‘Thank you, Jill’: The First Lady is a key voice on Joe Biden’s educational reforms

jill biden
First Lady Jill Biden.

  • Joe Biden credited First Lady Jill Biden for the boost to Pell Grants in his new spending plan.
  • Nearly 60% of Black students rely on Pell Grants to pay for college.
  • Jill Biden continues to teach at a community college and included education reforms in her First Lady agenda.
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President Joe Biden’s first joint address on Wednesday night, during which he officially unveiled his $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, included a shoutout to a key influence on its educational reforms: First Lady Jill Biden.

Of the $1.8 trillion package, $318 billion of it is going to reforming the country’s education system, and Biden revealed that Jill Biden, who teaches at a community college while serving as First Lady, led the effort to include aid to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and minority serving institutions (MSIs) and has been instrumental in advocating for education accessibility and certain education policies.

“She’s long said – if I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: ‘Joe, any country that out educates us is going to outcompete us,'” Biden said during his speech.

Biden said in his speech that the reason for investing in Pell Grants is because HBCUs and MSIs “don’t have the endowments, but their students are just as capable of learning about cyber security, just as capable of learning about metallurgy, all the things that are going on that provide those jobs of the future,” and Jill Biden is to thank.

As part of the postsecondary education investments in the infrastructure plan, the president included investments in the Pell Grant program, which gives government subsidies to students who need it to pay for college. His plan proposed increasing the maximum Pell Grant award to $4,000, which would assist the nearly 7 million students who rely on Pell Grants.

This comes on top of a $39 billion program in the plan that provides two years of subsidized tuition for students from families earning less than $125,000 enrolled in a four-year HBCU or MSI.

A White House fact sheet said that among students of color, nearly 60% of Black, half of American Indian or Alaska Native, almost half of Latino, and over one-third of Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander students rely on Pell Grants to pay for college.

Jill Biden continues to teach classes at Northern Virginia Community College and has laid out an agenda of her own, which includes educational reforms.

“She’ll be deeply involved in leading this effort,” Biden said. “Thank you, Jill.”

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