Before and During College: Plans of the Presidential Candidates for Your Postsecondary Costs, Grants, and Work-Study

The Super Tuesday primaries are upon us. Now’s the time for you to consider the presidential candidates’ plans for resolving America’s postsecondary education affordability crisis.

We’ve already reviewed the candidates’ student loan proposals. Today we focus on Democratic plans for cutting college costs, increasing grants, and boosting work-study (see our February 19 article for Trump grant and work-study plans.

Joe Biden

Student Costs: Would form a federal-state partnership (75% paid for by Washington) to cover 2 years of tuition at community colleges and in job training programs with good graduation and placement rates.

Pell Grants: Wants to double Pell Grant award amounts, index future Pell amounts to inflation, and make DREAMers and formerly incarcerated students Pell-eligible.

Work-Study: Calls for prioritizing Federal Work-Study (FWS) funding for part-time jobs in which postsecondary students learn career skills or mentor K-12 students.

Other: Would provide 2 and 4-year colleges with federal funds to finance emergency grants to students at risk of dropping out due to unexpected expenses. Also promises to seek $18 billion to help Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), and Tribal Colleges and Universities lower student costs and increase graduation rates.

Mike Bloomberg

Student Costs: He, too, wants a federal-state partnership using 67% federal money to support 2 tuition-free years in states and at schools that limit tuition growth and keep overall student cost increases from exceeding inflation. At community colleges, this partnership would only cover transfer and career-oriented programs using “evidence-based” completion strategies. Private colleges could participate only if they already graduate large percentages of their Pell recipients. Hopes to cut textbook costs by doubling the Open Textbook pilot program’s funding, and wants to make low-income students eligible for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP).

Pell Grants: Would also double Pell awards and open Pell to DREAMers and students once imprisoned. Calls for 2 Pell pilot programs — one directing extra Pell money to schools enrolling and graduating large numbers of Pell recipients, the other extending it to adults and students in quality, short-term training programs. Would notify families of Pell eligibility through the federal tax process and would simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) so more students apply for Pell.

Work-Study: Advocates for tripling FWS funding, requiring FWS to go to more low and moderate-income students, increasing career-related FWS positions — including in the private sector — and having employers pay more than their current 25% share of FWS wages.

Other: Would triple federal funding for HBCUs and Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), requiring them to spend the new money on need-based student aid and improving graduation rates.

Bernie Sanders

Student Costs: Wants to provide at least $48 billion per year to eliminate tuition and fees at public colleges, HBCUs, MSIs, TCUs, trade schools, and apprenticeship programs. Would partner with states that cover non-tuition and fee costs for families with incomes below $25,000, and do a 50-50 federal match for additional state outlays that reduce other students’ costs.

Pell Grants: Calls for Pell Grants sufficient to cover low-income students’ book, supply, housing, transportation, and other living expenses.

Work-Study: Says he’d triple FWS funding to employ an additional 1.4 million financially needy students.

Other: Would provide $1.3 billion per year to help 200 private, nonprofit HBCUs and MSIs serving 35% of America’s low-income students eliminate or significantly reduce tuition and fees.

Elizabeth Warren

Student Costs: Promises to give all Americans the opportunity to attend 2 and 4-year public colleges or technical schools without paying any tuition and fees.

Pell Grants: Would inject $100 billion more into Pell Grants so every American, especially low-income students, could afford postsecondary education without using loans.

Work-Study: No proposals.

Other: Seeks $50 billion to ensure that HBCUs, MSIs, and TCUs have the resources they need.

Educate yourself about the candidates and vote in your state’s primary! This election is crucial on countless fronts, including postsecondary affordability.

For the candidates full plans for postsecondary affordability and learning, use the links below.

Joe Biden

Mike Bloomberg

Bernie Sanders

Donald Trump

Elizabeth Warren

Note: This article was edited February 2, after Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and Tom Streyer suspended their campaigns.

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