Vice President Joe Biden at DMACC.

Vice President Joe Biden at DMACC.

Vice President Joe Biden praised the programs at Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) Thursday following a tour of some of the buildings on the Ankeny campus and talks with students.

Biden, a democrat, touted the president’s proposal to provide two years of free community college, saying just graduating high school is not enough education for the demands of today’s economy.

“The president and I feel strongly that there should be 14 years — if you are willing to pay the price in terms of effort — 14 years of guaranteed free education in America,” Biden says. “But the last two you’ve got to maintain a grade point, you’ve got to go to a community college that actually has a graduation rate that is acceptable, you’ve got to be in a position where there is job placement, and you’ve got to modernize the community colleges.”

Biden says free tuition is only part of the proposal. “A lot of people — even if they have free tuition — can’t come back to community college because of the cost. The cost of housing, the cost of transportation, the cost of child care, so we propose that you still be able to, if you qualify for a Pell Grant, you get free tuition, plus the Pell Grant to allow you to go back,” Biden says.

Ciommunity college, business officials and students listen to the Vice President Biden.

Community college officials, business representatives and students listen to the Vice President Biden.

He says they need to change the mindset about programs like those at DMACC that allow students to learn a trade and get a good paying job.

Some apprentice programs at the school allow students to work part-time and earn as much at $40,000 while working toward a certificate. They then can earn a yearly wage of 70 to $80,000 once the program is complete.

“There’s this thing in both political parties these days, some more than others, where it’s like the only people who are real value-added are those folks who have masters’ degrees and MBA’s. Give me a break, they didn’t build a country, they didn’t build a country,” Biden says. He says projections show the U.S. is going to need people to fill thousands of those types of jobs by 2020, and DMACC is providing the education needed.

DMACC president Rob Denson and Vice President Joe Biden. (L-R)

DMACC president Rob Denson and Vice President Joe Biden. (L-R)

DMACC president Rob Denson thanked Biden for his support. “Mr. Vice President, what every American wants is a good job. What every American needs is hope,” Denson says. Denson says community colleges are up to the challenge. “More that 60-percent of all the jobs that are going to be needed will take more than a high school degree, but no more than a two-year degree,” Denson says. Biden responded, “Right.” “That’s right in our wheelhouse,” Denson says. “As I always say, I never say that the Iowa community college system is the best, but there’s none any better.” That comment drew laughs from the group.

Biden also heard from business leaders who say they now work with the community college to tell them what they need in workers instead of just taking what the college gives them. It was the Vice President’s second stop during the visit, after speaking at Drake University in Des Moines earlier in the day.

Audio: Biden discussion at DMACC 1:02.