ARNOLD, MD — When you visit the campus of Anne Arundel Community College it's hard to tell it apart from any other small college campus in the country.
There is a student union, a cafeteria, and a library.
In fact, perhaps one of the only noticeable differences is the fact the word "community" appears in its name.
However, when you talk to the students, you quickly find the role that community colleges play in our country.
Bri Barone came here because of family finances.
"My mom was like, can you try this," Barone said.
Rajan Thummar enrolled because of grades in high school.
"I didn't do that great academically," Thummar said.
Breanna Elliott gave community college a try after realizing in her mid-20s a high school diploma wasn't cutting it.
"I always wanted to study interior design and architecture," Elliot said.
AWAITING PRESIDENT BIDEN'S PLAN
It’s estimated there are around 5 million students enrolled in two-year community colleges in this country.
All of them learning an associate degree, which many use to enter the workforce or enroll in a university for two more years to get a bachelor’s degree.
Many of those students are anxiously awaiting the fate of President Joe Biden’s American Families Plan.
The President is calling for income taxes to go up on individuals making more than $450,000 and couples making more than $500,000 to pay for his priorities like paid family leave, child care assistance, and free community college for two years.
One plan calls for $109 billion to make tuition at places like Anne Arundel completely free for families who make less than $125,000 a year.
Right now it costs around $4,000 annually, which is around the national average.
Elliott, who is graduating valedictorian, says coming up with that may sound easy, but when you just quit your job to enroll, it;s a lot of money.
"I would have felt better knowing that it was completely free," Elliot said.
PLAN IN EARLY STAGES
The proposal is still very much in the early stages and very much subject to change.
One current proposal on Capitol Hill is to make sure each state has a stake in providing free tuition.
While the federal government would pay for 75% of the tuition, the remaining 25% would be paid by state governments. If a state elects to not participate, community college would not be free in that state.
"Whenever there is a proposal, there are pros and cons," Dr. Dawn Lindsay, President at Anne Arundel Community College, said.
While Lindsay said it is too early to speculate on the proposal before Congress, it is an exciting time for community colleges.
Lindsay believes the legislation could fundamentally change how Americans view community colleges. Free tuition couldn't be overlooked.
New trade programs are also expanding nationwide, including at Anne Arundel, offering potentially higher pay for students once they graduate.
"We're in the process of putting a skilled trades center up right here because local businesses said that they've got these great paying jobs and they have students that they can't find to fill them," Lindsay said.