Biden proposes free community college through $1.8 trillion relief plan

Local News

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – Enrollment at two-year colleges has been down during the pandemic. A proposal from President Joe Biden looks to increase enrollment by decreasing tuition costs.

First News at Nine’s Alex Loroff takes a look at what an offer of free education could mean in Wisconsin.

A more than $1 trillion spending plan from President Joe Biden could result in less spending for some college students.

Biden’s American Families Plan includes a number of proposals which he says will help the U.S. “win the 21st century”.

Part of that effort includes filling the workforce quicker through two-year educational programs.

More than $100 billion is being earmarked for two years of free community college through the American Families Plan.

Community college enrollment has fallen over the last year, so Biden hopes to get it back up by eliminating tuition.

Western Technical College President Roger Stanford says free tuition could help students discover high-paying but lesser-known programs.

“I’ll take HVAC, which has some of the best jobs out there,” Stanford added. “It’s wonderful but a lot of people don’t even know about the field, but if things are free…you’re going to pay attention to what’s out there…so we’ll have a chance to fill great jobs.”

Stanford thinks there’d be an immediate jump in enrollment if the proposal passes but does have concerns about long-term impacts of free education.

“The initial excitement would be crazy, we would have a swarm of people and we would serve all of them that we could,” Stanford said. “The long-term of free I think is the unknown, does that mean they add to Pell eligibility or to financial aid, which to me is the way to go because then you can do it fairly.”

Another worry for Stanford: Wisconsin’s unique setup compared to the rest of the country.

“They’re [the government] trying to treat fifty states the same and Wisconsin is a technical college state and so our tuition is set and fixed at one rate,” Stanford detailed. “What we can’t have is the government come out and say here’s a discounted tuition because what it would mean is I’d actually have to reduce programming, and nobody wants that to be the outcome.

The American Families Plan can’t be implemented without congressional approval, and Biden is currently on a tour across the country to promote his economic agenda.

In La Crosse, Alex Loroff, First News at Nine.

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