COS president: Biden's American Families Plan would 'open up the door for college opportunities'

Bill Choy
Siskiyou Daily News

Last week, President Joe Biden introduced the American Families Plan, which would allow students to attend two years of community college for free. While the proposal has a long road ahead to become a reality, the idea is drawing interest around the county.

First-time students and workers in participating states would pay no money to earn a degree or credential. 

Dr. Char Perlas, the new acting president at COS.

College of the Siskiyous acting superintendent/president Char Perlas talked last week about how she believes this act could help many students if it eventually becomes law. 

“I think it’s an excellent plan,” Perlas said. “This would open up the door for college opportunities to more people.” 

Perlas said there are a lot of students that "fall through the cracks." They may have families that make just enough that they don't qualify for financial aid. In turn, they have to struggle to find jobs and other means to pay for college. There are also people who work fulltime or raise families who struggle to pay bills and other expenses while paying for tuition. 

Perlas started her academic career at community colleges in California before she eventually transferred to Fresno State. She said she didn't qualify for financial aid and had to work hard to earn money to go to school. 

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Perlas said the American Families Plan would be a positive investment that would help the economy by bringing more qualified people with a college education into the workforce. 

“It will help make many people’s career dreams a reality,” Perlas said. "It's nice to have this push to make education more affordable."

A White House Press release said that the American Families Plan would provide universal, quality-preschool to all 3 and 4 year-olds and provide Americans two years of free community college. It would also invest in making college more affordable for low- and middle-income students, including students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and institutions such as Hispanic-serving institutions, Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-serving institutions, and other minority-serving institutions. 

“For much of the 20th century, graduating from high school was a gateway to a stable job and a living wage,” the release states. “But over the last 40 years, we have seen the most growth in jobs requiring higher levels of job preparation, including education and training.” The release said that now, 70% of jobs are held by people with more than a high school degree. “American workers need and deserve additional support to build their skills, increase their earnings, remain competitive, and share in the benefits of the new economy."

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The release said that Biden’s $109 billion plan will ensure that first-time students and workers wanting to reskill can enroll in a community college to earn a degree or credential for free. Students can use the benefit over three years and, if circumstances warrant, up to four years, recognizing that many students’ lives and other responsibilities can make full-time enrollment difficult.

If all states, territories, and tribes participate, about 5.5 million students would pay $0 in tuition and fees. 

To pay for part of the American Families Plan, Biden proposes raising taxes on the wealthy and closing loopholes that enable the rich to avoid paying taxes.