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‘We knew this wouldn’t be easy’: Jill Biden says free community college is ‘no longer’ in Democrats’ spending plans

President Joe Biden’s ambitious plan to use federal funds to pay for two years of community college for any American who wants to attend will not be part of any revived or modified version of his Build Back Better Act, First LadyJill Biden has said.

The proposal to dramatically increase federal funding for community colleges — which typically offer two-year associate’s degrees at a far lower cost than four-year universities — was a centrepiece of Mr Biden’s plan to help defray rising college costs and bolster an economy that is requiring more than a high school education for most good jobs.

“One year ago, I told this group that Joe, my husband Joe, was going to fight for community colleges,” she said on Monday while speaking at the Community College National Legislative Summit. “But Joe has also had to make compromises. Congress hasn’t passed the Build Back Better legislation — yet. And free community college is no longer a part of that package.”

But the White House dropped the plan from the draft legislation that was being worked out in negotiations between progressives in the House of Representatives and moderate senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.

In October, Mr Biden suggested that the two-year college funding plan would make it into the bill, which has been stalled since Mr Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, said he could not vote for the massive spending package.

“I doubt whether we’ll get the entire funding for community colleges, but I’m not going to give up on community colleges as long as I’m president,” Mr Biden said at the time.

Dr Biden, an English instructor at Norther Virginia Community College who is the first spouse of a president to hold down an outside job, admitted that she and Mr Biden “knew” getting the funds passed for free community college “wasn’t going to be easy” but said she was “disappointed” at the failure to secure enough votes to pass the package because her husband’s high education proposals “aren’t just bills or budgets” to her.

“We know what they mean for real people, for our students,” she continued, calling the failure of legislators to “get” how the free college plan would benefit Americans a “real lesson in human nature”.

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