Oregon lawmakers urge Biden administration to reconsider free community college

Oregon Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to the Biden administration urging support for free access to community colleges, including Portland Community College, Oregon’s largest post-secondary institution.

Bryan M. Vance / OPB

Democrats in the Oregon Legislature on Monday sent letters to the state’s U.S. Congressional delegation urging them and the Biden administration to review a plan for a free community college.

President Joe Biden initially included two years of free community college in his “Build Back Better” plan, but pulled it out of the spending framework last week. Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill scrambled to cut what was previously a $ 3.5 trillion package last week to address the concerns of their party moderates, especially Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., and the senator Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.

Related: Here’s what we know about Biden’s slashed budget bill and what was cut

Oregon state lawmakers are hopeful that Biden and other Democratic leaders will reconsider the policy in the near future.

“By not investing in two years of free community college, it threatens the ability of Oregon and the United States to develop and retain a workforce that meets the changing needs of today’s industry. ‘hui,’ wrote the state Democrats who drafted the letter.

They wrote that two years of free community college would help economically raise millions of Americans, especially those in underserved communities such as people of color and low-income people.

“I believe the investments we make today in our students will produce many of the certificates and diplomas needed to strengthen our community in Oregon and across the country, which will help reduce the lifetime debt that many people are experiencing. “said Teresa Alonso Leon, representative of the Democratic state of Oregon. , one of the authors of the letter, told OPB on Monday.

State lawmakers noted that Oregon already had a free community college version through the Oregon Promise Act – which originated from a Senate bill passed by lawmakers in the United States. Status in 2015.

Related: Here are the rules for the Oregon Free Community College Program

But, the Oregon promise doesn’t cover everyone. Only students who have recently obtained an Oregon high school diploma or GED are eligible; there are specific requirements for the GPA and residency in Oregon; and, it only covers up to 12 credits per term.

“Oregon is showing what’s possible, but we can’t stop there. We urgently need more funds to maintain the Oregon Promise Act to support students, retain talent and grow our economy, ”the lawmakers wrote.

Related: Community college enrollments plummet amid pandemic, wildfires and struggling economy

High school graduates are choosing not to attend college due to rising tuition fees, state lawmakers have said – a trend that has only been exacerbated by the pandemic. Enrollment fell sharply last year at Oregon community colleges, according to data shared by the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission.

“It’s not sustainable. We can and must build back better, ”they wrote. “It starts with creating a post-secondary pathway for students by removing financial barriers, like tuition fees, that will entice students to attend community colleges where they can get the training they need to find a job,” receive a good salary and ensure that we are economically relevant and competitive.

About Mark A. Tomlin

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