5 Million Students Affected After Jill Biden Confirms No Free Tuition

First lady Jill Biden said Monday that her husband's administration will not be able to provide free community college, which was included in the Build Back Better bill.

Two years of free tuition, which would have affected 5 million community college students, was originally part of the president's sweeping social spending package. Educational institutions across the country were to receive $45.5 billion to fund the tuition for the next five years, The Hill reported. Although the Build Back Better legislation was passed by the House, it remains stalled in the Senate.

At the 2022 Community College National Legislative Summit, Jill Biden confirmed the funding is no longer part of the Build Back Better legislation. She also expressed her disappointment in the decision.

"We knew that this wasn't going to be easy. Joe always said that," she said. "Still, like you, I was disappointed because, like you, these aren't just bills or budgets to me, to you, right? We know what they mean for real people, for our students. And it was a real lesson in human nature that some people just don't get that."

The House passed a version of the Build Back Better bill in October that did not include free community college tuition. Since then, it has been blocked in the Senate because of opposition from Republicans as well as two moderate Democrats concerned about the $2 trillion plan's potential effect on inflation and the federal debt.

One of those moderates, Senator Joe Manchin, told Business Insider last week the bill is "dead" but raised the possibility of passing a revision. In the past, Manchin has suggested imposing certain thresholds so that only some community college students can get the free tuition. But other Democrats have criticized this idea for reducing the plan's reach.

The president has previously said the bill will likely have to be broken up to pass in the Senate.

At the summit, the first lady noted that while tuition-free community college is out of the Build Back Better bill, her husband's administration has helped community colleges through the American Rescue Plan, last year's coronavirus relief package, which gave the schools millions of dollars, The Hill reported.

Representative Andy Levin of Michigan, an original sponsor of free community college legislation, told Business Insider in October that while free community college tuition might not be part of Build Back Better, he and other Democrats will still fight for its inclusion in the future. "We are working on it right up until the final buzzer," he said.

In her speech at the summit, Biden also compared the spending package, and American politics in general, to sports.

"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," she said. "Legislation becomes a football to keep away from the other side, and Americans get lost in the playbook."

Update 02/07/2022, 12:36 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with more background and information.

Jill Biden, Community College National Legislative Summit
First lady Jill Biden said Monday that tuition-free community college is no longer a part of the Build Back Better social spending bill that is stalled in the Senate. Above, Biden speaks at the Community College National Legislative Summit Monday in Washington, D.C. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images