U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Dr. Jill Biden Visit Miami Dade College to Discuss Improving Nation's Education System and the Importance of Community Colleges in Job Creation

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U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Dr. Jill Biden Visit Miami Dade College to Discuss Improving Nation's Education System and the Importance of Community Colleges in Job Creation

March 6, 2009

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Dr. Jill Biden today held a panel discussion with students at Miami Dade College to exchange ideas on improving the nation's higher education system and the importance of community colleges in job creation. Duncan and Biden also discussed how funds from the stimulus package will help make college more affordable for families.

"Community colleges like Miami Dade are going to be an extremely important part of restoring the economy over the next few years and ensuring that our students can compete not just with their neighbors down the block, but also with their peers in China and India," Duncan said.

Accompanied by Miami Dade President Eduardo Padrón, Duncan and Biden praised the work of community colleges in providing students with a quality education at an affordable cost. Duncan also discussed how the stimulus package will help save education jobs and drive reform.

"As a community college professor, I see firsthand the significant and critical role that community colleges play in educating students and preparing them for a fiercely competitive workforce," Biden said. "Community colleges will no doubt play an increasingly important role in restoring the economy over the coming years by training Americans for jobs of the future in affordable and accessible ways." Biden is currently a professor at Northern Virginia Community College. Prior to coming to Washington, D.C., she taught English full-time at Delaware Technical & Community College in Newark, Delaware, for the last 15 years.

Of the $30.8 billion in the stimulus package for higher education, $17 billion will be used to close the shortfall in the Pell Grant program and boost grant amounts by $500 to $5,350 in the first year. The increase in Pell Grant aid will benefit low-income students who are disproportionately represented at community colleges, Duncan said. And students who participate in the Federal Work Study program will receive larger awards.

Changes in the American Opportunity Tax Credit will provide relief to more families struggling to pay for college. The education tax credit will make the cost of tuition and fees at community colleges virtually free for many students. The tax credit covers up to $2,500 of college expenses and, for the first time, a portion of this credit is available to families who currently don't have income-tax liability.

Universities and community colleges throughout the state have had to make catastrophic budget cuts—eliminating faculty and staff positions and decreasing financial aid. "With a $21 million reduction in funding and a 15 percent increase in enrollment here at Miami Dade, you are all too familiar with the challenge of trying to serve your students amid this economic crisis," Duncan said. "In tough economic times, we have to tighten our belts—but not at the expense of our children's future. This is a historic opportunity we have right now to do something extraordinary for students and to take American education to the next level."

There are more than 1,000 community colleges across the country, and Miami Dade College is the largest and most diverse in the nation with eight campuses and more than 167,000 students from around the world. The college offers more than 300 programs of study and several degree options, including vocational, associate and baccalaureate. The college, which awards more associate degrees than any other community college in the United States, has a Virtual College, an Honors College and an Emerging Technologies Center of the Americas. The college has grown tremendously since it first opened its doors in the 1960s—with enrollment up more than 15 percent over the last two years.

For additional information on the education component of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, visit http://www.ed.gov/policy/gen/leg/recovery/factsheet/overview.html.