What Revitalizing America’s Infrastructure Could Mean for Student Veterans
As you’ve likely heard in the news, the Biden Administration and Republicans in Congress recently put forth competing, sweeping infrastructure proposals. The proposals cover a wide range of issues and the original goal was to have a compromise by Memorial Day. It’s unclear if that goal will be met, or what the future of a large infrastructure package looks like, but here is a breakdown of the most important provisions for student veterans and their families to be aware of as Congress moves forward.
The Biden Plans
The Biden administration has proposed two infrastructure plans:
- The American Jobs Plan seeks to address issues that some may consider more closely associated with traditional infrastructure needs like roads, bridges, railways, and the jobs that go with them.
- The American Families Plan centers on “social infrastructure” priorities such as education, childcare, and health care. Below, we highlight the parts of each plan that are most important for student veterans.
The American Jobs Plan
Many student veterans begin their higher education journeys at community colleges. The plan sets aside $12 billion dollars to modernize and expand access to community colleges across the country, especially in areas where education opportunities are lacking.
More than half of student veterans are parents. The plan allots $25 billion to improve existing childcare facilities and to expand access to childcare services.
Many students struggle with access to reliable broadband internet, particularly in off-campus environments. This was highlighted and exacerbated by the pandemic due to the shift to online learning, working from home, and the associated overload on residential internet service that impacted reliability.
The plan calls for $100 billion to expand access to reliable broadband internet and eventually achieve 100 percent nationwide coverage by adding additional capacity and providing subsidies to reduce cost.
Investment in HBCUS and MSIs
The plan would send $10 billion in research and development funding to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). It would set aside another $15 billion for HBCUs and MSIs to establish hundreds of centers of excellence on campuses that could provide pre-college programs and graduate fellowships.
The proposal allocates $18 billion to renovate aging VA hospitals to ensure veterans have access to modern, quality health care.
Scores of college students across the county use public transit to commute to and from school. This may be especially true for post-traditional students, like student veterans, who are more likely to live off-campus. The plan would provide $85 billion to modernize and expand public transportation across the country.
Millions of people, including many students, are looking for quality jobs in the post-pandemic economy.
The American Jobs Plan seeks to support students and other workers in securing employment by investing $48 billion in workforce development. This funding, among other things, would support partnerships between higher education institutions and employers to help students and others find rewarding jobs, especially in high-demand fields. The plan would also provide $40 billion to support those who have lost their jobs with programs that help them up-skill and re-skill to find quality jobs.
The Biden Administration’s full Fact Sheet for the American Jobs plan is available here.
The American Families Plan
Two Years of Free Community College
Despite access to VA and DOD education benefits, many veterans, service members, and their families continue to face challenges in paying for higher education.
The American Families Plan would give all “first-time students and workers,” including many veterans, a head start on their higher education journeys, by providing two years of free community college. This could allow veterans to save up to two years of VA and DOD education benefit entitlement.
Two Years Free at HBCUs, MSIs, and TCUs
The plan would make two years of attendance free at any four-year HBCU, MSI, or Tribal Colleges and Universities for any student whose family makes less than $125,000 per year. The plan also calls for a $5 billion increase in institutional grant funds that would provide additional financial support for students attending these schools.
Student Support Services
Many students pause higher education which delays progress toward completing their degree or obtaining their desired credential. In some cases, those who stop out never return to higher education. We also know that, like other post-traditional students, student veterans face challenges with unexpected financial hardships, childcare, and transferring between schools.
The American Families Plan would make substantial investments in student support services to help students stay in school and graduate. Specifically, this funding would help schools “adopt innovative, proven solutions for student success, including wraparound services ranging from childcare and mental health services to faculty and peer mentoring; emergency basic needs grants; practices that recruit and retain diverse faculty; transfer agreements between colleges; and evidence-based remediation programs.”
Federal Financial Aid (Pell Grants)
Student veterans, even those using VA education benefits, are eligible to apply for federal financial aid, and many do. The plan calls for a substantial increase in Pell Grant funding that would increase the maximum award by roughly $1,400 dollars. This is part of the Administration’s larger effort to eventually double the maximum Pell award.
More than half of student veterans are parents, and quality, affordable childcare is critical to ensuring their success in higher education.
The American Families Plan aims to reduce childcare costs for low-income families by using a sliding scale system, so parents never pay more than a certain percentage of their income.
The plan would expand the American Rescue Plan’s temporary expansion of the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC), which would also help reduce family childcare costs. Depending on income, families could receive up to a 50% reimbursement for childcare costs. Families with children under the age of 13 would be eligible for reimbursement of costs up to $4,000 for those with one child and up to $8,000 for those with two or more.
The plan would also expand the Child Tax Credit expansion in the American Rescue Plan through 2025. The American Rescue Plan made the Child Tax Credit fully refundable and increased the credit to $3,000 per month for children under the age of 17 and $3,600 for children under six. The refund would be sent to families in increments, regularly throughout the year.
Costs beyond tuition, like healthcare, can be a significant financial challenge for many older, post-traditional students, especially those with families.
The American Families Plan would extend the American Rescue Plan’s reduction in health insurance premiums for those enrolled in plans through the Affordable Care Act. These reductions would be permanent, and the Biden Administration estimates they could save people $50 a month on average.
Many student veterans work a full-time or part-time job to supplement their income and help pay for higher education. Depending on certain state and federal requirements, student veterans may be eligible to receive unemployment insurance if they lose their job.
The American Families Plan would invest $2 billion to improve the unemployment assistance system by, among other things, ensuring payment calculations are automated to match changing economic circumstances.
The Biden Administration’s full Fact Sheet on the American Families Plan is available here.
The Republican Plan
The Republican proposal would address traditional infrastructure needs. Designed to serve as a starting point for negotiations between the two sides, the plan is more limited than those put forth by the Biden Administration.
We do not provide a breakdown of the Republican plan simply because its most important provisions for student veterans are included, generally, as components of the American Jobs Plan, which we already covered. In short, the Republican plan, like the American Jobs Plan would provide substantial investment in public transportation and broadband infrastructure.
Full details of the Republican plan are expected any day, SVA will update this article with additional information on the Republican plan as more details come to light.
The current version of the full Republican infrastructure proposal is available here.
Both parties have signaled a willingness to negotiate on the infrastructure proposals to find a bipartisan compromise. SVA will continue to monitor negotiations and keep student veterans apprised of the developments that will impact them and their families.
The House of Representatives also recently approved several SVA priorities. We will continue to monitor their progress in the Senate.
The plan details discussed in this article were sourced directly from and are attributed to the White House’s Fact Sheets on the American Jobs Plan, American Families Plan, and the infographic made available by congressional Republicans. Each of these is linked above.
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