President Biden released his “skinny budget” proposal to the Senate for the 2022 fiscal year in late March. The $1.5 trillion proposal outlines all of the White House’s priorities for discretionary spending in the upcoming year. Many of these priorities target higher education. Biden’s plan requests $102.8 billion for the US education budget, a 41% increase from 2021. Where will this additional funding be going? Let’s take a look.
The Biden Education Plan Calls for Free Community College
The American Families Plan revealed in late April outlines more of the administration’s education priorities: most notably, two years of free preschool and two years of free community college. This $109 billion proposal will offer tuition-free community college to all Americans, including undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children, or Dreamers. The benefit will extend across three years and in certain cases four years. This timeline helps students who can’t enroll full-time take advantage of the free tuition. Overall, it’s estimated that the plan could help up to 5.5 million students pay $0 in tuition.
The American Families Plan is unlikely to receive enough bipartisan support to pass in Congress. However, Democrats can pass the plan through a process known as budget reconciliation, which is how they were able to pass Biden’s stimulus package shortly after he took office.
Pell Grants Expanded
The new education budget asks for $3 billion in extra funding for Pell Grants. This would amount to a $400 annual increase per student, the largest increase since 2009. Similar to Biden’s free community college proposal under the American Families Plan, this plan would offer Pell grants to Dreamers.
The $400 increase is the first step toward the Biden administration’s goal of doubling the Pell grant reward per student.
The Biden Education Plan Emphasizes Equity
Included in Biden’s education plan are a number of budget measures that promote equity in higher education, including:
- A $600 million increase in funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities (TCCUs), Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) as well as community colleges
- A $100 million increase in funding for programs that increase participation of minority students in Science and Engineering fields, including a $20 million increase in funding to the Office of STEM Engagement
- $1 billion for the Department of Justice Violence Against Women Act of 1994 programs, which includes supporting women at HBCUs, HSIs and TCUs
Student Loan Forgiveness is Absent from Biden Education Plan
While Biden’s education budget proposal includes a number of affordability measures, there is no mention of broad student loan forgiveness. President Biden has said that he would prefer Congress pass student loan forgiveness through legislation rather than using executive action. However, in early April, Biden requested Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to review the legality of student loan forgiveness through executive action.
Many educators have praised the steps Biden’s proposal would begin to take, but they’ve also said that more needs to be done with efforts like doubling the amount of Pell grants and investing in research and development.
Overall, Biden’s education proposal marks the largest increases in funding for students in recent history. Whether these initiatives are passed with or without bipartisan support remains to be seen.
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