Senators Propose $15B Aid Package for Community College Students

Senators Propose $15B Aid Package for Community College Students
portrait of Dean Golembeski
By Dean Golembeski

Published on July 9, 2021

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Life for many community college students is filled with obstacles. They often work while attending classes, care for dependents, and face financial challenges. But help could be on the way if legislation proposed by U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) makes its way through Congress and the White House.

The two senators reintroduced the Community College Student Success Act on June 29. The bill would provide $10 billion for so-called "wrap-around services" for full-time community college students and $5 billion to provide the same services for part-time students.

These wrap-around services would include free tutoring, textbooks, and transportation — all designed to help community college students graduate.

"Our bill gives community college students the tools they need to earn a degree and find a good-paying job," Schatz said in a news release. "When we provide targeted support services to community college students, it helps them graduate on time. We know this works because some schools are already successfully doing this."

Senate Bill Modeled After CUNY's ASAP Program

Schatz was referring to the City University of New York's highly successful Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) program, which serves as a model for the bill. The ASAP program is graduating students at three times the national rate of 16% for urban community colleges by providing services like tuition scholarships and reducing or eliminating the cost of textbooks. Many other colleges are now utilizing the ASAP model.

"Respecting the dignity of work means ensuring students of all backgrounds have the opportunity to pursue jobs that pay well and are fulfilling. By investing in programs that provide tutoring, textbooks, and transportation, we empower students to make the best decisions for their careers, whether that's choosing to pursue additional workforce training or getting a job. I'm proud to join Senator Schatz to support this effort," Brown said in a news release.

The senators' bill would provide community college students with:

"The wraparound services — academic counseling, financial and other supports that students require — are not inexpensive. A designated federal role in helping our colleges meet these students' needs is a wise investment that we think complements the federal investment in student financial aid," said David Baime, senior vice president for government relations and policy analysis at the American Association of Community Colleges.

Senate Failed to Act on Earlier Version of the Bill

Schatz first introduced the bill in December 2018, but it never advanced past the Senate's Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Now, however, it aligns well with President Biden's $18 trillion American Families Plan. The president promoted his plan, which proposes free community college and other programs designed to reduce poverty, during a visit to Illinois on July 7. Biden has said he's open to passing his plan with only Democratic votes by using the fast-track budget reconciliation process.

BestColleges contacted Schatz's office for comment about the bill's prospects but did not receive a reply.

According to Schatz's office, the Community College Student Success Act is supported by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, Center for Law and Social Policy, Higher Learning Advocates, Institute for Higher Education Policy, National Association for College Admission Counseling, Ohio Association of Community Colleges, Results for America, The Education Trust, The Institute for College Access & Success, University of Hawai'i System, and Young Invincibles.


Feature Image: Omar Chatriwala / Moment / Getty Images

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