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First Lady Jill Biden said she, like the rest of the U.S., was disappointed free community college was cut from the massive package. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

First Lady Jill Biden reckons with no free community college in Build Back Better

The new version of the marquee bill will supposedly be very scaled back given the gridlock encountered in the Senate.

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On Monday, Feb. 7, First Lady Jill Biden said that two years of tuition-free community college won’t be part of the Democrat’s stalled childcare, healthcare and climate package, as she addressed a gathering of community college educators. 

“Congress hasn’t passed the Build Back Better legislation yet. And free community college is no longer part of that package,” Dr. Biden said during the 2022 Community College National Legislative Summit. 

“We knew that this wasn’t going to be easy. Joe always said that. Still, like you, I was disappointed,” she said. 

In October, Biden told lawmakers that community college would likely not be in the bill and it wasn’t included in the roughly $2 trillion version that passed in the House last year. 

That plan was then halted when Sen. Joe Manchin opposed it, dooming its chances in a 50-50 Senate. Democrats are now looking for a path forward on a scaled-back plan. 

“The Build Back Better as it has been presented over, what, the last seven, eight, nine months, that bill no longer will exist,” Manchin said in an appearance on CNN on Sunday, Feb. 6.

The president’s original plan would have waived tuition for two years of public community college, as well as provide many students with more cash to cover living expenses. In an address made to Congress last April, Biden said that his wife, a longtime educator, would be “deeply involved” in leading the effort. 

In a press conference last month, Biden said he was unsure whether he could secure funding for community college in any new effort. 

Speaking at the summit on Monday, Feb. 7, Dr. Biden said the social spending plan would invest in areas such as child care, preschool and climate change.

"Too often, we treat what happens in our nation's capital like a sports game too — wondering which team will score the most points with voters. Legislation becomes a football to keep away from the other side, and Americans get lost in the playbook," she said. 

The first lady added that she and the President would continue to push for free assistance for community college students.

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