 2016, coverage declined as government revenue declined. The resumption of ticket sales and increased budget allocations now allow the state to fully fund the program, but lawmakers say the permit requirements will shut down non-traditional students.

The expansion of the Opportunity Scholarship aims to solve the problem, but the legislator has decided to finance the expansion for only one year. Most of the $ 75 million investment comes from federal pandemic aid dollars and some concerns that widespread access could ruin the program.

Numerous states have used federal pandemic funds to bolster their college pledging programs. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) used parts of the state to create Futures for Frontliners, a required scholarship for workers to attend community college.

Whitmer said in an interview last year that nearly 100,000 people have signed up since the scholarship was published in 2020. Those who do not qualify are encouraged to apply to Michigan Reconnect, which covers college education. community for residents over the age of 25 without a university degree.

He said the public response stressed that cost was an obstacle, while political support for the initiative stressed the importance of training the workforce.

“We have truly succeeded in building an energetic coalition of business leaders, Democrats and Republicans … because employers in our state will tell you their greatest need is a skilled workforce.” He said she. We can find common ground and strengthen our economy, which helps everyone.

Brandi Johnson, president of the Michigan Community College Association, is giving free education programs a jump in enrollment in 2021. While the number of people is still below pre-pandemic levels, the National Student Exchange Research Center is seeing an increase. 19% in the state. In 2021, two-year schools will be reduced by 20 percent compared to the previous year.

College Promise Canter said there is a sense of urgency among state leaders to reconnect with people who have abandoned their path to certification following a pandemic. It is also recognized that the cost of higher education can be prohibitive for many low- and middle-income families.

The University of Texas Board of Trustees recently accepted the same. when members signed February 23 A new Promise Plus foundation is expanding its tuition fee to seven of UT’s eight schools (UT-Austin already has one).

Universities currently cover tuition and tuition on a full-time basis, with a certain amount of household income that varies by institution. The new funding will allow schools to raise their thresholds to help more students. The board estimates that the foundation will earn $ 15 million annually and provide at least $ 1 million for each campus to add to its curriculum.

“It is enormous to bring children into our institutions and across the board and to combine learning with employment,” Nolan Perez, one of the deputies, said on February 23. Meeting.

States are benefiting from budget surpluses caused by economic recovery and federal aid, said Thomas Harnish, vice president of the Association of Higher Education Officials for Government Relations.

While fluctuations in government revenues can jeopardize free learning, he says, the broad appeal and cost structure of many programs allow them to remain in power. Many states offer end-of-life programs that help cut costs, but advocates say they also limit benefits for low-income students.

However, Harnish said the federal government should work with states to make public higher education more accessible in the long run.

“When states face years of tight budgets, higher education is one of the first to decline, leading to more learning,” he said. “We want to develop a system that encourages states not only to rely on the growth of the federal Pell Grant program, but also to raise funds for higher education.

Source: Washington Post