Jill Biden, Second Lady of the United States, is passionate about higher education. Recently, she spoke at the SXSWedu Conference in Austin, Texas about the importance of helping more students complete post-secondary degrees.
She pointed out that, by the end of the decade, it is estimated that two-thirds of all jobs will require some kind of a degree, but that many students still need help completing degrees that can lead them to better jobs. In many cases, students don’t finish degrees because they simply cannot afford to attend. Student loan debt has reached the $1 trillion mark, and there is very little information available to determine what that means for students or the economy.
One way to improve completion rates is to make college more accessible, through programs that raise the Pell grant so more students can get the money they need, or by following President Obama’s plan to make community college tuition free. Another proposal is President Obama’s “Student Aide Bill of Rights,” which promotes increased transparency on the part of companies which offer student loans. Companies which do not fully explain their loan process, or which do not assist students with repayment, can be placed on a complaint website, maintained by the Department of Education to alert borrowers of which companies to avoid.
Currently, around 40% of all American undergraduates are enrolled in community colleges, but just under half of those students are expected to actually graduate or transfer to a university within six years. Community colleges often act as entry points into higher education, allowing students to adapt to a very different educational environment than high school while not breaking the bank.
Increasing access to community colleges increases the chance of low-income students getting better jobs, not to mention gives them the chance to earn scholarships that might help pay for a university education. But even at significantly lower tuition than universities, community colleges can still be expensive, especially for students with minimal income.