Scott, Leger Fernández, Baldwin, Dean Introduce Legislation to Lower Cost of Community College

WASHINGTON – House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA-03), Representative Teresa Leger Fernández (D-NM-03), Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Representative Madeleine Dean (D-PA-04) introduced legislation in both the House and Senate chambers to make community college and two-year Tribal Colleges and Universities more accessible by waiving tuition fees for eligible students. 

“Community colleges play a unique and vital role in providing students access a quality postsecondary degree. Regrettably, the chronic underfunding of community colleges is jeopardizing their ability to support their students and communities. The America’s College Promise Act is a major investment in expanding opportunities for students and building back a better economy. This bill is one critical piece of our comprehensive plan to make quality higher education more affordable for students and families and developing a competitive 21st century workforce,” said Ranking Member Scott (D-VA-03).

“New Mexico knows how free community college unlocks opportunities for students - from the recent high school graduate to the experienced worker who wants to go back to school.  Students are going to school at higher rates in New Mexico than most states,” said Representative Leger Fernández (D-NM-03)“The America’s College Promise Act builds on New Mexico’s example to make sure that students across the country can attend community college without the burden of tuition and fees. This bill will provide funds for services to help students successfully complete their degrees. To unlock the door for a brighter future, it also reduces the financial burden for low-income students to attend TCUs, HBCUs, and MSIs.”

“America’s technical and community colleges give students the education and skills they need to land good-paying jobs in high-demand industries and grow our economy. But for too many students, the cost of a two-year degree is holding them back, hamstringing businesses who need skilled workers and preventing them from providing for their families,” said Senator Baldwin (D-WI)“America’s College Promise will break down those barriers for students who want to pursue a technical education, training tomorrow’s workforce without saddling young people with debt that prevents them from buying a house, starting a family, and contributing to our economy.” 

“Higher education should promise a bright future, yet the cost of college inhibits that opportunity for many and burdens many more with immense debt — we must change this for future generations,” said Representative Dean (D-PA-04)“As a professor, it was a profound joy to witness students claim their education and carve out their own future — and I want to ensure that for more young adults and those looking to make a career change. The America’s College Promise Act will help make that a reality, from providing tuition-free community college courses to expanding funding for HBCUs and trade schools. I look forward to this important legislation being brought to the House floor.”

The America’s College Promise Act of 2023 will make the skills and credentials necessary to succeed in our economy more accessible to all students by creating a new federal-state partnership to provide two years of tuition-free community college. Specifically, the America’s College Promise Act of 2023:

  • Creates a partnership between the federal government and states to waive tuition and fees for two years of community and technical college programs for eligible students, while promoting key reforms to accelerate student success;
  • Creates a sliding scale for federal cost share beginning at 100% for the first year and ending at 80% for the fifth and subsequent years;
  • Makes sure that programs offer academic credits that are transferable to four-year institutions in their state, or occupational training that leads to recognized credentials;
  • Maintains and encourages state funding for higher education; 
  • Establishes a student success fund to improve enrollment, retention, transfer, or completion rates and labor market outcomes for underserved student populations, including students of color and low-income and first-generation college students, who attend community and technical colleges at disproportionate rates;
  • Waives two years of tuition and fees for eligible students at tribal colleges and universities; and
  • Establishes a new grant program to provide pathways to success at historically black colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions, including Hispanic-serving Institutions, by covering a significant portion of tuition and fees for the first two years of attendance for low-income students.

The legislation is supported by the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, Association of Community College Trustees, The Education Trust, The Hope Center at Temple University, The National Education Association, The Century Foundation Higher Education Team, Higher Learning Advocates, the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Asian Pacific Islander American Scholars, American Association of Community Colleges, Young Invincibles, and Jobs for the Future.

Full text of this legislation is available here.


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