White House Launches Community College Initiative


Vice President Joe Biden announced the White House’s commitment to making community college more affordable for Americans: a new $100 million investment from the Department of Labor aimed at cutting the cost of attaining a bachelor's degree in half.

On April 25, Biden visited the Community College of Philadelphia (CCP). He was accompanied by his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, who teaches at Northern Virginia Community College.

During his visit, the vice president outlined the Obama administration’s plan to award $100 million in grants to stimulate "partnerships between community colleges and other training providers, employers, and the public workforce system to create more dynamic, tuition-free education and training programs for in-demand middle and high-skilled jobs across the country," according to a White House press release.

A component of the program is that community college will be free for the first two years as long as a student maintains regular class attendance and a 2.5 grade-point average. This would effectively cut the cost of a bachelor's degree in half, since a bachelor's degree ideally takes four years to attain.

This would not be offered to students whose families make an income exceeding $200,000, the Philadelphia Inquirer notes.

"Community colleges are America’s best-kept secret," Biden told the crowd at CCP. "They’re helping people get into jobs and into the middle class."

"We need to make college more affordable," the vice president concluded.

The Department of Labor will amass the $100 million by using H-1B work permit fees, the White House press release notes. These permits are given to skilled foreign workers, so the White House is effectively asking employers who hire workers from out of the country to contribute to American students’ education.

Laura Perna, a professor from the University of Pennsylvania, believes that the Obama administration is sending a signal that college is a necessary requirement in the modern economy.

“It underscores a key economic message to young people; that the jobs being created in the U.S. economy now largely require some college education,” Perna told the Times Higher Education.

“Not necessarily a degree from a four-year institution,” Perna added. “But definitely more than a high school diploma.”

Sources: Philadelphia InquirerTimes Higher Education, The White House / Photo Credit: The White House/Flickr

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