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Jill Biden tells Arizona college graduates 'community colleges should be free in America'

First lady Jill Biden called for free community college tuition during a commencement address to Mesa Community College in Arizona as the administration fights for student debt cancellation.

First lady Jill Biden called for community college education to be "free in America" during her commencement address in Arizona to Mesa Community College's class of 2024.

At the Saturday event in Tempe, on Arizona State University's campus, Biden's call was met with cheers from those assembled, as she further spoke about her own role as an educator at a Virginia community college while her husband serves in the White House.

"On behalf of President Biden, Vice President Harris, and the Second Gentleman: Congratulations, Class of 2024, we are so proud of you," Biden said.

"I teach at a community college for the same reason students go to community colleges. They’re flexible and meet people where they are. And, as my husband, President Biden, says, they provide the 'best career training in America.'"


Biden praised Mesa Community College's "Promise" program, which its website describes as a needs-based commitment from the city of Mesa to residents that eligible students can attend the school without paying tuition or registration fees.

"Community colleges should be free in America," she said.

The first lady's remarks come as the Biden administration continues to take heat over its machinations to cancel student loan debt.

Yet, the U.S. national debt is climbing at a rapid pace and has shown no signs of slowing down. As of last week, the national debt – which measures what the U.S. owes its creditors – rose to $34,541,727,970,599.17, according to the latest numbers published by the Treasury Department.

In June 2023, the Supreme Court ruled against the Biden administration, in asserting 6-3 that federal law does not permit Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to cancel more than $430 billion in student loan debt.


In February, President Biden, in turn, received blowback for saying the high bench "didn't stop me" after "my MAGA Republican friends" sued. 

One critic wrote on X that "one of the ‘nobody is above the law’ people is debunking that again," while Rep. Mike Collins, R-Ga., said, "the decay of checks and balances isn't a flex."

In his 2020 campaign platform, Biden called for making community colleges and tech schools free.

However, an analysis by The Associated Press suggested that the cost of his proposal stopped short of the $1 trillion mark, a figure associated with the more expansive education funding plans championed by his progressive counterparts, Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

President Biden's 2025 fiscal budget also seeks $90 billion to expand access to free community college despite congressional and judicial resistance.

During a hearing last week before the House Education & Workforce Committee, Cardona was confronted by a Republican member over the administration's overall efforts to forgive student debt.


Rep. Lisa McClain, R-Mich., pointedly asked if car loans are next on the administration's debt-cancellation agenda, while also appearing to suggest the administration sees themselves as "above the law."

"Mr. Secretary, President Biden's Department of Education has canceled $153 billion in student loans, with plans to cancel $1.4 trillion. The House of Representatives said no – We actually passed legislation on that – The Senate said no. The Fifth Circuit Court said no. And the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court, said no," McClain said.

"Yet you continue to march on. I would like to know what makes you qualified to ignore the majority of Congress and the Supreme Court."

Fox News' Lindsay Kornick, Elizabeth Elkind and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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