by Erin McAnany
“It’s great to learn how Bergen is giving students the support that they need to cross that finish line and it’s a testament to what can be accomplished when community colleges have a partner in the White House,” First Lady Jill Biden, Ed.D said as she was joined by U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, Ed. D. and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy on January 20 to take a tour at Bergen’s new One-Stop Student Services Center and talk about how well Bergen handled the COVID Pandemic. Biden and Cardona also visited the college to announce grants for community colleges.
At the event, federal officials announced an additional $198 million in American Rescue Plan funds that will primarily support community colleges; new guidance on how colleges can use these new and existing federal funds to meet students’ basic needs such as housing and food security; and guidance on how colleges can use existing data to connect students to other federal benefits.
There are many students that can’t afford the basic necessities of living and with these grants. The grants can help many students and make them feel less stressed and relieved that they can get the help they need from their college, Cardona said.
Nursing student Kenzia Bomtempo-Rodriguez spoke about her struggles of going to school and being a mother. She spoke on how childcare is so expensive and was relieved when she heard that Bergen has a Child Development Center.
“For the first time ever, I am enrolled as a full time student,” she said. She plans to become a registered nurse and then a nurse practitioner.
Combined, the college used $153,000 in federal funding from two sources – the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act and the American Rescue Plan and the U.S. Department of Education’s Child Care Access Means Parents in School grant program – to sponsor the tuition-free enrollments.
Bergen also used some of funds received from the federal government for pandemic-related relief to satisfy the outstanding balances of current students with past-due tuition bills. In total, the College devoted approximately five million dollars to the effort, which helped more than 2,000 students.
Biden taught at Delaware Technical & Community College and now teaches English at Northern Virginia Community College. She talked about her New Jersey roots – she was born in Hammonton and lived in Mahwah – and promised that she and husband President Joe Biden will lead efforts to see the country “build back better than ever before.”