NAICU Washington Update

Biden Infrastructure Plan Includes Higher Ed Components

April 02, 2021

The White House released details on Wednesday of President Biden’s infrastructure proposal, a $2.25 trillion plan the President says will deliver jobs and opportunities to all Americans. The President is expected to reveal details of the second phase of his infrastructure proposal, which is likely to include a call for free community college, at a later date.  

The proposal, the American Jobs Plan, focuses on six main areas: home infrastructure, funded at $650 billion; transportation infrastructure, funded at $621 billion; research and development, funded at $180 billion; manufacturing, funded at $300 billion; workforce development, funded at $100 billion; and the caretaking economy, funded at $400 billion. 

The President’s plan also contains several provisions of interest to higher education, including: 
  • $137 billion for the infrastructure needs of public K-12 schools, early-learning centers, and community colleges, with $12 billion set aside specifically for community colleges to address existing physical and technological infrastructure needs and identify strategies to make these institutions more accessible in education deserts.
  • $100 billion to be used for delivering high-speed broadband to every American, including rural Americans who lack access to broadband at minimally acceptable speeds and students in unserved and underserved areas. 
  • $40 billion to upgrade research infrastructure with $20 billion set aside for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs), including the creation of a new national lab focused on climate that will be affiliated with an HBCU. 
  • $10 billion directly to HBCUs and MSIs for research and development funding. 
  • $15 billion directly to HBCUs and MSIs to create up to 200 centers of excellence that serve as research incubators to provide graduate fellowships and other opportunities for underserved populations, including through pre-college programs.
  • Billions of dollars in research funding, including: $50 billion for the National Science Foundation; $40 billion to upgrade lab infrastructure; $35 billion in climate science innovation and R&D; $50 billion in semiconductor manufacturing and research; and $30 billion in biopreparedness and biosecurity manufacturing and research.
Both the bill’s price tag and its call for increased taxes to pay for the investments make its chances of passage unclear.  However, if approved, college and universities could see both direct opportunities for grants as well as opportunities to participate in community-based initiatives across a broad array of infrastructure rebuilding efforts.

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