First lady Jill Biden waves to a small crowd as she arrives at Fort Williams Park on  July 1. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer, file

First lady Jill Biden plans to visit Southern Maine Community College when she arrives in Maine on Wednesday morning.

The visit to the state is part of the Biden-Harris administration’s “Investing in America” tour to highlight how President Biden’s economic policies are benefiting Americans across the country.

The first lady also plans to make stops in Vermont, Colorado and Michigan to call attention to career-connected learning and workforce training programs, which are central to the Biden Education Pathway, and how these programs are helping prepare students for jobs, according to a press release from the Office of the First Lady.

She and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona will tour SMCC to highlight the college’s workforce training programs and the state’s investment in free community college, according to the release.

Gov. Janet Mills had been scheduled to join the tour but announced late Sunday that she tested positive for COVID-19.

In addition to Maine’s free tuition program, which is paid for by state taxpayers, investments by the Biden administration are also helping create jobs and career opportunities in the state’s in-demand careers,  Mills said in a statement Sunday. Those needed jobs include precision manufacturing, clean energy and health care.


Using that federal money, the governor’s Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan has delivered $35 million from Biden’s American Rescue plan to create 8,500 new workforce training opportunities at Maine’s seven community colleges.

The state’s free community college program was proposed by Mills and approved by state lawmakers. The program immediately boosted enrollment by 12% at Maine’s seven community colleges.

Enrollment figures show that fall enrollment was 12,765, compared to 11,359 one year before. Of the fall’s enrollment, 5,399 of the students – 42% – qualified for the free community college scholarships approved by the legislature in April 2022.

Applications began to pour into community colleges when the program was approved. The program pays tuition and fees for full-time community college students who graduated from high school or passed an equivalency exam from 2020 to 2023. State lawmakers allocated $20 million for the initiative, and the state expects the program to supplement or fully pay community college tuition and fees for 8,000 students.

While the free tuition program is helping students take on less college debt, it has also pulled students away from Maine’s four-year colleges and universities.

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