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News & Media

APLU Statement on President Biden’s College Affordability Proposal

April 28, 2021

Washington, DC – Association of Public and Land-grant Universities President Peter McPherson today released the following statement on President Biden’s college affordability proposal.

“We appreciate many of the investments proposed in the American Families Plan to support higher education access, affordability, and success. Increases to the maximum Pell Grant to get to President Biden’s commitment to Double Pell are crucial for low-income students. Similarly, we greatly appreciate the substantial support the plan provides for HBCUs and MSIs. We also look forward to learning more about the proposed program to boost college completion, which is a core focus for APLU through our Powered by Publics initiative and many other initiatives.

“While these investments deserve much praise, the plan is unfortunately incomplete in our view as it does not provide a broad strategy to increase access and affordability for public four-year university students. We strongly believe a federal-state partnership that provides free community college should, at a minimum, provide equivalent support to students attending public four-year institutions.

“Our nation has benefited from a public higher education ecosystem that collectively meets the needs of students through unique programs and services offered at all public institutions: community colleges, regional institutions, and public research universities. Community colleges and four-year institutions serve more than three-quarters of all students in higher education, with a majority attending four-year institutions. Community colleges and public four-year institutions also serve a similar percentage of Pell students as a share of their student body. Public universities play a vital role in meeting society’s needs by educating teachers, nurses, engineers, doctors, and many other critically important workers. HBCUs and MSIs are a cornerstone of a thriving higher education ecosystem and we greatly appreciate the proposed investment in these critical institutions.

"An effort to address affordability in the public sector by creating incentives for states to invest more just in community colleges leaves many behind and runs the risk states would not increase support for higher education overall, but rather just redirect support in alignment with new federal incentives. Nationally, public universities still have not caught up in levels of state support in higher education from the Great Recession and many public institutions are facing new rounds of cuts stemming present state budget pressures.

“While the proposal is well-intentioned, we strongly believe all public colleges and universities should be included in a federal-state partnership to address college access and affordability and urge such an expansion.”

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