Proposed Funding Targets US Community College Upgrades

President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure proposal, released last month, includes $12 billion for community colleges to address technological needs, help protect the health and safety of students and faculty, and narrow funding inequities.It also calls for two years of free tuition at community colleges, one of many parts of First lady Jill Biden, third from left, speaks during a visit with Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, left, to Sauk Valley Community College, in Dixon, Ill., April 19, 2021.Brown said the current infrastructure proposal would benefit community colleges that have aging buildings.“Many of them have been built in the ’60s or ’70s, so their physical plants are aging and have a lot of infrastructure challenges,” Brown said. “So we certainly welcome the proposal of $12 billion to address those needs.”However, some four-year universities that have struggled financially during the pandemic object to the plan.While it is a boost for community colleges, Jon Fansmith, director of government relations at the American Council on Education, wrote that he would like to see “a bit more investment in four-year colleges and universities.”“While no one argues about the needs that exist at community colleges in the infrastructure space, there are lots of four-year institutions that similarly were impacted by the pandemic, similarly are under-resourced and could really use the support,” Fansmith said in Inside Higher Ed on April 1.Fewer studentsColleges and universities are worried about enrollment declines as students and families face economic and educational pressures during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Pete Boyle, vice president of public affairs at the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.“We need to be certain that we are not incentivizing students toward institutions that are not the best fit for them to realize their educational goals,” he said.Biden’s infrastructure proposal includes plans to give $50 billion to the National Science Foundation and $40 billion to the nation’s research facilities. Out of the $40 billion, $20 billion will be given to historically black colleges and universities.Minority-serving institutions would receive an additional $10 billion in research and development, while another $15 billion would be devoted to “centers of excellence” that would function as incubators for startups and training programs for students in science and engineering fields.First lady Jill Biden, who is a professor at Northern Virginia Community College, will help with the plan, the president said.“ ‘Any country that outeducates us is going to outcompete us,’ ” Biden said, quoting the first lady. “She’ll be deeply involved in leading this effort.”Biden’s proposal is being debated in Congress. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she would like to see the plan approved by members by July 4, according to The Associated Press.

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