Heinrich Cosponsors Legislation To Establish Tuition-Free Community College

America's College Promise Act would provide two years of tuition-free community or technical college programs and create a pathway to affordable higher education or an industry-recognized credential.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) cosponsored the America's College Promise Act, which would provide two years of free community college and create an affordable pathway to a four-year college degree for low-income students.

“There's no question that in order to continue to grow our economy, we must have a well-educated and well-trained workforce,” said Senator Heinrich. “The America's College Promise Act is a smart investment in our workforce that would give New Mexicans an opportunity to retrain or earn a degree without being crushed by debt. I'm proud to cosponsor this legislation that would provide two years of tuition-free access to community or technical college programs and gives New Mexicans a fair shot at building a brighter economic future.”

“We greatly appreciate Senator Heinrich’s efforts to make a community college education more accessible to low-income students,” said Central New Mexico Community College President Katharine Winograd. “Providing more New Mexicans with an affordable pathway to higher education and job training will not only improve the lives of more students and their families, but it will help fuel economic growth and employment opportunities throughout New Mexico.”

“The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) strongly supports the America's College Promise Act. Each year, the nation's community colleges educate more than 12 million Americans; providing high-quality education at a fraction of the average cost of college. Community colleges are the on-ramp to the middle class for many students and this legislation provides a first-dollar investment with dividends benefiting not only students but also labor markets and regional economies. This is a win-win for Americans,” said Dr. Walter G. Bumphus, President and CEO of AACC.

Community, technical, and tribal colleges enroll forty percent of all college students today, and offer students lower tuition, open admission policies, and convenient locations. They also offer academic programs and an affordable route to a four-year college degree. There are 23 community and associate degree colleges in New Mexico serving over 74,000 students.

The America's College Promise Act would create a new federal-state partnership to provide two years of tuition-free access to community or technical college programs that lead to a degree or industry-recognized credential. The legislation would give students the opportunity to access quality and affordable higher education that gives them the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the 21st century economy. A full-time community college student in New Mexico could save an average of $1,760 in tuition per year. If all states participated under this program, an estimated 9 million students could benefit.

Specifically, this legislation: 

  • Creates a new partnership between the federal government and states and Indian tribes to help them waive resident tuition in two years of community and technical college programs for eligible students, while promoting key reforms to accelerate student success; 

  • 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; 

  • Ensures that programs offer academic credits which are fully transferable to four-year institutions in their state, or occupational training that leads to credentials in an in-demand industry; 

  • Maintains and encourages state funding for higher education; and 

  • Establishes a new grant program to provide pathways to success at minority serving institutions by helping them cover a significant portion of tuition and fees for the first two years of attendance for low-income students.

The America's College Promise Act is supported by the Association of Community College Trustees, American Association of Community Colleges, Center for Law and Social Policy, and Young Invincibles.

The legislation, led by U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), is also cosponsored by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI),Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Amy Klobuchar(D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Kamala Harris (D-CA), TammyDuckworth (D-IL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL).

A fact sheet about the bill is available here, and a PDF of the bill is available here.