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AACTE Supports President Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda for Higher Ed

education, high school, university, learning and people concept - student girl writing to notebook in lecture hallAACTE continues to work with its national coalition partners toward enhancing and improving the state of education and the educator preparator profession in the United States. To that end, the Association added its voice this month to the chorus of supporters of the Biden Administration’s Build Back Better education agenda.

In a letter to congressional leaders who are currently engaged in negotiating the elements of the president’s budget package, AACTE expressed its specific support for a key higher education component of the Building Back Better agenda: America’s College Promise. Contained within America’s College Promise is a historic, first-of-its-kind tuition-free community college program; an increase to the Pell Grant; and a retention and completion grant program.

As we all know, access to higher education is not equal in this country. This grim reality was exacerbated by the financial disruptions caused by the pandemic.  Bearing this in mind, President Biden’s education agenda was crafted to help relieve financially challenged students of some of the responsibility for finding the money for college.  At the heart of America’s College Promise is a determination to address key barriers, including the racial and financial inequities to higher education.

The administration correctly recognizes the long-term consequences of not addressing barriers to higher education and the potential burdens such barriers can have on the nation’s efforts to compete in the 21st century global marketplace.  America’s College Promise would help struggling students by covering tuition and fees up front via a “first dollar” commitment.  This would allow them to spend additional resources on essentials like food and housing.  As the  letter of support states, such assistance can “provide immediate and tangible improvements to a student’s lived experience while enrolled and help maximize their odds of completing their educational program.” 

America’s College Promise is a national strategy, based on the best practices of successful models gathered at both the federal and state levels. It was created with the goal of these strategies being promulgated throughout the country for the benefit of students everywhere.  Taken as a whole, America’s College Promise’s boost to the Pell Grant and its new retention and completion fund can help “address the structural problems that have plagued our nation’s higher education system and deliver immediate benefits to millions of students and families all over the country.” 

In light of the president’s recent comments, it is unclear whether the free community college provision will remain in budget package.  As negotiations progress, we are hopeful and AACTE pledges its full support for all the provisions of America’s College Promise. 

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