Free community college plan now at congress

Scott, Baldwin introduce bill to make higher education more accessible and affordable.

college-bill-affordablePresident Obama’s idea of free community college for students, announced during his State of the Union address in January, is getting legislative backing.

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently previewed the America’s College Promise Act of 2015 to press.

The America’s College Promise Act of 2015 (ACP), H.R. 2962, makes two years of community college free and aims to provide an affordable pathway for low-income students to a four-year college degree. The legislation would give students the opportunity to access quality and affordable higher education that gives them the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the 21st century economy.

“Students and families are faced with the overwhelming burden of figuring out how to pay for college,” said Rep. Scott. “America’s College Promise is a step in the right direction to help families gain access to quality, affordable higher education opportunities. For low-income students, this bill creates a pathway to a four-year degree at qualifying Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving institutions (AANAPISIs) and other Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). At a time when families feel like they’re increasingly having to adapt to a changing economy and technology, America’s College Promise creates a way for them to gain the skills they need to compete in a 21st century economy.”

The bill provides a federal match of $3 for every $1 invested by the state to waive community college tuition and fees for eligible students before other financial aid is applied. America’s College Promise would help to cover a significant portion of tuition and fees— for either the first two years or last two years of college—for low-income students who choose to attend qualifying HBCUs, HSIs, AANAPISIs and other MSIs.

“Higher education should be a path to shared prosperity, not a path into suffocating debt,” said Senator Baldwin. “Unfortunately college costs and student loan debt are holding back an entire generation and creating a drag on economic growth for our country. America needs out-educate the rest of the world in order to better compete in a 21st century, skills based economy. The America’s College Promise Act will strengthen workforce readiness and our economy. I’m proud to introduce this legislation with the help of my friend Congressman Scott, and with the full support of the Administration, in order to give all students the opportunity to gain the skills they need to compete, succeed, and prosper.”

According to the recently held press call, lawmakers estimate that this legislation could help a full-time community college student save an average of $3,800 in tuition per year and benefit an estimated 9 million students at 1,300 community colleges if every state participates in the program.

“America’s College Promise is the President’s bold vision, announced earlier this year, to make two years of college as universal as high school was a century ago, helping students earn the first half of a bachelor’s degree and earn skills needed in the workforce at no cost,” said Secretary Duncan. “Community colleges are not just a uniquely American institution, but as the largest most affordable segment of America’s higher education system, they are critical to reaching the President’s goal to have the highest share of college graduates in the world and to ensuring America’s economic prosperity in the future.”

Statements of Support can be viewed here.

Read the bill text of the America’s College Promise Act here.

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