Indiana Indepth: Making University Affordable | New
President Joe Biden’s tuition-free community college proposal seems like a good idea for Nicole Childress, an Ivy Tech Terre Haute student studying for a health science degree.
“I think it would definitely benefit a lot of people. There are many who think I can’t do it because I don’t have the resources or the money at the moment. There are a lot of circumstances that keep people from going, ”said Childress, 38, who is pursuing an associate’s degree in applied science in the medical laboratory technology program.
The proposal has its critics, including those who say nothing is free and someone has to pay – in this case, taxpayers.
Others suggest that community colleges are affordable in many states, thanks to existing federal and state aid programs. Several states offer tuition-free community college programs for eligible students.
Childress believes many would benefit from Biden’s proposal.
“It’s really positive if it helps a lot of people get the chance to go back to college or go to college right out of high school,” she said. Although Childress receives financial assistance, she has personal expenses.
She tries to avoid student loans, although she has had them in the past. “They are terrible,” she said.
As part of the U.S. Plan for Families, Biden has offered $ 109 billion to ensure entry-level students and workers looking to re-qualify can attend community college to earn a degree or diploma for free. Students could use the benefit over three years and, if circumstances warrant, up to four years, “recognizing that the lives of many students and other responsibilities can make full-time enrollment difficult,” according to a White House fact sheet.
If all states, territories and tribes participate, an estimated 5.5 million students would pay no tuition or fees, the backgrounder says.
Ivy Tech Terre Haute nursing student Danyeil Tabor is supporting a program that would help middle-income students and families pay for college if they are not currently eligible for federal financial aid or d ‘State.
But the Sullivan County resident, who is married with three children, is concerned about the overall cost of the program in addition to others that have been offered at the federal level.
“Who will end up paying for this when all is said and done?” she said. “The money has to come from somewhere.” Tabor is concerned about the tax impact on future generations.
Free community college ‘a good thing for the nation’
Lea Anne Crooks, chancellor of Ivy Tech Terre Haute, said the college had no more details than what had been publicly announced by Biden.
“We really appreciate the value President Biden sees in higher education, and more specifically for us, the recognition of the important role that the community college plays in this regard. From this aspect, we are delighted to know more about it, ”she said.
Many Ivy Tech students qualify for Federal Pell Grants, and the state of Indiana “is really generous” on the help it provides, Crooks said. “We know a lot of our students get free community college,” more than 31% statewide, thanks to Pell and state help.
Those who could benefit the most would be middle-income families not eligible for financial assistance; both parents or two household members may work just to make ends meet, and college may not be an immediate priority.
The proposal for a tuition-free community college could open the door to the university for this group that currently receives no federal or state aid, Crooks said.
Much of it was included in America’s Family Plan, and community colleges were just one part. “Once the two sides start talking about logistics, I think we’ll understand a bit more where he’s going to land,” Crooks said.
She noted that many local businesses offer tuition reimbursement programs to help their employees move forward. “We see the students taking advantage of these opportunities.”
The proposal for a free community college would be open to anyone who does not yet have a college degree, said David Baime, senior vice president of the American Association of Community Colleges for Government Relations. Recipients do not need to be first-time students.
Details of the US family plan have yet to be released, he said.
Coinciding with Biden’s proposal, House Democrats introduced the America’s College Promise Act, which is generally in line with the administration’s thinking, Baime said. The legislation would provide funding to states which would then be required to provide support to reduce community college tuition fees to zero.
Tuition and fees would be waived as part of this proposal for students, who would have three years of eligibility (in the congressional bill). There would be no income requirement, but students would have to be enrolled at least part-time to qualify, Baime said. Programs should lead to a diploma or certificate.
Short-term programs without credit would not apply. In addition, there would be no citizenship requirement.
“We think so [American Families Plan] is important because we believe universal post-secondary education is important, and we believe community colleges are the best way to do that, ”Baime said.
“In today’s economy, some type of post-secondary education is essential for most people to achieve family support wages, especially young people, people just out of high school,” a- he declared. “We think this is a very good thing for the nation.”
While there are those who believe that students who can afford a community college education should pay for it, Baime says that “community colleges serve so many low-income, first-generation students that students don’t. can not use the additional support. .. are a small minority.
The US Family Plan would be funded in part by tax increases on the rich, but it is also expected to “worsen the federal deficit,” Baime said.
States vary widely in terms of tuition fees
According to the New York Times, the proposal “would radically change the way community colleges are paid by creating agreements between federal states – the federal government injecting $ 3 for every dollar paid by participating states.”
But, if passed, the free community college proposal “must take into account states that vary widely in the amount of tuition,” according to an article written by Kevin Carey in The Times; he directs the educational policy program at New America.
In some states, tuition fees are low and heavily subsidized by the state, while in other states, tuition fees are much higher and less subsidized by the state.
According to Carey, the Biden administration is expected to approve a bill that would give states 75% of average community college tuition fees nationwide, in exchange for a 25% match. States with high tuition and low tuition would be treated the same.
However, the Biden plan would force states to eliminate community college tuition fees to receive funding. States with above-average tuition fees should provide a 25% equivalency along with the additional cost of free tuition.
Some states may choose not to participate.
Under a bill introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders, the federal government would fund 75% of the cost of the tuition replacement, and the states would match the rest.
Under this proposal, states that invested in keeping education affordable would be penalized, while states that allowed tuition fees to rise “would be rewarded with something akin to a plan. federal bailout, ”wrote Carey.
According to the College Board, in 2020-2021, the average published tuition / fees for district full-time students at two-year public colleges ranged from $ 1,430 in California and $ 1,940 in New Mexico to $ 8,600. in Vermont.
Critics of Biden’s proposal say community college is affordable in many states, thanks to existing federal and state aid programs.
At Ivy Tech for 2020-2021, the tuition fee is $ 149.55 per credit hour. For a full-time student (30 hours), the annual tuition fee would be $ 4,486 without financial aid. About 70% of Ivy Tech students statewide are currently using some form of financial aid.
According to the College Board, in 2020-2021 nationally, the average tuition and published (sticker) fee at a two-year public institution per year was $ 3,770 for a full-time student. Tuition fees actually paid (net) can be much lower with financial aid.
In fact, according to the College Board’s Trends in Student Pricing and College Aid 2020, “As of 2009-2010, first-time full-time students in two-year public colleges have on average received enough grants to cover their tuition fees. tuition and their fees. . “
In Indiana, the 21st Century Scholarship covers up to 100% of tuition and some fees for income-eligible students who meet the criteria for grades and good behavior; students must also enter the program in the seventh or eighth year. It can cover all tuition at two-year and four-year public colleges in Indiana.
According to Charlee Beasor, spokesperson for the Indiana Commission on Higher Education, “Indiana provides generous state financial assistance – about $ 390 million a year.”
In addition to 21st Century Fellows, the Next Level Jobs Workforce Ready Fellowship is available for up to two years of training in a high-wage, high-demand industry. Students often stack the Workforce Ready scholarship into an associate’s degree, making the two-year degree even more affordable.
Indiana ranks first in the Midwest and fourth in the country in providing financial assistance as needed, Beasor said.
“The Commission has made affordability a priority for many years and our focus on setting tuition and fee goals is one of the many factors that drove Indiana at historically low levels for the increase in tuition fees, ”she said.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or [email protected] Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.