Democrats Introduce Bold Legislation to Broadly Expand Access to Higher Education

WASHINGTON – Today, Representative Bobby Scott (VA-03), ranking member of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, Representative Susan Davis (CA-53), ranking member of the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development, and Representatives Donald Norcross (NJ-01), Seth Moulton (MA-06), and Anthony Brown (MD-04), introduced the America’s College Promise Act of 2017, which would make two years of community college free and provide an affordable pathway to a four-year college degree for low-income students.

“Students and families are faced with the overwhelming burden of figuring out how to pay for college,” said Rep. Scott. “This bill will help more families gain access to quality, affordable higher education opportunities. For low-income students, this bill creates a clear pathway to a four-year degree. At a time when families feel that it is almost impossible to get a college degree at an affordable price, America’s College Promise (ACP) is a bold investment in our students to ensure they gain the skills they need to compete in a 21st century economy.”

The bill provides a federal match of $3 for every $1 invested by the state to waive community college tuition and fees for eligible students before other financial aid is applied. America’s College Promise would also help to cover a significant portion of tuition and fees— for either the first two years or last two years of college—for low-income students who choose to attend qualifying HBCUs, HSIs, AANAPISIs and other MSIs. 

This legislation is a cornerstone proposal included in House Democrats’ Aim Higher initiative, a package of legislative initiatives focused on providing all students with access to a meaningful degree that costs less money and leads to a good paying job.

“Community college can be a springboard to a 4-year degree or an opportunity to develop critical workforce skills,” said Rep. Davis. “We must be expanding education opportunities at every level to allow students to find the education paths that work best for them. The America’s College Promise Act will open up even more opportunities for Americans to thrive in higher education and the workplace.”

“I’m a product of community college – it’s what took me from construction work to Congress. I know firsthand that we need to invest in our community colleges as affordable alternatives. We must encourage students to embark on a pathway that leads to a good-paying job,” said Rep. Norcross, an electrician by trade who attended Camden County College and an IBEW apprenticeship program. “Plus, as a father and grandfather, I know about the sticker shock of trying to put children through college. The cost of higher education is one of the greatest financial challenges facing American families today. It’s dragging down our economy and, more importantly, our children. The America’s College Promise Act gives our children a fair shot in the classroom and our families a fair break from that sticker shock.”

ACP was originally introduced in the 114th Congress with the goal of making community college as universal as high school. This Congress, eligibility has been expanded to allow both new and returning students to participate in America’s College Promise, in response to similar expansions in state-led Promise programs. Additionally eligibility for participation in the Pathways to HBCUs and MSIs portion of the bill has also been expanded to allow institutions to serve low-income students who may have qualified for a federal Pell Grant but were ineligible due to their immigration status.

"Far too many students are taking on the economic burden of attending college without the skills necessary to complete their degree,” said Rep. Moulton. “This bill will help provide our children the opportunity to be successful in the modern economy by eliminating barriers that stand in the way of a good education.”

“Every American should be able to earn the education and skills to compete and get ahead in the 21st century economy,” said Rep. Brown. “Community colleges are pathways to the middle class for millions of young people graduating high school, workers looking to get new skills and veterans transitioning back to civilian life. This game-changing bill will make community college free for responsible students, and create new affordable educational opportunities at diverse four-year colleges for low-income students – because in America, a quality education should be a right for everybody willing to work for it.”

ACP is supported by the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).

BILL TEXT: America’s College Promise Act of 2017

FACT SHEET: America’s College Promise Act of 2017

SECTION-BY-SECTION: America’s College Promise Act of 2017

Press Contact

Kiara Pesante (Scott), 202-226-0853
Aaron Hunter (Davis), 202-225-2040
Ally Kehoe (Norcross), 202-380-5849
Matt Corridoni (Moulton), 202-603-1859
Matthew V