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Tuition-Free Community College-- Another Victim Of TransPartisan NeoLib Agenda



Jill Biden at a conference of community college leaders this morning: "One year ago, I told this group that Joe, my husband Joe, was going to fight for community colleges,” she said at the Community College National Legislative Summit in Washington. “But Joe has also had to make compromises. Congress hasn’t passed the Build Back Better legislation-- yet. And free community college is no longer a part of that package. Presumably, over the next weeks, we'll be finding out which other pieces of Build back Better Manchin and Sinema have told Biden and the rest of the Democratic Party are allowed and not allowed.

As you can see above, tuition-free community college got off on a good foot among voters. Data For Progress found that it polled very well, just a third of respondents against it-- and 58% in favor. But McConnell and the Senate Republicans were among the 33% not among the 58% and that's where Manchin and Sinema take their marching orders.


Reporting for the NY Times this morning, Katie Rogers wrote that "Democrats had moved away from the provision." Really? Which Democrats had moved away from the provision. I asked a dozen and none of them had. In fact, none of them knew any other Democrats who had, although a few had suggested I ask Joe Biden's top Wall Street shills Gina Raimando and Steve Ricchetti. Jill Biden had "previously said that the current political climate meant that it might not be the 'right time' for free community college to pass as part of a social spending bill. But her remarks on Monday were her starkest acknowledgment yet that a measure she had championed is dead."


For months, Mr. Biden has told Democrats that free community college would most likely have to be cut, including in one private meeting with progressive lawmakers last October. The bill would have originally committed $45.5 billion to waive two years of tuition at community colleges for five years. States would have to opt in, and the federal government would cover the cost of the program for the first year. The federal contribution would decrease by 5 percent each year after that, with states covering the rest.
But a White House framework for an intended compromise, unveiled in October, did not include the promised two years of free community college. And the House-passed $2.2 trillion version of the plan contains additional aid for community colleges and grant programs, but not the tuition-free provision.
Mr. Biden has all but publicly abandoned the measure, telling reporters in January that he doubted free community college could be included in a renewed version of the spending bill.
...Research has shown that waiving tuition at community colleges could lift not just enrollment among students who might not otherwise have attended college, but also their wages for years to come. Eliminating tuition makes the decision to enroll much easier, economists and researchers said. The plan was also supposed to financially shore up the colleges themselves, which have suffered disproportionately during the pandemic.
Critics of the community college plan had pointed to high dropout rates and poor outcomes at some of the schools; fewer than 40 percent of community college students earn a degree within six years.

One member of the Education and Labor Committee who requested he not be identified told me that 'Manchinema did not want the free community college piece in. We fought for it in committee and Biden pushed too but they flat out refused to be moved so it is correct that it was not included in the framework that Biden unveiled or in the House bill that was passed."


Los Angeles Assemblywoman and congressional candidate, Cristina Garcia, went even further. this morning she told us, "I'm a math professor who has taught in community colleges, so I have seen firsthand what an important step community college is on the ladder to success and second chances. Providing free tuition, books, and help with housing, is critical to young people and adults from communities like mine, who otherwise couldn't afford the opportunity that community college delivers."


Washington state congressional candidate Jason Call has also taught school, This morning he told us that "What’s really happening here is not that the 'Democrats' are backing away from community college support, so much as the folks who are exercising almost full control over the legislative process have no interest in helping the average struggling American. In an economy that we keep getting told is rebounding from the pandemic recession, no less, though we know the reality of those gains have largely gone (as usual) to the wealthiest. I do not believe this is the majority of the Democratic Party wanting to cut Build Back Better further, but they are doing absolutely nothing to hold the Manchin cadre to account for basically being hyper-austerity corporatists with the same economic priorities as the GOP. (You’ll notice the Times article says 'Senators who caucus with the Democrats' and not 'Democratic Senators' signaling that the charade is over). This was evident yesterday when Senators Manchin and Murkowski went on Jake Tapper’s show and together demanded that Biden nominate a 'bipartisan' candidate for SCOTUS, meaning a corporatist who will preserve the 'rights' of the wealthy to continue screwing over labor. I said six months ago that the Progressive Caucus had an opportunity to take a stand, and that once they started caving beyond the $3.5T it would get carved down to nothing. And that once they agreed to separate BBB from the infrastructure bill they will have lost all leverage. Will they still call BBB 'transformational?' Joe Manchin gambled that he held all the cards back then, and Biden and the progressives folded like they held nothing. Will they ever use their power? Seems like not, and their only plan for the midterms is duck and cover."

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