New Jersey’s Community Colleges Attend National Legislative Summit: Jill Biden Promises Tuition-Free Community Colleges

Catherine Starghill

Director of Strategy, Outreach & Communications or (609) 392-3434

New Jersey’s Community Colleges Attend National Legislative Summit: Jill Biden Promises Tuition-Free Community Colleges

Community college presidents, trustees and students attended the national legislative summit hosted by the Association of Community College Trustees and the American Association of Community Colleges. Normally an in-person summit held in Washington D.C., this past year’s pandemic forced a new virtual setting.

During the summit, almost 100 New Jersey Community College leaders and students attended a state virtual convening with Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) who discussed the importance of New Jersey Community Colleges providing pathways to education for residents — from first-generation students to those seeking training for new careers.

Jill Biden also addressed the summit and stressed free access to community college degrees and training programs as an important element of the Biden administration’s plan to rebuild the economy post-pandemic. “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 a prerecorded message.

The First Lady, who continues to teach at a community college, 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.

New Jersey is well positioned to implement a Biden program to provide students with tuition-free community college education. The New Jersey Legislature recently passed the Community College Opportunity Grant (CCOG) program to make community college education tuition-free for individuals in households earning $65,000 adjusted gross income or less. The CCOG program was first established in the state’s FY 2019 budget and assisted more than 18,000 students last year, including recent high school graduates and working adults. Despite the pandemic, nearly 10,000 students received CCOG during the Fall 2020 semester. These students enrolled in a community college and embarked on a path toward earning college degrees and credentials. CCOG expands economic opportunity while helping New Jersey build a productive and innovative workforce that enables economic growth and recovery.

In addition to these sessions, college leaders and students are meeting with the state’s full Congressional Delegation to advocate for federal support of community colleges for the benefit of the over 200,000 students – more than half of all undergraduate students in public colleges and universities in the state – enrolled in credit and degree programs at New Jersey’s 18 Community Colleges.