Jill Biden promises access to free community college

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Jill Biden gestures as she speaks to reporters while campaigning for her husband Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden, during a voting poll meet and greet Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Jill Biden is pushing free access to community college and training programs, saying the schools will be an important part of Biden administration efforts to rebuild the economy.

A longtime community college professor and advocate, the first lady said people struggling to get by during the coronavirus-induced economic slump need access to these schools.

“We have to get this done. And we have to do it now. That’s why we’re going to make sure that everyone has access to free community college and training programs,” Jill Biden said in taped remarks broadcast Tuesday during a virtual legislative summit hosted by the Association of Community College Trustees and the American Association of Community Colleges.

She was not more specific. As a presidential candidate, Joe Biden promised two years of community college or training “without debt.”

Similar proposals have been put forward in the past.

In 2015, President Barack Obama and then-Vice President Joe Biden pushed a plan to provide two years of free community college, but the proposal languished in Congress.

Jill Biden indicated that the administration would revive the idea.

“We’re going to make sure students have the support they need to cross that finish line,” she said. “We’re going to invest in programs that prepare our workers for jobs of the future.”

Average annual tuition and fees at a community college cost $3,730 during the 2019-2020 academic year, compared to an average of $10,440 for in-state tuition and fees at a four-year public college, according to the American Association of Community Colleges.

Jill Biden, who continues to teach — albeit virtually — and is the first first lady with a paying job outside of the White House, said community colleges are no longer America’s “best kept secret” as she has long been fond of saying.

“They are our most powerful engine of prosperity,” she said.

The first lady teased a future White House summit on community colleges. She gave no hints on when it would be held and her office did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment. She helped lead a White House community college summit during the Obama-Biden administration.

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