Students Could Save Thousands Under New Senate Bill

By Sierra Darville

More than a dozen co-sponsors in the U.S. Senate have reintroduced legislation that would make the cost of community and technical colleges more affordable to students.

The America’s College Promise Act, first introduced in July 2015, would create new federal-state partnerships to provide tuition-free access over a two-year period to community and technical college programs that lead to a degree or industry-recognized credential.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat from Wisconsin, said the legislation would give students the chance to access quality and affordable higher education that would help them succeed in today’s economy.

“Higher education should be a path to shared prosperity, not a path into suffocating debt. But unfortunately,” she said, “college costs and student loan debt are holding back an entire generation and creating a drag on economic growth for our country. I’m proud to introduce this legislation and help give more students the opportunity to gain the skills needed to compete, succeed and prosper.”

Under the legislation, which is co-sponsored by more than a dozen other senators, a full-time community college student could save more than $3,500 on average in tuition and fees per year, according to Baldwin.

The legislation also would:

  • Create a new partnership among the federal government, states and Indian tribes to help waive resident tuition in two years of community and technical college programs for eligible students and promote reforms to accelerate success.
  • Provide a federal match of $3 for every $1 invested by the state to waive community college tuition and fees for eligible students before applying other financial aid.
  • Ensure that programs offer academic credits that are fully transferable to four-year institutions within the state, or occupational training that leads to credentials in an in-demand industry.
  • Maintain and encourage state funding for higher education.
  • Establish a grant program to provide avenues to success at Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) by assisting in the coverage of significant tuition and fees for the first two years of attendance for low-income students.

According to the Committee on Education and the Workforce, the federal-state partnership would constitute a 75/25 cost share to provide tuition-free and fee-free community college for students.

To be eligible, students must attend school on at least a part-time basis and maintain satisfactory academic progress at a minimum, according to the COE.

If the legislation is passed, the COE said that states would be required to adopt higher education reforms that focus on improving completion rates and other student outcomes.

About 9 million students would benefit from this legislation if all states participate, Baldwin said.

The legislation, which was brought back to the House in September, is supported by the Association of Community College Trustees, American Association of Community Colleges, Center for Law and Social Policy and Young Invincibles,  a nationwide network of millennial activists based in Washington, D.C.

The sponsors said the legislation is what students need not only to have an affordable higher education, but also to successfully move forward in supporting the nation’s economy and working class.