Legislation to enact America’s College Promise introduced in House, Senate

July 08, 2015

Today, members of the House and Senate introduced legislation to enact the America’s College Promise proposal President Obama unveiled earlier this year, which would make up to two years of community college tuition-free for up to 9 million qualifying students. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced the America’s College Promise Act in the Senate, and House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced an identical version in the House.

America’s College Promise would establish a federal grant program allowing states and Indian tribes to apply for funding to cover up to 75 percent of in-state tuition and fees for eligible students enrolled in academic programs that fully transfer to a bachelor’s or graduate degree at any public college or university in the state, or in occupational skills training programs that lead to a recognized postsecondary credential in an in-demand industry sector or occupation in the state. States would be responsible for supplying the remaining 25 percent of funds to fully cover an eligible student’s cost of attendance. Participating states would also be required to commit to using proven and promising practices to improve student outcomes, maintain or increase current state investments in higher education, promote alignment between the state’s secondary and postsecondary education systems, ensure that programs leading to a postsecondary credential meet certain quality criteria established by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (or other criteria determined by the state), and to use at least some of the funding on the basis of performance, rather than enrollment.

In order to be eligible to participate in the program, students would have to be enrolled in an eligible program at a community college for the first time, on at least a half time basis. Eligible students must also maintain satisfactory progress in their course of study.

The bill also establishes two grant programs geared at 4-year historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and 4-year minority-serving institutions (MSIs). HBCUs and MSIs would use the grants to encourage students to enroll as first-time students and successfully complete a bachelor’s degree, incentivize community college students to transfer to participating HBCUs and MSIs to complete a bachelor’s degree program, and to otherwise improve student completion rates and other outcomes. Grant funds would be used to waive or significantly reduce tuition for eligible students. Eligible students must be low-income and enrolled in an HBCU or MSI for the first time, on at least a half-time basis, and must maintain satisfactory academic progress.

National Skills Coalition strongly supports a two-year skills guarantee, though we hope it can be extended to working people who can only attend school less than half-time while holding down a job and supporting their families. 

Photo credit: Hoodr by CC BY-SA 3.0