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I have read the Biden administration’s $3.5 trillion budget bill, which may be cut before it passes the settlement process and enters the Senate for voting. It includes a free community college clause. But I haven’t seen much discussion about how the bill proposes to make community colleges free — or anything, really.

Assuming that the bill is passed and the free community college part exists in its current form, what is its current form? In other words, how does the bill propose to make community colleges free and for whom?

In addition to my interests as a citizen and former political scientist, I am also interested in community college administrators. If it passes, what should we expect on the ground?

The answer may be important.

The ideal situation is a system through which we only need to charge the federal government according to the tuition level we set. In this way, we can not only expand the scope of visits, but also improve services. But I very much doubt whether it will operate in this way, if not for fear of rising costs. (To be fair, the cost spiral of health care provides a cautionary tale.) It will also effectively reward states that fail to support public higher education and punish those that have increased support. The “cost plus” arrangement may be normal for military contractors, but if applied to education, it will be considered profligate.

They may conduct some form of financial investigation, perhaps by patching the restrictions on Pell’s grants. As far as they are concerned, the increase in Pell is good, but it is a far cry from free community colleges. Since Pell is targeting students rather than institutions, the only way for institutions to benefit is to increase tuition. This seems to go against the original intention, especially for students whose income is slightly above the threshold.

There is an unrealistic approach to economic surveys, especially over time. Ultimately, if projects are considered poor, they will become poor projects.

In theory, they could instead provide direct operational assistance to community colleges. But I really don’t think this will happen in our federal system.

They can make some kind of subsidy arrangements, through these arrangements to match and increase the operating assistance from the states. This actually makes a lot of sense and will inspire the desired behavior of the states. But the experience of Medicaid shows that many states will refuse to provide free funds for social welfare out of political hatred.

What is more worrying is that over time, many of these measures may become politically fragile. The next time the party’s control changes, anything that does not receive in-depth and solid support will be easily eliminated or hollowed out. I don’t want to see the university consider certain new funding mechanisms to be the new normal, and adjust its operations and budget accordingly, but will be ignored the next time the party’s control changes.

I wrote forward I suspect that some alternatives are culturally strong enough to survive a shift in political winds, such as “getting” a free second year after successfully completing the first year of paid. It is harder to cut back what is considered to be earned income. But I don’t pay much attention to this issue, but to the content on the actual desktop. Assuming it may pass, we need to start to develop contingency plans, including contingency plans for the next Congress.

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