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Free Community College Could Help Equitable Economic Recovery

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The American Families Plan includes federal funding for universal preschool as well as community colleges. (C.C. Chapman/Flickr)
The American Families Plan includes federal funding for universal preschool as well as community colleges. (C.C. Chapman/Flickr)
 By Lily Bohlke - Producer, Contact
May 3, 2021

BOSTON -- Community colleges have helped push recovery forward in past times of economic hardship, and their advocates say federal funding will help them do it again.

President Joe Biden's American Families Plan includes $109 billion for two years of community college tuition for anyone.

Dave Koffman, government affairs director for the Massachusetts Association of Community Colleges, pointed out investments in community-college learning have economic benefits for students, as well as local and regional employers and the Commonwealth.

"Frankly, 95, if not sometimes more, percent of the students that attend a community college are going to be staying rooted in their local community, within miles of that college campus," Koffman explained.

The American Families Plan is a follow-up to last month's American Jobs Plan, which included funding for workforce development, a key component of which is aligning educational programs with the needs of the local community and region, as well as $12 billion for technology and infrastructure updates at community colleges.

The schools also serve the highest proportion of low-income students in higher education. Thirty-four percent of the Commonwealth's Pell Grant recipients attend a community college.

Koffman argued the funding is important for ensuring an equitable recovery, especially for communities of color that have been hardest-hit by the pandemic. And with the college affordability crisis, Koffman added, community colleges look like a better option for many prospective students.

"It's making sure that when we have a student debt crisis of trillions of dollars, that individuals know that the best place to go, and most affordable option for high-quality education, is going to be available to them at a community college," Koffman contended.

Koffman thinks the Biden plans also reflect the value of community college flexibility. Students can attend for a couple of years and transfer to a four-year college or university, or get the degree or credential they need to enter the workforce directly.

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