Statement on the American Families Plan

On Wednesday, the White House released the second half of its infrastructure package to “build back better” from the COVID-19 pandemic. Beyond funding pre-K and expanded child care benefits, the American Families Plan would make massive investments in free community colleges and take further steps towards a more affordable college degree for students of color and low-income students. 

We’re pleased to see the Biden administration recognize that increasing access to college is a smart investment to ensure that all students, regardless of their background, can better meet the needs of their communities and families. This kind of reinvestment in our colleges as a public good is the first step towards realizing our larger vision of a New Deal for Higher Ed, which would allow us not only to train students for fulfilling and good-paying careers, but also strengthen civil society and make colleges a force for social, racial, and economic justice.

A free community college degree is a good first step, but as this proposal moves through Congress, we encourage our leaders to expand financial support to more kinds of institutions. We’re pleased to see dramatic increases in funding for minority-serving institutions and in Pell Grants for low-income students, which will make meaningful progress towards equitable access to a college degree. However, more must be done. Public four-year institutions, particularly in rural areas, serve an incredibly important role in their communities, and deserve the sam level of financial support as community colleges.

Finally, while this proposal is just at the start of its long path towards becoming law, we are disappointed in the lack of detail on how the American Families Plan will support the creation of good-paying union jobs with meaningful workplace protections at the colleges that will benefit from this funding. Currently, only about 20 percent of faculty at community colleges have the full benefits and job security that comes with a tenure-track appointment; the COVID-19 pandemic has seen significant layoffs and furloughs for instructors and university staff, despite the influx of federal funding in the CARES Act and subsequent legislation. As Congress takes up this proposal in the coming weeks, they must find ways to ensure that the American Families Plan supports employees at America’s colleges, by adding provisions to shift the higher education workforce from contingent labor to longer-term and tenure-track appointments with full benefits. This plan will fall short of the President’s goal to create good-paying jobs across America if it leaves out our teachers.

--John McNay, Chair, AAUP Government Relations Committee

Graphic about the American Families Plan

Publication Date: 
Wednesday, April 28, 2021