- Biden recommitted to doubling the Pell Grant by 2029 in his latest budget proposal.
- He also brought back his plan to subsidize two years of tuition-free community college.
- His plan includes subsidized tuition for students under an earnings threshold to study at a minority-serving institution (MSI).
President Joe Biden recommitted to some of his dormant higher education promises in his 2024 budget proposal.
Notably, Biden’s budget includes plans for two years of free community colleges through a new federal-state partnership. His budget also seeks to raise the discretionary maximum federal Pell Grant another $820 per year in 2024, which would help him reach his goal of doubling the max Pell Grant from 2023-2029.
In a surprise, the president’s budget would subsidize two years of tuition for students who attend a four-year historically Black college and university (HBCU), tribal college or university (TCU), or minority-serving institution (MSI). This would only apply to students from families earning less than $125,000 per year.
Biden’s budget would increase funding to HBCUs, TCUs, MSIs, and community colleges by $429 million compared to 2023 levels.
President Biden’s latest budget proposal calls on Congress to act with urgency and provide our schools with the resources needed to raise the bar in education by promoting academic excellence and rigorous instruction, improving learning conditions, and answering unmet challenges like the educator shortage and the mental health needs of our students, Department of Education (ED) Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement.
Free Community College Back on the Table
Free community college was a highlight of Biden’s proposed Build Back Better plan in 2021. However, Congress axed the measure from the bill due to a lack of support from fellow Democrats.
For a while, the prospect of nationwide free community college seemed dead.
Biden resurrected his plan with a twist in his latest budget proposal.
The budget states the president intends to spread free community college nationally through a new federal-state partnership. To lay the groundwork for this program, the budget calls for $500 million to establish a new discretionary grant program.
It’s unclear if the details of this plan will be enough to sway once-hesitant Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who both opposed free community college.
Another Pell Grant Increase
While Congress ultimately increased the Pell Grant for the 2023-2024 school year, it wasn’t by as much as Biden wanted. His latest proposal would increase the max award to $8,215 for the 2024-2025 award year.
That’s an 11.1% increase from the maximum $7,395 award for 2023-2024.
This request builds on successful bipartisan efforts to increase the maximum Pell Grant award by $900 over the past two years, the budget states,
and provides a path to double the maximum award by 2029.
The Pell Grant program is the federal government’s largest grant program to support low- and middle-income students. Approximately 6.8 million students receive a Pell Grant each year.
Continued Support for HBCUs, Other MSIs
Each Biden budget proposal has included more funding for MSIs, and this latest budget is no exception.
The 2024 budget includes a $429 million increase in funding for HBCUs, TCUs, MSIs, and community colleges across the U.S. That includes $350 million for four-year HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs to expand research and development infrastructure.
Biden’s latest budget presents a new tuition subsidy program not seen in past proposals.
Students of families earning less than $125,000 per year may have up to two years of tuition paid for by the federal government if they attend an HBCU, TCU, or MSI. The budget estimates this program would add $85 million to the national deficit in 2025 and $2.6 billion in 2026.
Other Actions to Support Higher Education
Biden’s budget provides $2.7 billion for the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA), a $620 million increase above the 2023 enacted level.
That would be a relief for advocates, who rang the alarm in late 2022 when Congress decided to level-fund FSA. With major changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form and the end of the student loan payment pause in sight, advocates worried FSA wouldn’t have the necessary resources to keep up with borrower demand.
The budget proposal also states Biden will commit $165 million to college completion and retention programs. That’s $120 million more than last fiscal year.
Biden proposed $95 million for the Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) program, which supports parents pursuing a degree with young children. Congress designated just $90 million for this program in 2023.
Lastly, the budget hopes to make the bridge to college easier by investing $200 million in dual enrollment, work-based learning, college and career advising, and the opportunity to earn industry-recognized credentials while in high school.