Second lady Jill Biden said she felt a close connection to the innovation at Santa Fe College during her visit Monday morning to learn about the school’s success.
Biden and Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell attended a roundtable discussion with students and faculty to see how Santa Fe helps students graduate or transfer to four-year colleges. Santa Fe President Jackson Sasser welcomed the two prominent education figures, calling their visit a historical moment for the college.
Biden teaches English at Northern Virginia Community College, which is just outside of Washington, D.C. An advocate for community colleges, Biden chose to visit Santa Fe during her Spring Break to hear from students about the college’s successful programs that have propelled students to graduate or transfer to universities such as UF.
“The type of innovative strategies and the use of innovative technology to improve student success that we are learning here today is really close to my heart,” Biden said during the discussion.
Last year, the Aspen Institute, an organization that studies education, ranked Santa Fe among the top 10 colleges nationwide for its student success, which is determined by overall graduation and transfer rates, student advisement and monitoring programs and their transfer pathways with four-year colleges.
Biden stressed the importance of community colleges, saying by 2020, two-thirds of job openings “will require some form of higher education.”
According to a White House press release, 40 percent of the United States’ undergraduate students attend community colleges.
Biden said less than half will graduate or transfer to a four-year school within six years.
“We have a lot of work to do to increase retention, completion and overall student success at community colleges,” Biden said.
Student panelists speaking at the discussion cited the college advisers and their relationships with them as a huge reason for their success.
The panelists also said Santa Fe served as an easy transition step from high school to a four-year college.
Erica Laboissoniere, 40, was one of the student panelists. When she first arrived at Santa Fe, she questioned her decision to enroll.
A mother of three and nearly a high school dropout, Laboissoniere said she thought to herself when she first got to Santa Fe, “There’s no way I can do this.”
But Laboissoniere finished her first semester with a 4.0 GPA, and that’s when she thought to herself, “Maybe I can do this,” she said.
Laboissoniere became a student ambassador and then joined the honors program. She developed relationships with advisers and faculty who encouraged her to work hard.
She graduated in December 2012, citing those relationships as one of the biggest reasons.
The relationships she formed at Santa Fe, Laboissoniere said, lifted her to a place that she never thought possible.
Acea Ash, 19, attended the discussion as part of his American history class.
“It’s always nice to hear what higher-ups in the government have to say about school,” the psychology freshman said.
[A version of this story ran on page 6 on 3/10/2015 under the headline “Jill Biden visits SFC for discussion on community college impact”]
Second Lady Jill Biden speaks to Santa Fe students and faculty at a roundtable discussion in Santa Fe College on Monday morning. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell also attended the discussion, which focused on learning how Santa Fe helps students graduate or transfer to four-year colleges.