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The Build Back Better Act, which is now stalled in Congress, originally included America’s College Promise (ACP), a new federal-state partnership to fund tuition-free community college. While ACP garnered much support from advocates, it failed to gain sufficient traction among key lawmakers, and the provision was eventually dropped from the package. Now, Congress is unlikely to pass any major new investments in higher education before the midterm elections, and possibly for a long time thereafter. Where does this leave efforts to increase funding for public colleges?
The need remains for a new federal-state partnership to support public colleges and lower costs for students. Public colleges, which enroll more than three-quarters of undergraduate students, including 81 percent of BIPOC students, suffer from a long-term decline in state funding. Over time, this has made it both more expensive for students to attend public colleges and harder for them to complete a degree. These challenges mean that our higher education system can reinforce, rather than combat, systemic inequities.
This panel will examine what went wrong with America’s College Promise, how policymakers can improve its design and increase support for the proposal, and why a new federal-state partnership such as ACP is key for closing racial and economic equity gaps in college enrollment and completion rates.