Biden proposes free college plans

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden introduced his plan for free college, a plan that would provide students whose families make less than $125,000 annually a subsidized education.

According to a report out of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, the plan is projected to cost $49.6 billion after the first year it is implemented. After 10 years, the plan is estimated to cost $683.1 billion.

Should Biden win the presidency, this plan may not be in effect for quite some time.

“If the election takes place on Nov. 3, and he takes office mid-January, the governor’s proposed budget comes out beginning to middle January,” said Joseph Simoneschi, associate vice president of financial and administrative services at CPP. “If, for some reason, it were able to be expedited to Congress, it would then come to us. But there’s a long period of time.”

Georgetown researchers explained that Biden’s plan is aimed primarily at lower-income communities as it is estimated that 29% of the funds this plan would support the lowest income quartile.

The plan’s goal is to cover tuition in full for students who qualify. This means if a student receives any grants for their education, the government would then pay for that student’s tuition, leaving the money from the grant to be used for other expenses.

“It’s a step in the right direction for those who would like to travel and maybe experience something new,” said Thomas Swanson, a fourth year political science student and vice president of the Political Science Club on campus. “Without having to pay for tuition, it alleviates a lot of the cost, so people could potentially travel out of state and be able to support themselves.”

The National Association of Student Financial Aid and Administrations published an analysis of the two 2020 presidential candidates’ education plans.

NASFAA reported that President Donald Trump’s administration is proposing cuts to the federal education budget. Trump has proposed removing some subsidized loans for students and revitalizing loan repayment programs.

He has proposed some loan forgiveness that would be available to loan recipients after 15 years of monthly payments for undergraduate loans. Graduate degree loan recipients would become eligible for loan forgiveness after 30 years of monthly payments.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump extended relief for the CARES Act for loan recipients by executive order, pausing all payments and interest accrual on existing student loans, according to NASFAA’s analysis.

Mark Huelsman, the associate director of policy and research for progressive campaign organization Demos, wrote a blog post May 2015 for the organization’s website about the benefits of free college.

“Obviously, something like debt-free college aims to increase attendance and graduation rates for low-income students (and thus reduce the gap), but it would also stand to benefit a much higher number of people that has been suggested,” Huelsman wrote.

Beth Akers, a fellow for the Manhattan Institute specializing in labor and higher education economics, wrote a piece in March 2020 for Education Next, an online publication that covers education as a whole, on the economic pitfalls of free college.

“While the financial burden should be taken seriously, we stand to lose far more than money in implementing free college,” Akers wrote. “In fact, the fiscal cost pales in comparison to the threats to quality and innovation.”

This plan is one of two Biden education proposes. His other plan, outlined on Biden’s campaign website, proposes free tuition to those enrolled in community colleges, regardless of household income, aiming to make technical certifications more accessible.

“I think it is a step in the future,” Joseph Simoneschi said of Biden’s plan. “I think our next step is how to engage students in a way to help them progress to degree in a way that is meaningful without taking as long as it has in the past.”

This plan, if implemented, will be available for future college students to have access to higher education.

“I’ve been fortunate enough in my situation to have parental support to attend college, but I know that people work 20, 30, 40 hours a week to support themselves, pay rents, food, and of course pay their own tuition,” Swanson added. “So, I think it’ll open the door for a lot of people to access that college experience.”

(Feature image courtesy of Jonathan Simcoe)

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