Biden’s infrastructure plan includes billions for two-year colleges

President Joe Biden pitches his $2-billion American Jobs Plan on Wednesday in Pittsburgh. (Image from live stream of event)

President Joe Biden’s massive proposal to revamp the nation’s infrastructure – which includes roads, bridges, buildings, water systems, airports, electrical grids, green energy, broadband and more – will include $12 billion for infrastructure projects at community colleges and $100 billion for workforce development and job retraining.

The White House on Wednesday released highlights of the $2.25 trillion proposal, with details expected to follow in the coming days. It is the first part of Biden’s $4 trillion package to create jobs and revive the U.S. economy. The second part, which is expected in April, will likely include a proposal for free access to community colleges.

The White House noted that $12 billion of the American Jobs Plan would go toward upgrading two-year colleges’ facilities and technology. States would be responsible for using the funds for existing physical and technological infrastructure needs at community colleges and to identify strategies to “address access to community college in education deserts,” according to a fact sheet.

Preparing the workforce

The proposal also pitches expanded job training and services to prepare workers for the jobs it would create. The $100 billion workforce development portion of the plan would provide $48 billion to:

  • Broaden community college training grant programs
  • Double the number of registered apprenticeships and pre-apprentice programs (with an emphasis on creating more opportunities for women and people of color)
  • Expand career pathway programs (especially in STEM areas)
  • Increase wraparound services for jobseekers
  • Invest in Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act Title II adult education

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The plan also would include $40 billion for a new dislocated worker grant program that would focus on evidenced-based delivery models in high-demand sectors, such as clean energy, manufacturing and caregiving.

Other areas

The proposal also would boost funding in other areas that could help community colleges and their students, both directly and indirectly, such as improvements to healthcare services, expanded broadband and affordable, accessible childcare.

In addition, the plan seeks $15 billion to create up to 200 centers of excellence to serve as research incubators at historically Black colleges and universities and other minority-serving institutions (including Hispanic-serving institutions and tribal colleges). They would provide graduate fellowships and other opportunities for underserved populations, including pre-college programs.

The political side

In a speech Wednesday in Pittsburgh, Biden said the plan is “bold” but added that it’s “a once-in-a-generation investment in America.”

“It’s the largest American jobs investment since World War II,” he said. “It’ll create millions of jobs, good-paying jobs, it’ll grow the economy, make us more competitive around the world, promote our national security interests and put us in a position to win the global competition with China in the upcoming years.”

House Democrat leaders hope to move the bill through the floor by the July 4 recess, according to advocates.

It’s uncertain whether Congress, especially Republicans, will support the expensive plan, which comes on the heels of the recently passed $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act. It would, in part, be funded by tax changes, especially on corporations, and some GOP lawmakers are concerned about the growing national debt. Democrats argue that a lack of investment in workforce development prior to the pandemic has left U.S. workers less competitive in the global market, which has affected U.S. communities.

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About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
is editor of Community College Daily and serves as publications director for the American Association of Community Colleges.