First Lady Confirms Building Back Better Won’t Include Free Community College

By The New England Council

DC Shuttle …

Hearings & Markups of Interest

The U.S. House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education will hold a hearing on Serving All Students: Promoting a Healthier, More Supportive School Environment on Wednesday, Feb. 16 at 12:15 p.m. via Zoom.

Free Community College Cut from Democrats Spending Bill. During a summit of community college leaders on Feb. 7, First Lady Jill Biden revealed that President Joe Biden’s plan to provide two years of free community college to all eligible students was no longer on their Build Back Better agenda. This plan was one of the First Lady’s primary initiatives, but the significant pushback from key Senate Democrats on Biden’s Build Back Better agenda signaled that including this $45.5 billion plan would be difficult. The First Lady showed disappointment in the administration’s inability to move forward with this goal but asserted that she would continue to push for free assistance for community college students. Read more on this story here.

House Passes Short-Term Pell Grants as Amendment to COMPETES Act. The House voted to pass the COMPETES Act, a megabill intended to give the U.S. a competitive edge over China. This bill includes an amendment from Reps. Andy Levin (D-MI) and Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) that adds the Jumpstart Our Businesses By Supporting Students (JOBS) Act. The amendment would allow short-term Pell Grants to be used for rigorous job training programs that help students find employment in high-wage, high-skill industry sectors or careers. The JOBS Act also outlines standards for “high-quality postsecondary credentials” that the training programs must meet, according to the sponsors of the bill. This bill would amend the Higher Education Act, expanding Pell Grant eligibility to students enrolled in high-quality job training programs that are at least eight weeks in length. Now, the House and Senate must make efforts to move forward a final piece of legislation that reconciles the differences between their distinct versions of the bill. Read more on the COMPETES Act here.

House Passes the College Transparency Act as an Amendment to the COMPETES Act. The COMPETES Act passed by the House on Feb. 4 added an amendment that includes language from the College Transparency Act. Introduced in March 2021 by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tim Scott (R-SC), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), the College Transparency Act would establish a postsecondary student data system, requiring colleges to collect and submit data to the U.S. Department of Education, regarding student enrollment, student retention and other measures of student success. According to the sponsors of the bill, this system would “provide accurate, complete, and customizable information for students and families making decisions about postsecondary education” and “assist with transparency, institutional improvement, and analysis of Federal aid programs.” Read more on the College Transparency Act here.

We publish the DC Shuttle each week Congress is in session featuring higher ed news from Washington collected by the New England Council, of which NEBHE is a member. This edition is drawn from the Higher Education Update in the Council’s Weekly Washington Report of Feb. 14, 2022. For more information, please visit: www.newenglandcouncil.com.

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