It seemed when President Biden rolled out his 2023 fiscal year budget that tuition-free college simply couldn’t be done, but fortunately, states across the country are starting to prove otherwise.
As of last Friday, New Mexico became one of a number states, including New York, Indiana and Washington, to offer citizens tuition-free college. And New Mexico’s law has been lauded by advocates as being far and away the most comprehensive to date.
Not only is the program open to all residents, from recent high school graduates to adults seeking part-time education—it’s also unrestricted by household income and open to immigrants, regardless of their citizenship status. While most states who’ve implemented tuition-free or partial tuition-free plans are usually limited when a student’s financial aid is applied, this plan covers tuition and fees before any scholarships or any form of financial aid are even applied. Students are then able to allocate those funds toward other frivolous expenses, like food, housing and childcare.
Introduced as Senate Bill 140 and backed by both Republicans and Democrats, the law sailed through the state Senate and effectively replaced the current Lottery Scholarship with The Opportunity Scholarship Act. Thousands of New Mexico residents will be able to apply as soon as July 1, 2022.
The free college movement has certainly seen its stops and starts in recent years, with many critics speculating on its sustainability. While on the campaign trail, Biden had a habit of making lofty promises to education advocates and Millennial and Gen Z voters with hopes of student debt forgiveness and a free tuition future. But in the first two years of his administration, it’s become abundantly clear that making a college education affordable and accessible to all aspiring students will likely fall to the states. Fortunately, it looks as though a few will rise to the occasion.
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Maine, for instance, recently introduced a two-year tuition-free plan, and lawmakers in Pennsylvania have also reintroduced the Pennsylvania Promise Act, a grant program that would cover up to four years of tuition at a state-owned or state-related university or a community college for students with a household income of $110,000 or less. According to the College Promise Program, at least seven other tuition-free initiatives have publicly launched since November 2021.
Frankly, I’m still a little confused as to why Biden can’t just make it easy on all of us and do it on the federal level himself, but here’s hoping New Mexico just set the precedent for an onslaught of similar legislation on the horizon.
After all, don’t we all deserve
basic human rights nice things?