by Mary Ellen Flannery/photo courtesy of Michael Patrick/News Sentinel
Suddenly, it seems everybody, including President Obama, is talking about community colleges and their vital role in creating trained workers for American jobs in manufacturing, health services, education, and more. But Dr. Jill Biden, wife to Vice President Joe Biden, has known for years that community colleges provide a low-cost, high-quality education for millions of Americans. That’s because Biden has a front-row seat at Northern Virginia Community College, where she has taught English as an adjunct professor since 2009. Recently Biden, an educator with more than 30 years of experience, conversed with NEA Today on issues ranging from college accessibility to her summer reading list.
Q: When President Obama visited your campus (Northern Virginia Community College) in February, he told students, “The truth is that the skills and training you receive here will be the best tool you have to achieve the American Promise.” How is this true? What do you think your students aspire to – and how does the time that they spend in community college classrooms help them achieve those dreams?
Dr. Biden: For the last 18 years, I have seen firsthand the power of community colleges to change lives. I have welcomed students to my classroom from a wide variety of educational, economic, and cultural backgrounds, and I have seen how the community college system offers them the same path of opportunity.
I have students who attend classes on top of a full-time job. I teach moms who are juggling jobs and child care while preparing for new careers. I have many students working toward attending a four-year university.
Community colleges connect the dots – granting two-year degrees, providing new skills training and certification, and providing an affordable path for those who want to move on to a four-year university.
Q: The president of NEA’s Higher Education Council, who is also a community college professor, once said, “Community colleges are the best-kept secret in America!” He felt as if their tremendous value was largely unnoticed. Is this changing? If so, what explains their new place on the national stage?
Dr. Biden: For a long time, I found myself saying the same thing! I do think this is changing, and I am so proud to be part of an Administration that has made community colleges a centerpiece of ensuring that we have the best-educated, most competitive workforce in the world.
Visit NEAToday.org to read the complete interview.