President Biden has released the outlines of his third large-scale initiative aimed at helping the nation recover from the pandemic, by making significant investments in physical infrastructure and family supports. The American Families Plan (AFP) follows the American Rescue Plan (ARP), enacted in March, and the American Jobs Plan (AJP), which was proposed earlier this month. The AFP is considered to be AJP’s companion piece, and includes a broad array of investments aimed at increasing educational attainment and providing direct support for needs such as child care, nutrition, and paid sick leave.
AFP proposes $1 trillion in direct spending and $800 billion in tax cuts. AFP’s spending and tax cuts are over a ten-year period. As with the AJP, the administration has proposed tax increases on wealthy households to offset AFP’s cost over 15 years.
It is not clear how Congress will proceed in considering these proposals. Many observers expect that Congressional Democrats will eventually enact some or all of the elements of the AJP and AFP through the budget reconciliation process, which only requires a simple majority vote in both chambers.
The following are AFP’s higher education provisions:
- Free Community College Tuition: $109 billion would make community college tuition free for up to 5.5 million students if all states participate in a partnership with the federal government. Students would be able to use the free tuition benefit over a span of three years, extended to four if “circumstances warrant.” Coinciding with AFP’s release, House Democrats have introduced the America’s College Promise Act, which provides funding to states who would then be required to provide support to bring community college tuition down to zero.
- Increased Pell Grant Funding: $85 billion would be added to the Pell Grant program to raise the maximum award by “approximately” $1,400. The plan notes that this is a “down payment,” along with the $400 discretionary appropriations increase the administration has proposed in its FY 22 budget, to double the Pell Grant maximum award. Further details on the administration’s plan to double the grant are expected in its full budget proposal to be released in late May or early June. AFP would also make Dreamers eligible for Pell Grants. The proposal also makes references to new eligibility for certificate programs, which could translate into some form of new Pell Grant eligibility for short-term programs.
- Student Success: AFP calls for a $62 billion program to increase college retention and completion. The program would be focused on institutions that serve high numbers of low-income students, “particularly community colleges.” Funds would flow through the states and be awarded to institutions to support various initiatives to increase student success, including “wraparound” services, emergency basic needs grants, and evidence-based remediation programs.
- Subsidized Tuition at Certain Four-Year Institutions: Students from families making less than $125,000 per year would receive subsidized tuition at HBCUs, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and Minority-Serving Institutions, at a cost of $39 billion. $5 billion would also be added to the existing Title III grants that these institutions receive. This is in addition to the $45 billion for MSIs called for in the AJP.
- Teacher Preparation: TEACH grants would double from the current $4,000 to $8,000 for students preparing to become teachers. AFP also calls for reforms to the program and expanding it to early childhood educators. Elsewhere in the plan, several other initiatives are proposed to raise the pay and professional status of early childhood educators.