But Walter G. Bumphus, president and chief executive officer of the American Association of Community Colleges, said Biden’s plan demonstrated his deep understanding of the barriers facing the 12 million students that the nation’s community colleges serve each year. . The first lady, Jill Biden, is a longtime Community College professor.
“Eliminating tuition, increasing workforce education support, and providing the resources needed to increase student achievement and completion directly target these barriers,” Bumphus said in a statement. . ”
The Biden administration turned to Tennessee, one of the first states to offer a free community college program, for guidance on its proposal. Its program, called the Tennessee Promise, provides “last dollar” scholarships to students to attend two-year community colleges and other programs, essentially covering whatever costs remain after they exhaust their financial help.
Shanna L. Jackson, president of Nashville State Community College, told reporters this year that among the biggest lessons in the Tennessee program was that “free college isn’t free” and students are often burdened with other costs. such as transportation, textbooks and children care.
“There is a very real cost to students in urban and rural areas who have to reduce working hours to be successful,” Ms. Jackson said, adding that the burden has fallen disproportionately on low-income students and of minorities.
He added that there was also a “significant equity gap between black and white students” who enrolled through the state program. For example, among the 2017 Promise program cohort, 26% of white beneficiaries completed graduation in five semesters, while only 9% of black students did.
Policy experts have warned that tuition-free universal college can be regressive and even exacerbate inequality by directing low-income students to lower-performing schools. And studies of existing programs have shown that they have done little to close the accessibility gap for many students due to all the other costs associated with attending college.
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