Feb 7, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Dems abandon Jill Biden’s free community college push

First lady Jill Biden speaking in the White House on Feb. 2.

First lady Jill Biden speaking at the White House on Feb. 2. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Free community college will no longer be included in Democrats' social spending package, which has so far failed to pass in the Senate, first lady Jill Biden announced Monday.

Why it matters: Democrats have abandoned the provision that would give eligible students two years of free education at community colleges — the first lady's signature legislative initiative. She is a professor at a community college in Virginia.

What she's saying: "One year ago, I told this group that Joe was going to fight for community colleges," Biden said during the Community College National Legislative Summit in Washington, D.C.

  • "But Joe has also had to make compromises. Congress hasn't passed the Build Back Better agenda — yet. And free community college is no longer a part of that," she added.
  • "We knew this wouldn’t be easy — Joe has always said that. Still, like you, I was disappointed. Because, like you, these aren’t just bills or budgets to me. We know what they mean for real people. For our students."

The big picture: Opposition to the spending package from Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) has forced Democrats to winnow out certain provisions to ease spending concerns and salvage the bill, which was last estimated at $1.75 trillion.

  • Tuition costs have ballooned at both four- and two-year institutions over the last two decades, though obtaining a degree from a community college still remains far less expensive than receiving one from a public or private college or university, according to data from the Department of Education.
  • Community colleges typically offer working-class students, immigrants and students of color a more affordable, flexible path to middle-class careers, Axios' Russell Contreras reports.

Go deeper: College enrollment plummets — again

Go deeper