By Raymond Nava
President Joe Biden proposed two years of community college for free as part of his infrastructure proposal.
Two free years of community college would go a long way help everyone across the country to have an equal opportunity to attend college, and at least have a chance to make a good future for themselves.
Biden’s plan, however, could hit a few roadblocks and has a long way to go before it can pass.
Free community college was championed by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in both of his presidential runs in 2016 and 2020.
After Sanders lost his second bid, Joe Biden adopted some of Sanders’ policies in hopes of uniting the progressive and liberal wings of the Democratic party.
Biden’s infrastructure plan would allocate $109 billion for the free community college plan, and everyone, regardless of their income, would be able to access it.
Free community college is the right thing this country needs. It’s almost a real-life-cliche when we hear people say they never went to college, especially due to financial reasons.
This puts people at a disadvantage for their future career paths and future in general.
While going to and finishing college in itself is no way a guarantee of landing a job, it can still provide the knowledge and skills that can help in whatever field they studied in.
Due to my financial circumstances, I’m lucky enough to qualify for financial aid. Students throughout the country may not be in the same spot, in comparison to other states.
It’s always crossed my mind that being middle-class can be bad in regard to college because you aren’t rich enough to afford going to a university, but you aren’t considered low-income to qualify for financial aid.
For people in these situations, free community college is going to be a big help. Community college still offers many useful degrees, which is a bare minimum that everyone should at least have access to.
There are still some hurdles it has to go through. It will more than likely pass as a standalone bill from the lack of the 60 votes it needs to overcome a filibuster in the Senate.
Because of this, it will have to be passed through reconciliation, which is a senate procedure that allows budgetary legislation to be passed with only a simple majority of 51 votes.
Biden’s infrastructure plan is expected to be passed via reconciliation with the free community college provision in it.
Another hurdle that is standing in the way is whether it qualifies for reconciliation.
Democrats attempted to attach a $15 minimum wage to their COVID-19 stimulus package earlier this year but the senate parliamentarian stuck it, saying it did not qualify for reconciliation, which was being used to pass that bill.
The free community college provision could qualify as it would have impactful effects on the budget, though it hasn’t been confirmed by reporters or anyone else if that is the case.
If it does qualify for reconciliation, the measure would still have one more hurdle to go through, Senator Joe Manchin.
Manchin, a conservative Democrat from West Virginia, has been a thorn in Biden’s agenda. Manchin currently opposes any attempt to get rid of the filibuster, meaning most of Biden’s agenda will be blocked.
Manchin also has been against Democrats using reconciliation as a work around the filibuster and has said he won’t support the process to be used for the infrastructure plan unless attempts at a bipartisan bill with Republicans fails.
Manchin has told CNN correspondent Manu Raju that he is concerned about the apparent push for more expansive government the infrastructure plan does, which includes policies such as the free community college proposal as well as universal Pre-K.
Manchin was also opposed to Democrat attempts to include a $15 minimum wage in the stimulus package and had even said he’d introduce an amendment to either strike it or lower it if the parliamentarian had ruled it could be added.
Manchin has not publicly said his views on the free community college proposal. He could remain a likely king maker in the 50-50 divided senate as to whether or not it will pass. All eyes are going to be watching as to what happens with the plan.