Campaign Promises

Cabinet/Departments -> Education -> Community College

Community CollegeGrade
The Promise: "...provide grants for students seeking college level credit at community colleges if their school does not provide those resources."
When/Where: Obama and Biden's Plan for America: "Blueprint for Change," dated 10/09/08.
Status:This promise focused on high school students with the aptitude to pursue college level classes at their neighborhood community colleges but lacked the resources to do so.

The "Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009" (H.R. 3221) was introduced by Congressman George Miller (D-CA) on 07/15/09. It passed by the House on 09/17/09 but did not get through the Senate. It expired with the 111th Congress at the end of CY-2010.

This bill would have amended the College Access Challenge Grant Program which provides grants to state agencies designated by the governor of that state, not to individual student applicants. The Act would have given grant priority to programs that: (1) serve underrepresented students, dislocated workers, or veterans; (2) are offered by institutes that do not predominantly award bachelor's degrees (i.e. community colleges); (3) increase degree or certificate completion in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics; (4) enhance the financial literacy of students who are potentially eligible for assistance under the Act; or (5) encourage constructive partnerships between Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) with high degree completion rates and those without such rates.

The "America's College Promise Act of 2015" (H.R. 2962) was introduced by Congressman Robert Scott (D-VA) on 07/08/15. This bill would authorize the Department of Education (DOE) to award grants to waive tuition and fees at community colleges, provided that grant recipient states and Indian tribes agree to waive tuition and fees at all their community colleges and for all eligible students. This Act will likely expire without action by the Republican-controlled House and Senate when the 114th Congress ends in 12/16.

Nonetheless, the DOE launched an experiment in 05/16 under Section 487A(b) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (PL 89-329) whereby 10,000 high school students taking college-credit courses are allowed to access $20M in federal Pell Grants to pay for dual enrollment courses provided by colleges and high schools.

Given that no legislation was signed into law, and given the experimental nature of DOE's initiative described above, only initial progress has been made toward promise fulfillment.
The Promise: "...will make community college tuition completely free for most students."
When/Where: Obama and Biden's Plan for America: "Blueprint for Change," dated 10/09/08.
Status:During his 01/20/15 State of the Union Address to Congress, President Obama proposed making two years of community college free. The proposed program would create a federal-state partnership with federal funding covering 75% of community college tuition, with states paying 25%.

President Obama's proposal was not a new concept. Since CY2014, Tennessee, Oregon, and Minnesota have created free community college programs. As of end-CY2016, at least 10 other states have legislation in process to create similar programs.

Responding to President Obama's national-level proposal, Congressman Robert Scott (D-VA) introduced the "America's College Promise Act of 2015" (H.R. 2962) on 07/08/15 with strong Democrat co-sponsorship support. This bill would authorize the Department of Education (DOE) to award grants to waive tuition and fees at community colleges on a national scale as proposed. This Act will likely expire without action by the Republican-controlled House and Senate when the 114th Congress closes in 12/16.

However, President Obama's proposal reflects a good faith effort and initial progress toward promise fulfillment.
The Promise: "...will create a Community College Partnership Program to strengthen community colleges by providing grants to (a) conduct more thorough analysis of the types of skills and technical education that are in high demand from students and local industry; (b) implement new associate of arts degree programs that cater to emerging industry and technical career demands; and (c) reward those institutions that graduate more students and also increase their numbers of transfer students to four-year institutions... the grants will support programs that facilitate transfers from two-year institutions to four-year institutions."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Making College Affordable for Everyone" dated 09/11/08.
Status:Prior to this promise, certain colleges/universities and some states had created their own community college partnership programs, such as Dickinson College of Carlisle, PA and Excelsior College of Albany, NY.

Starting in FY2011, the Departments of Education and Labor were both funded at the $500M level for community college/employer partnerships under the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training initiative. This initiative was signed into law by President Obama on 03/30/10 under the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act (H.R. 4872), Section 1501. Funding was capped at $2B over a four-year period, essentially creating a Community College Partnership Program.

Beyond the above funding, President Obama's FY2013 budget proposal stated that he was asking for $8B for the Departments of Labor and Education to support "State and community college partnerships with businesses to build the skills of American workers." The creation of this "Community College to Career" fund was announced by President Obama at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, VA on 02/13/12. Its intent was to train 2M workers for high-demand industries.

In his FY2017 budget submission to Congress, President Obama proposed the establishment of a $2.5B "Community College Partnership Tax Credit" that would provide businesses with a new tax credit for hiring graduates from community and technical colleges as an incentive to encourage employer engagement and investment in these education and training pathways. The proposal would provide $500M in tax credit authority for each of the five years, FY2017 through FY2021. The tax credit authority would be allocated annually to states on a per capita basis and would be available to qualifying employers that hire qualifying community college graduates.

This promise was fulfilled.