On April 23, The Chronicle of Higher Education will feature an article by Dr. Jill Biden about the significance of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 investments in community colleges.
As a community college instructor and former teacher, Dr. Biden has “seen firsthand the power of community colleges to change lives.” She discusses the commitment of the Administration to shine a spotlight on community colleges, which she refers to as “the best-kept secrets of higher education.”
This administration's commitment to community colleges is a long-term one. The president has asked me to convene a national summit on community colleges in the fall. We will bring college presidents, instructors, and advocates together with business leaders and other stakeholders to share best practices and successful models for helping students gain the knowledge, training, certificates, and degrees needed to succeed. This will be a working summit, a setting where we can shine a spotlight on community colleges, highlight their utility to families and communities across the nation, nurture more collaboration, and generate additional policy ideas and goals for student success. As a community-college instructor, I am thrilled to be leading this summit and truly pleased to have the support of the administration.
Over the past 16 years, I have seen firsthand the power of community colleges to change lives. And that is, in large part, why I never really considered the possibility of not teaching at a community college after we moved to Washington last year.
The package of fixes to health reform also included major student loan legislation that allotted $2 billion towards improving educational training programs at community colleges, while also increasing funding for Pell Grants. Dr. Biden explains that community colleges are affordable options for middle class students:
Every day, I see my students work hard to overcome obstacles just to be in the classroom. Many of them work full time, have aging parents in need of care and attention, or are parents themselves. Often they contend with difficult economic realities. They are eager to learn, and many of them are the first members of their families to attend college. They persevere because they understand that getting an education will change their lives for the better. It will improve their job prospects and enrich their understanding of the world around them.
Community colleges can also serve as a gateway from a high-school diploma to a baccalaureate degree. They offer an affordable option for middle-class high-school students who want to attend a four-year college but cannot afford the tuition. The numbers tell the story: The average cost of tuition at a private four-year university is over $26,000 for the current academic year. At public four-year universities, the average is $7,000. Community-college tuition averages $2,500, presenting a far more affordable way to complete the first two years of a college education, especially when the credits earned on a community-college campus can often be transferred directly into four-year programs. It is not a coincidence that community colleges educate over 40 percent of all postsecondary students nationally.
Dr. Biden highlights the Administration's ongoing dedication to ensuring success for all students:
We know that education is the key to unlocking human potential. And we know that today, on community-college campuses across this country, millions of students are eager to build a more secure future for themselves, their families, and our country. We cannot—and we will not—let them down. As a member of the education community, I ask for your continued partnership in the months and years ahead as we continue to build support for community colleges and work to improve their offerings and outcomes. This is the moment for community colleges. Our work has just begun.