A companion to a bill sponsored by Rep. Robert Scott (D-Va.), America’s College Promise Act, or “ACPA”, introduced in the United States Senate on March 1, strives to minimize the financial hurdles that have induced an extraordinary reliance on private and federal student loans by over 44 million Americans. This previously-introduced bill currently boasts fourteen co-sponsors, including Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). Designed to make college more accessible and affordable for millions of low-income and non-traditional students, the ACPA, if enacted in its present form, would:
- Create a new partnership with the federal government for states and Native-American nations to help them waive two years of resident tuition in community and technical college programs for eligible students, including part-time students and non-traditional students not enrolling in college for the first time;
- Provide matching of $3 by the federal government for every $1 invested by the state to waive community college tuition and fees for eligible students before other financial aid is applied;
- Guarantee the full transferability of academic credits from a community program to any in-state four-year institution or occupational training that leads to credentials in an in-demand industry;
- Maintain and encourage increased state funding for higher education;
- Establish a new grant program to provide pathways to success at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (“HBCUs”), Hispanic-Serving Institutions (“HSIs”), and other Minority-Serving Institutions (“MSIs”) by covering a significant portion of tuition and fees for low-income students for either the first two years or last two years of college at qualifying HBCUs, HSIs, and other MSIs;
- Allow for the inclusion of low-income students who may not be otherwise eligible for federal financial aid to participate in a new grant program for HBCUs, HSIs, and other MSIs; and
- Require states to incorporate innovative and evidence-based strategies to promote student success, including career pathways, dual or concurrent enrollment approaches, course redesigns, comprehensive academic and student supports (especially for low-income, first-generation, adult, and other underrepresented students), foreign exchange and study abroad, work-based learning opportunities, and pathways to graduate and professional degree programs.
Part-time community college students who maintain satisfactory academic progress, who qualify for resident tuition, and are enrolled in an eligible program would be able to participate. In addition, because the bill allows for the participation of students otherwise ineligible for federal aid, undocumented immigrant students who meet certain requirements, including Dreamers (beneficiaries of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act), would also be eligible to have their tuition and fees waived or significantly reduced at HBCUs, HSIs, and MSIs.
Upon its introduction, the ACPA was referred to the Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
A copy of the ACPA, as well as information regarding its progress, can be found here.