Biden pitches free community college, expanded loans in higher education plan

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is proposing two years of free community college and expanded loans in an effort to make higher education more affordable. 

The former vice president’s plan, announced Tuesday, would cost $750 billion over ten years and be paid for by tax reform measures on the wealthiest Americans, according to the Biden campaign. 

The plan proposes providing two years of free community college or high-quality training for Americans. It falls short of proposing four free years of college, as his top progressive rivals in the 2020 primary, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), have each proposed. 

Biden’s plan would be a federal-state partnership, with the federal government covering up 75 percent of the costs and states contributing the remainder. 

The Biden plan also proposes a $50 billion investment in workforce training, including community-college business partnerships and apprenticeships. 

His pitch to take on U.S. student loan debt also falls short of the ambitious proposals Sanders and Warren have pushed. Sanders has proposed eliminating all existing debt, and Warren has proposed a plan to eliminate about 95 percent of it. 

Biden, meanwhile, is proposing a program that would make $10,000 of debt relief for Americans who are public servants, including individuals working in schools, government and other non-profit settings. 

And he’s calling to more than halve payments on undergraduate federal student loans. Americans making less than $25,000 would not owe any payments. Everyone else would pay 5 percent of their discretionary income over $25,000 toward their loans. 

Biden is also proposing to double the maximum value of Pell grants to allow more Americans to participate in the program. 

Pell grants in the 1970s covered roughly 70 to 80 percent of the cost of a four-year public institution, but cover about 30 percent today, according to the Biden campaign. Under the plan, Biden is proposing doubling the maximum value of the Pell grant to  “close the gap between the rich and poor.” 

The plan also proposes that the maximum value of the grant will automatically increase based on inflation. 

Biden’s plan would be paid for by eliminating the stepped-up basis loophole and capping itemized deductions the wealthiest Americans can take to 28 percent, according to the campaign.

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