Press Release/Statement | April 28, 2021

Statement on the American Families Plan

Author: Statement of Jessica Thompson

“President Biden’s American Families Plan (AFP) takes a comprehensive approach to making college more affordable by creating a new federal-state funding partnership, boosting Pell Grant funding, and making significant investments in student success. The plan is a clear recognition that new investments in higher education are fundamental to advancing an equitable recovery and ensuring long-term prosperity and competitiveness for the United States.

“While these investments are historic, we encourage policymakers to go even further by including all public four-year colleges and doubling the maximum Pell Grant, which together would allow all students to access an affordable, high-quality higher education without relying on overly burdensome student debt.

“The AFP’s “free community college” proposal is a federal-state partnership to cover the cost of tuition and fees for all students, including DACA recipients, to complete a two-year degree or credential (students could use the benefit over the course of up to four years, depending on circumstances). The proposal also includes $62 billion to improve retention and completion at institutions that serve a high proportion of low-income students. These investments are key to ensuring students can afford not only to enroll, but to complete a credential and to realize the benefits of a college degree. We look forward to working with Congress and the Administration to ensure that specific funds are dedicated to scaling evidence-based comprehensive approaches to student success.

“The plan makes additional investments in historically under-funded institutions and recognizes the critical role of four-year Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs) by subsidizing two years of tuition at these institutions for students from families making less than $125,000. The AFP also provides $5 billion to shore up institutional capacity at these schools. Collectively, such institutions currently serve more than two million students, representing nearly a quarter of total four-year undergraduate enrollment across the country.

“The American Families Plan also recognizes the critical importance of the Pell Grant program in helping low- and moderate-income students cover costs beyond tuition and fees. The plan proposes to boost the maximum award by approximately $1,400, building on the $400 increase previously proposed in President Biden’s discretionary budget request. The plan also extends grant eligibility to DACA recipients, a long overdue change. With an $1,800 total increase, the maximum Pell Grant would cover 37 percent of the cost of attending a four-year public institution, up from today’s historic low of 28 percent. This is a significant investment but falls short of what the President acknowledges is needed: to double the value of the maximum grant as quickly as possible.

“In the wake of the pandemic, the nation’s higher education system is at a crossroads. College is a key driver of economic mobility, but states have been disinvesting in public colleges for decades, driven in part by economic downturns, and the Pell Grant covers the lowest share of college costs in the program’s history. Students and families have been shouldering ever more of the cost, leading to burdensome student debt. Institutions that serve a high proportion of BIPOC students and low-income students are chronically under-resourced, hampering economic mobility.

“Now is the time for comprehensive solutions to make college more affordable and close equity gaps in college completion rates, and we hope to see the Biden Administration work with Congress to build on and implement today’s proposals.”


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