Durbin, Duckworth Introduce Bill To Make Community And Technical School More Affordable

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) today joined Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) to introduce America’s College Promise Act.  This legislation would create a new federal-state partnership to provide two years of tuition-free access to community or technical college programs that lead to a degree or industry-recognized credential.

“Community colleges provide a springboard for students who wish to continue their education and a foundation for students to find good paying jobs through quality job training programs. I am proud to say that several community colleges in Illinois already offer tuition free programs and know that more are working to join this effort to give motivated students a path to receiving a solid educational foundation without debt. It’s time we stop thinking of education in America as K-12 and start growing a stronger workforce by expanding our focus to preK-14,” said Durbin. 

“Every American deserves the chance to get ahead –to get a quality education, build a career and support their family -- without being trapped under a mountain of debt,” Duckworth said. “Failing to help our nation’s young people graduate from college so that they can secure a good-paying job hurts our economy and our country, which is why I’m proud to help introduce the America’s College Promise Act to help give more people their shot at the American Dream—without the burden of college debt.”

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.  A full-time community college student could save an average of more than $3,500 in tuition and fees per year.  If all states participated under this program, an estimated nine million students could benefit.

“College promise programs help break down financial obstacles, and enhance accessibility for individuals who believe that college is financially out of reach. The America’s College Promise Act builds upon existing state and local promise programs, and we commend Senator Baldwin for her leadership in this area,” said J. Noah Brown, President and CEO of Association of Community College Trustees.

“The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) strongly supports the America’s College Promise Act. Each year, the nation’s community colleges educate more than 12 million Americans; providing high-quality education at a fraction of the average cost of college. Community colleges are the on-ramp to the middle class for many students and this legislation provides a first-dollar investment with dividends benefitting not only students but also labor markets and regional economies. This is a win-win for Americans,” said Dr. Walter G. Bumphus, President and CEO of AACC.

Specifically, 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 supported by the Association of Community College Trustees, American Association of Community Colleges, Center for Law and Social Policy, and Young Invincibles.

Co-sponsors of America’s College Promise Act include Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Kamala Harris (D-CA).

More information on America’s College Promise Act is available here.