Jill Biden says $109 billion community college program off table

Critics have said Biden's plan would burden future taxpayers with massive debt.

Updated: February 7, 2022 - 11:41pm

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Jill Biden said Monday that taxpayer-funded community college won't be included in the administration's Build Back Better agenda.

"Congress hasn’t passed the Build Back Better agenda – yet," she said in a speech before the Community College National Legislative Summit in Washington. "And free community college is no longer a part of that package."

The first lady, who teaches English and writing at Northern Virginia Community College, said she was "disappointed."

"But Joe has also had to make compromises," she said.

President Joe Biden initially asked Congress for $109 billion in taxpayer money to pay for two years of community college for all American students, including people brought to the U.S. as children by migrant parents.

Walter Bumphus, president and CEO of American Association of Community Colleges, said community colleges are engines for economic development.

“Of course, we share in Dr. Biden’s disappointment that the Build Back Better Act will not specify funding for College Promise programs,” he said. “Despite that there is profound recognition of the benefits of investing the nation’s community colleges and the nearly 12 million students they serve. Community colleges are an engine for economic development and a wise investment at the local and federal level. There is a great deal of recognition by the federal government and support for systems, programs and services that help to eliminate barriers to completion for community college students. It’s not just the free community college, but the wraparound services, grants, workforce development and internships that will truly benefit community colleges and students.”

Critics have said Biden's plan would burden future taxpayers with massive debt. U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V. repeatedly cited poor economic conditions and debt levels in his opposition to Biden’s Build Back Better spending bill.

“I cannot take that risk with a staggering debt of more than $29 trillion and inflation taxes that are real and harmful to every hard-working American at the gasoline pumps, grocery stores and utility bills with no end in sight,” Manchin said in December after helping block the bill in Congress. “We are also facing increasing geopolitical uncertainty as tensions rise with both Russia and China. Our ability to quickly and effectively respond to these pending threats would be drastically hindered by our rising debt.”

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