Georgia 2020: Buttigieg to unveil affordable college plan in Atlanta

White House hopeful Pete Buttigieg is set to unveil a proposal Monday in Atlanta that would funnel $500 billion into programs designed to make college more affordable for working class and middle-income families.

Buttigieg’s proposal would eliminate public tuition for roughly 7 million students who are eligible for federal Pell Grants, and add $120 billion to increase the size of the maximum grant award by $1,000 to help cover costs of housing and food.

The plan, which he’ll unveil at Morehouse College, would also steer another $50 billion to historically black colleges and other institutions that serve minorities over the next decade to “level the uneven playing field.”

“Our economy is changing and it’s past time to grow the pathways to opportunity in America,” said Buttigieg. “That starts with making college affordable for every student from a working or middle class family and making a historic investment in HBCUs.”

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It would extend eligibility to federal college grants to students in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. And it stakes Buttigieg's support for legislation similar to California's new law that allows some college athletes to get paid.

His campaign said in a policy paper that the idea “ensures student athletes can seek compensation for the use of their images, just like other college students, and engage agents to represent them in the marketplace.”

The South Bend, Ind. mayor’s campaign said his policy would allow 10 million more students to graduate with college degrees or credentials over the next decade.

He plans to roll it out Monday evening at Morehouse as part of a broader initiative to energize and mobilize black voters. It's one of several events and fundraisers in Atlanta surrounding the debate Wednesday at Tyler Perry Studios.

Buttigieg is trying to frame himself as a moderate, mainstream alternative to Joe Biden, but he and other Democratic rivals are struggling to chip away at the former vice president’s deep well of support among black voters.

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Even as he soars in the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, Buttigieg continues to hover in the single-digits in surveys of South Carolina, the first state where black voters make up the bulk of the electorate. In Georgia, which will vote weeks later, he's only picked up a handful of endorsements.

His college affordability policy  goes beyond Biden’s plan to provide free community college education, but it doesn’t call for public colleges to be tuition-free for all students like some of his other primary opponents.

Buttigieg plans to emphasize how the plan would benefit HBCUs in Georgia, including a trio – Albany State, Clark Atlanta and Savannah State – that enroll 15,000 students. He’ll also highlight a $50 billion push to double support for workforce development programs.

“As important as it is to make college affordable, it must also be possible to land a well-paying job and launch a career for those Americans who do not to go to college,” his campaign policy said.

“We need to ensure that workers have access to the training and education that will make them--and our economy--successful. Having more affordable and high-quality options to get there, inside and outside of traditional college, is critical.”

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