07.08.15

Sens. Baldwin, Booker and Rep. Scott Introduce America’s College Promise Act to Make Higher Education More Accessible and Affordable

AUDIO: Education Secretary Arne Duncan joins Baldwin and Scott for media conference call in support of legislation

WASHINGTON, D.C. Today, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA), the House Education and Workforce Committee Ranking Member, and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan held a press conference call to unveil the America’s College Promise Act of 2015. U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) joined Senator Baldwin as an original cosponsor of the new legislation. 

The America’s College Promise Act of 2015 makes two years of community college free and provides an affordable pathway for low-income students to a four-year college degree. The legislation would give students the opportunity to access quality and affordable higher education that gives them the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the 21st century economy. 

“Higher education should be a path to shared prosperity, not a path into suffocating debt. But unfortunately, college costs and student loan debt are holding back an entire generation and creating a drag on economic growth for our country. America needs out-educate the rest of the world in order to better compete in a 21st century, skills based economy,” said Senator Baldwin. “The America’s College Promise Act is an investment in workforce readiness and our economy. I’m proud to introduce this legislation with the help of my friend Congressman Scott, and with the full support of the Administration, in order to give all students the opportunity to gain the skills they need to compete, succeed, and prosper.”

“Our greatest national asset is the genius of our young people. But with the skyrocketing cost of tuition, more and more families across America feel priced out of a postsecondary degree. This is a disservice to our students and our nation in an increasingly knowledge-based global economy,” said Senator Booker. “America’s College Promise Act answers President Obama’s call to Congress to invest in our future workforce by saving students thousands of dollars on the path to a college degree. Our bill provides the kind of support many young people need to reach their potential by creating strategic partnerships between the federal and state government so that all students have a fair shot at achieving the American Dream.”

“Students and families are faced with the overwhelming burden of figuring out how to pay for college,” said Congressman Scott. “America’s College Promise is a step in the right direction to help families gain access to quality, affordable higher education opportunities. For low-income students, this bill creates a pathway to a four-year degree at qualifying Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving institutions (AANAPISIs) and other Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). At a time when families feel like they’re increasingly having to adapt to a changing economy and technology, America’s College Promise creates a way for them to gain the skills they need to compete in a 21st century economy.”

“America’s College Promise is the President’s bold vision, announced earlier this year, to make two years of college as universal as high school was a century ago, helping students earn the first half of a bachelor’s degree and earn skills needed in the workforce at no cost,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Community colleges are not just a uniquely American institution, but as the largest most affordable segment of America’s higher education system, they are critical to reaching the President’s goal to have the highest share of college graduates in the world and to ensuring America’s economic prosperity in the future.”

During a stop last week in La Crosse, Wisconsin, President Obama highlighted this proposal saying, "Now, in an economy that's constantly changing, we've also got to give every American the chance to earn the skills they need to stay competitive. That’s why we've got to be investing in job training and apprenticeships that help folks earn the skills for that new job or better-paying job. That's why we should make community college free for responsible students -- like Tammy Baldwin is introducing in the United States Senate. No middle-class family should be priced out of the education that they need."

Under the America’s College Promise Act, a full-time community college student could save an average of $3,800 in tuition per year. If all states participated under this program, an estimated 9 million students could benefit. This legislation:

  • Creates a new partnership between the federal government and states and Indian tribes to help them waive resident tuition in two years of community and technical college programs for eligible students, while promoting key reforms to accelerate student success;
  • Provides a federal match of $3 for every $1 invested by the state to waive community college tuition and fees for eligible students before other financial aid is applied;
  • Ensures that programs offer academic credits which are fully transferable to four-year institutions in their state, or occupational training that leads to credentials in an in-demand industry; 
  • Maintains and encourages state funding for higher education; and
  • Establishes a new grant program to provide pathways to success at minority serving institutions by helping them cover a significant portion of tuition and fees for the first two years of attendance for low-income students.    

The America’s College Promise Act is cosponsored by over 60 members of the House of Representatives and the following members of the United States Senate: Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).

The legislation has also been endorsed by: AFL-CIO, Alliance for Equity in Higher Education, American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), Asian American and Pacific Islander Association of Colleges and Universities (APIACU), Asian and Pacific Islander Scholarship Fund (APIASF), Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT), Campaign for America’s Future, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Consumers Union, Generation Progress, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO), National Education Association (NEA), National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), National Skills Coalition, One Wisconsin Now, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC), Student Debt Crisis, The Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network, Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), United Negro College Fund (UNCF), University of Wisconsin Colleges and University of Wisconsin Extension, and Wisconsin Technical College System.

Learn more about the America’s College Promise Act here.