Free Community College Cut From Biden’s Infrastructure Plan

Susan Walsh/AP/Shutterstock / Susan Walsh/AP/Shutterstock

Free community college looks to be one of the first items on the chopping block for Biden’s proposed “Build Back Better” Plan to improve the odds that it will pass via the reconciliation process in an evenly divided Senate, according to CNN.

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When President Joe Biden broke the news to his wife, Jill, he joked that she kicked him out of the bedroom.

“The White House has a lot of bedrooms.”

In spite of cutting free community college out of the bill, there is some good news for low-income college students. The new proposal adds $500 to Pell grants, which are grants that qualifying, low-income students can use for tuition, fees, room and board, and other costs related to their education, such as books, said CNN. The current limit is $6,495 and the new bill would up the amount to close to $7,000. Pell grants do not need to be paid back.

Originally, Biden had called for a Pell grant increase as high as $1,400 and, on the campaign trail, he had promised to double the maximum allowance.

Save for Your Future

However, Biden told CNN that he is not going to give up on his dream — and campaign promise — of free community college.

“I’m going to get it done,” he said. “If I don’t I’ll be sleeping alone for a long time.”

Are Increased Pell Grants Better Than Free Community College?

The CNN report points out that Pell grants cover more aspects of education — for a broader range of students — than free community college would. First of all, students can take out Pell grants not just for tuition to cover community college, but for public and private four-year schools.

Additionally, Pell grants can cover extra expenses including books, laptops, transportation, food and more. These costs can total an average of $14,780 per year for full-time students, CNN reports. These expenses often make up the bulk of student loans, especially for two-year college students, who often have tuition and fees covered by grants, scholarships and other financial aid programs.

Pell Grant Increase Needed to Keep Pace with College Costs, Experts Say

In the past five years, approximately seven million students have received Pell grants, with 95% of recipients’ families earning $60,000 or less annually. A $500 increase in the maximum grant available would be almost three times the amount of recent increases, which ranged from $100 to $175 per year.

See: States With Free Community College
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Karen McCarthy, vice president of public policy and federal relations at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, told CNN, “We are thankful for any increase. But even with these small increases year over year, the maximum Pell grant award doesn’t have nearly the buying power it did when it was created.”

McCarthy’s organization is lobbying to have Congress double the Pell grant.

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