Jill Biden promotes community colleges' role in workforce development

Jill Biden at a campaign event in Marshalltown, Iowa, in July 2019. (Flickr / Gage Skidmore)

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Community colleges are essential to educating students and workers and advancing them in their careers to develop a strong, skilled workforce, Jill Biden said during an online conference Monday.

“[Community colleges] are flexible and they meet students where they are,” Biden said during an online conference hosted by College Promise, a group that advocates for tuition-free higher education. “They help workers get the skills they need to advance careers and earn more.”

Organizations like College Promise, which advocates for free community college in the U.S., are transformative in their ability to help students and workers advance their education, the future first lady said. And having access to education opportunities has become even more important during the pandemic, as those without a college decree have been hit the hardest by unemployment and lost income, she said.

“Community colleges change lives,” Biden, who has been on leave from her job as an English professor at Northern Virginia Community College, said during her address. “[President-elect Joe Biden and I] know just how critical this work is, because we know that our economy depends on it because our students deserve nothing less.”

While Biden may not hold an official role in helping shape education policy for her husband’s administration, she will be an important advocate for the needs of students and the importance of higher education, said Jarret Cummings, a senior adviser for policy and government at Educause.

“President-elect Biden campaigned on a substantial higher education agenda including calls for free community college tuition, free tuition at public colleges and universities,” Cummings told StateScoop. “With that in mind, I think Jill Biden’s role as first lady and her plans to continue as a community college professor will serve more to maintain the public’s focus on the Biden higher education agenda and hopefully enhance the public’s support for it.”

Cummings and other education experts said last week that the incoming Biden administration is expected to deliver more financial and infrastructural resources to higher education institutions, especially as they grapple with the continued fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

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