Free Two Year Community College Falls Through in Biden’s Build Back Better Plan

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Above is Ms. Lucisano, a scholarship coordinator at Tech who discussed the Build Back Better Bill.

Sara Ismile, Hard News Editor

While the academic aspirations of students at Tech are high, many underprivileged students still have to face the challenges of paying college tuition. In Biden’s Build Back Better legislation, two years of free community college education were supposed to be included in funding. However, on February 7th, 2022, Jill Biden announced that this was no longer being provided for in the bill.

This change in legislation impacts high school students across the nation, especially those at Tech who were reliant on the bill to ease their financial burdens in order to pursue higher education. 

Scholarship coordinator at Tech, Ms. Lucisano, responded to this change in the bill by stating, “At other schools with larger populations of students who apply for community colleges, it would probably be detrimental.” She added on by highlighting that while most students here attend four year bachelor’s programs, “only a small percentage would start with an associates program and transfer and be affected by the bill.” 

The bill would have exempted students from paying for two-year and community college tuition, but it would not have affected those pursuing a four year or graduate degree. When asked about how the bill would have affected her life, Dia Brar (‘23), a software engineering major responded, “I’m not personally affected very much by the bill because of my economic situation, but I know a lot of very close friends that would greatly benefit from it.” 

Echoing this sentiment, Law and Society major, Aswaf Ahmed (‘23) explained, “I think that giving two years of free community college would be a massive hit to economic barriers guarding a genuine education from all citizens.” Awsaf continues by testifying, “I think Biden has the obligation to do all that he can to lift Americans out of poverty; helping the expansion of free college does that.”

Returning to Ms. Lucisano’s comments, she notes that the majority of students at Tech will either qualify for income-based financial aid or merit-based aid from universities. In combination with supplemental scholarships and grants that students can apply for, the financial burden set on students and their families while attending colleges can be somewhat alleviated. 

While it’s unfortunate that Biden’s legislation won’t pass, there are other federal and state programs available to high school students when applying for college. In New York specifically, the Excelsior Scholarship fully pays for students attending a SUNY or CUNY college if their household income in 2019 was less than $125,000.  President Biden is also working towards forgiving $415 million in student loan debt, in addition to the $15 billion in debt that was already forgiven. As we continue to recover from the Omicron surge in January 2022, with mask mandates slowly being lifted nationwide, the country is moving closer towards resuming life as it was pre-pandemic.