Here’s What Free Community College Might Look Like

In The News Piece in Inside Higher Ed
Brian A. Jackson /
Sept. 17, 2021

Kevin Carey is cited in Inside Higher Ed for his analysis of how the Build Back Better Act will impact Higher Education and Community Colleges if every state is given the same amount of money per student.

Here’s how the program would work: states must opt in to participate in the program, which will be funded based on a federal-state partnership. The federal government will provide 100 percent of the grant for 2023-24, the first year of the program, and its share will decrease by 5 percent each subsequent year. States will have to make up the difference -- so for the second year, states will be required to chip in 5 percent of the subsidy. By 2027-28, the last year of the program in the legislation, the federal government will cover 80 percent of the grant and states will cover 20 percent.

But the amount of the grant won’t be based on how much states actually charge for tuition, since systems for funding higher education vary between states and some charge much higher tuition prices than others. So the legislation is going to give every state the same amount of money per student, regardless of whether or not it’s the same as what it’s currently charging, said Kevin Carey, vice president of education policy and knowledge management at New America. That amount will be calculated based on the median resident tuition and fees per student among all states -- which may or may not cover the entire cost of community college, depending on the state.

In return, states will have to set their tuition and fees to $0 for every student who attends a community college -- which is defined in the legislation as a public institution where the highest degree or the most predominant degree award is an associate degree. The states will also have to ensure that they maintain the level of fiscal support and need-based financial aid that they have provided to institutions for the three preceding years.

Read the full article here.