FINGER LAKES, N.Y. (WROC) — The concept of free college is not new, but President Joe Biden’s introduction of the American Families Plan put a spark in the conversation with a major proposal. The plan includes a proposal for free community college for all Americans, and officials from two more colleges in New York are thrilled by the possibility.
Dr. Kate Douglas is interim president for Monroe Community College. She says this could be the tipping point for students all across the country choosing higher education if they were on the fence before. She says things like finances, and raising a family can get in the way of many students finishing or even starting their degree.
Students often struggle to reach their degrees even with financial help. “The students that are drawn to community college, many of them are first-generation students with a lower socio-economic level of family students,” Douglas said. At MCC, one in five students is a parent. Tuition for a full-time semester there is $2,353 for 2021. And at nearby Finger Lakes Community College, it’s $2,432.
Dr. Robert Nye is the president of FLCC. He is also thrilled to hear of this proposal and says the financial burdens are the biggest hurdle for many. A vast majority of his students work over 20 hours a week, making it harder to commit to school.
Nye says free community college would also help enrollment, which has suffered over the years. “It’s an exceptional opportunity for people to return who may’ve dropped out before,” he said.
Biden’s bill also proposes an increase of Pell Grants—that’s grant money for low-income students to avoid borrowing. “Tuition alone doesn’t help students through, life gets in the way, feeding family, taking care of bills, transportation child care,” said Dr. Nye.
But this proposal isn’t going anywhere overnight. And it would take over a decade to be paid for, in the form of tax increases on the wealthy.
Dr. Douglas and Nye both say that no matter your political views, the idea of a world where education is more accessible and affordable is a possibility that they want everyone to consider with an open mind.
The series of taxes on the wealthy would have to raise about $1.5 trillion over that 10-year span.