With college university tuition prices skyrocketing since the 1980s and Americans still waiting to see if student loan debt relief will come, community college is another way for some to receive a post-high school graduate education. In April of 2021, the Biden administration included a $109 billion proposal in the American Families Act to provide Americans two years of free community college.
There were hints that the community college plan was on the chopping block, but 32 organizations, including the NAACP and The Debt Collective, urged the President to keep this alive and that it would benefit “at least 8 million students.”
Unfortunately, according to People, that plan seems to be off the table for now within the Build Back Better spending deal. As the First Lady, Jill Biden, spoke at the annual Community College National Legislative Summit in Washington, D.C., Biden indicated that the signature piece of legislation she pushed for is off the table.
“Joe has also had to make compromises. Congress hasn’t passed the Build Back Better agenda — yet. And free community college is no longer a part of that package,” Biden said.
“We knew this wouldn’t be easy — Joe has always said that. Still, like you, I was disappointed. Because — like you — these aren’t just bills or budgets to me. We know what they mean for real people. For our students.”
Community colleges have been a lifeline for people of color, as they make up the majority of students who attend, as noted by the American Association of Community Colleges. One important point to consider is that Democrats are looking to strip the spending bill down because Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) won’t vote for it along with the 50 Republican senators.
Sixty-two percent of community college students work to put themselves through school. The First Lady is currently a professor at Northern Virginia Community College, so she knows firsthand how important this is. Biden went on to speak about the Build Back Better plan with a sports analogy:
“Legislation becomes a football to keep away from the other side, and Americans get lost in the playbook,” she said. “Governing isn’t a game. There are no teams to root for or against, just people — Americans from all walks of life — who need help and hope.”
“Build Back Better isn’t just a piece of legislation,” she said. “And it’s certainly not a football to pass or pivot.”
The Build Back Better spending bill also makes investments in climate change, child-care, and healthcare. However, because the congressional numbers aren’t there for all components for the bill to pass, pivoting is exactly what Democrats are doing.