Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

Another Broken Promise: Biden Scraps Free Community College Proposal

Jill Biden confirmed today that two years of tuition-free community college won’t be part of any Build Back Better legislation. This shows, yet again, that Democrats don’t care about the working class.

Left Voice

February 7, 2022
Facebook Twitter Share
Jill Biden behind a podium with the presidential seal.
Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Another day, another broken promise from the Biden administration. 

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden announced today that plans for two years of tuition-free community college have been scrapped from Democrats’ Build Back Better legislation. President Biden had made the promise during his campaign, and it was seen as the first lady’s signature initiative. Dr. Biden, a professor of English at Northern Virginia Community College, blamed difficult congressional compromises for the tanked legislation. But the truth is that nothing the Democrats have promised that might actually help the working class is ever safe from being compromised away or scuttled when convenient for them.

Abandoning tuition-free community college is just the latest in a series of betrayals from Biden and the Democrats. The administration has failed to pass even the most modest of reforms, whether extending the child tax credit or passing voting rights legislation. As we have written previously, this is not because the Democrats are inept or are hapless victims of insurmountable congressional obstacles — in fact, they’re quite skilled at passing exhorbitant military budgets, garnering support for Israeli apartheid, and shoring up support for the capitalist system. 

Although Dr. Biden spoke on the provision today, it had originally been scrapped during Build Back Better negotiations in October. Build Back Better is the centerpiece of Biden’s legislative agenda and contained the bulk of his climate and social spending promises, like paid family leave. The bill was eventually whittled down from $3.5 trillion to $1.7 trillion before conservative Democratic senator Joe Manchin dealt it a death blow in December. 

Even if passed, the proposal was already deeply compromised. As proposed, the plan would have waived tuition for two years at all community colleges for states that opt in, and would be in place for five years. However, one of the big problems with this structure is that many states simply choose to not opt-in to federal policies that would benefit the working class — think of how many states refused to opt-in on expanded Medicaid. Even states that might want to opt-in might not be able to because the federal government would only fully cover the program’s cost for the first year — assigning roughly $45.5 billion in funding — with states gradually covering the cost of the subsequent four years.  

The free community college promise has been one put forward by many moderate Democrats in response to the growing call for free higher education. Community colleges typically offer two-year programs that award associate’s degrees, in contrast to four-year colleges and universities. They are often the only choice for students from poorer families who want to attend institutions of higher education but cannot afford four-year programs. Even then, community colleges can be incredibly expensive, especially when cost of living, housing, and books are factored in. In this sense, the betrayal of tuition-free community college is a betrayal of the most precarious sectors of the working class and a betrayal of an already limited promise. Even if passed, free community college is only a drop in the bucket when compared to the actual needs of the working class in terms of higher education; which include free colleges and universities, free housing and food on college campuses, and full student debt forgiveness.

The Democrats abandon legislation like free community college because they only care about the working class and oppressed to the extent that they can win their votes. To win real victories, such as free community college and free higher education, we need to build a movement in the streets and in our workplaces. Above all, we must abandon the idea that working within the capitalist Democrats Party — or relying on the bosses that oppress us, and whose interests the capitalist parties serve —can achieve these important gains. 

Facebook Twitter Share

Left Voice

Militant journalism, revolutionary politics.

United States

Our Movement Is the Cure: Fighting for Healthcare Means Fighting for Socialism

On July 30 activists marched and rallied in Washington, DC, calling for a more humane healthcare system. Physician and Left Voice member Mike Pappas spoke at the rally about how capitalism and health aren’t compatible. Below is the text from his speech.

Mike Pappas

August 2, 2022

Michigan Court of Appeals Gives County Prosecutors Right to Enforce Abortion Ban

Today a Michigan Court ruled that prosecutors in counties across the state have the authority to enforce a 1931 law that prohibits almost all forms of abortion.

Tristan Taylor

August 1, 2022
On the left a white sign with blue text reads "nurses demand action!" in all caps and on the right a sign reads in blue capitalized text "monkeypox is not just a gay thing"

If We Die of Monkeypox, Leave Our Bodies on the Steps of the WHO

On July 23, 2022, the WHO declared monkeypox a global public health emergency, but access to testing and vaccination is still limited. The struggle to fight the spread of monkeypox is inextricably linked to the fight against homophobia, racism, and imperialism.

K.S. Mehta

July 31, 2022

Police Murder Bronx Teenager for Carrying a Water Gun

An off-duty corrections officer, Don Middleton, shot and killed 18-year-old Raymond Chaluisant, who was playing with a water gun while riding as a passenger in a friend’s car in his Bronx neighborhood.

Emma Lee

July 26, 2022

MOST RECENT

Dictating Rules from Below: The Re-Emergence of Workers’ Councils in Iran

Gianni Del Panta interviews Ida Nikou, a doctoral candidate in sociology at Stony Brook State University in New York. Her dissertation focuses on the labor movement in Iran and how the neoliberal turn has impacted workers' rights and living conditions.

Gianni Del Panta

August 12, 2022

Starbucks Fires Joselyn Chuquillanqui in Retaliation for Union Organizing

Joselyn Chuquillanqui was fired after working at Starbucks for almost 7 years. She is just one of over 70 workers fired for organizing around the country as the company ramps up its union busting.

Luigi Morris

August 12, 2022

British Postal Workers Reject Below-Inflation Contract Offer and Announce Upcoming Strike

The union representing postal workers in Britain has announced four days of strikes in the coming weeks — the first such labor action since 2009.

Illustration of a bald eagle on the left and yellow dragon on the right, face-to-face, with the flags of the U.S., R.O.C., and P.R.C. in the background

China and the U.S.: War Games in a Tense World

The visit to Taiwan by Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, has led to a new escalation in tensions between the United States and China. Beijing responded by launching missiles right under Taiwan’s nose — war games on the knife-edge.

Esteban Mercatante

August 10, 2022