Higher education leaders say proposed free community college will be a game-changer

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CORNING, NY (WETM) – On Wednesday, President Biden laid out the American Families Plan – a $1.8 trillion proposal part of his economic agenda.

The plan includes free community college for all, allowing Americans to earn an Associate’s Degree free of charge, according to the White House.

“This could really be a game-changer for our students,” said SUNY Corning Community College President Dr. William Mullaney.

Community college plays a key role for many people including, first-generation college students, low-income families, and adults returning to college. Mullaney says that if implemented correctly, the plan could make a big impact on local students

“Some of our students are working full-time jobs, have family responsibilities, so any sort of financial relief that can be provided can only help them succeed,” Mullaney said.

Educators across the state are echoing the positive endorsement for the plan.

“This will be a game-changer for this institution,” said SUNY Erie Interim President Bill Reuter. “It will be a game-changer for the community, it will be a game-changer for our students, for the workplace. It will absolutely change every way we go about doing business.”

Reuter said this will also help the school’s declining enrollment rate – an issue many community colleges across the country are facing as a result of the pandemic. The number of students attending ECC dropped 20-percent between last spring to now, Reuter said.

Niagara County Community College President William Murabito said he hopes this proposal will lead to more students seeking higher education who might not normally be able to afford it. Right now the tuition rates at both ECC and NCCC are roughly $5,000.

“The main reason students drop out of community college is because they ran out of money, so this is going to take that issue away,” Murabito said. “It’s going to change the playing field considerably.”

The White House said this proposal will cost $109 billion, which would be spread out over 10 years.

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