First lady Jill Biden used a visit to a community college in Dixon on Monday to promote efforts to make higher education more affordable, a precursor to programs expected to be included in President Joe Biden’s post-infrastructure package.
The first lady, who teaches at Northern Virginia Community College, toured Sauk Valley Community College, a school of 1,600 students, and met with participants in labs teaching nursing and technological and manufacturing skills.
She also touted a new program at the school that allows high school students to earn tuition by performing 25 hours of community service each year.
First lady Jill Biden arrives April 19, 2021, for a visit to Sauk Valley Community College in Dixon as Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., right, watches. (Susan Walsh / AP/AP)
The president, she said, “understands that if we want our communities to thrive, if we want our businesses to have more skilled workers that they need, if we want to prepare our economy for the future, there is no greater investment that we can make than in education.”
The administration’s $2 trillion infrastructure program includes $12 billion for upgrades of facilities and technology at community colleges.
But the president has long been a supporter of free two-year community college tuition, and such a proposal is expected in his next package to Congress. The administration has talked of the need to support the teaching of new skills along with a renewed emphasis on vocational training at a time of technology merging with manufacturing in a post-COVID-19 environment.
The first lady offered no specifics on a free community college proposal but said of her husband, “He’s ready for big ideas and bold action, so that all Americans can go to community college, have the support they need to finish and get good jobs.”
First lady Jill Biden, third from left, speaks during a visit with Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, left, to Sauk Valley Community College in Dixon on April 19, 2021. Joining them on a tour of the school is Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., second from left, student Eric Rosenow, third from right, associate professor Steven McPherson, second from right, and graduate Crystal Collinson, right. (Susan Walsh / AP/AP)
Jill Biden made the trip along with Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and was met in Dixon by Gov. J.B. Pritzker and U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, of Moline, a convening of Democrats in the boyhood home of President Ronald Reagan.
Cardona also touted the school’s tuition program, saying he wanted to “share that across the country as one of those best practices that we need to replicate.” Bustos issued a statement saying that “to remain competitive on the global level, we must start thinking of education as K-14.”