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First lady Jill Biden touts community college investments in Ivy Tech visit

VALPARAISO, Ind. (WISH) — First lady Dr. Jill Biden on Monday said other communities should look to Ivy Tech Community College as a model.

The first lady’s comments came during a visit touting the Biden administration’s investments in career-connected learning such as that offered through Ivy Tech’s courses. Biden toured an energy lab at the Valparaiso campus and talked with about half a dozen students enrolled in the college’s clean energy program.

“This program is giving (the students) good-paying jobs and protecting the planet for the next generation,” she said.

The Biden administration has awarded nearly $100 million in grants to community colleges across the country over the past six months. Ivy Tech received a $1.6 million grant in September. Democratic U.S. Rep. Frank Mrvan, who represents northwest Indiana, said the money is being put toward recruiting women, people of color, and justice-involved people into Ivy Tech’s programs.

Biden’s visit came as state lawmakers have been debating a proposal to dramatically expand the use of apprenticeships and other work-based learning programs at the high school level. The measure passed the House in late February. Republicans want to expand the use of programs that partner directly with employers in a given community, a move Democrats say would short-change career exploration programs offered through traditional public schools.

For her part, Biden focused on the overarching need for career-oriented programs. She said the future of the American workforce depends on the integration of high school coursework and community college programs to connect people with high-demand jobs.