Now is the time to reimagine the institution to help power a more inclusive economy.
To President Biden and many of his allies, free community college is one of the best vehicles of upward mobility, a “ladder to the middle class,” as one economist put it. Earlier this month, Senate Democrats began the process of fulfilling this longstanding priority for their party, including a $109 billion expenditure on free community college in their sweeping budget plan. The administration is seeking to make higher education more accessible in other ways, proposing a $85 billion increase in federal Pell Grants that help cover the costs of college.
At the state level, financial support for college has steadily grown more generous, as nineteen states have enacted free community college tuition over the last four years. This shift represents a major investment in providing community college for all, even if many of these programs are “last dollar” programs that kick in after all other grants have been applied to their tuition, while students still pay other significant costs – room, board, transportation, and books.
Ray Domanico is a senior fellow and director of education policy at the Manhattan Institute.
Photo by nirat/iStock