WASHINGTON -- For the past eight years, community colleges have had an advocate in the White House through Jill Biden.
Biden, along with her husband, Vice President Joe Biden, hosted a number of community college leaders Wednesday at their residence at the U.S. Naval Observatory as a way to thank the sector for pushing free community college initiatives in their states and communities.
"I know a lot of you in your communities, through philanthropy and through major corporate sponsorship, are providing free community college," said Joe Biden. "But that's not enough. Twelve years of education in the 21st century is not enough and so we are absolutely committed. I'm telling you it's going to happen, particularly if my team wins this election."
America's College Promise, the tuition-free community college plan that President Obama unveiled more than a year ago, has languished in the U.S. Congress.
"Communities and states are not waiting for Congress," said U.S. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell. "Support from Congress or the federal government, whether it comes in the form of dollars or thought leadership, is important and good, but bringing communities together around this is how it anchors itself, not just for a year or day, but for a generation and more."
Despite what changes may occur with a new administration, the tuition-free community college idea is rooted in states and communities, Mitchell said.
Although critics of a federal tuition-free community college program often question how to fund the initiative, the vice president put forward one idea that would tackle the problem.
The step-up in basis tax loophole, which allows people who have sold an inherited asset to avoid paying capital gains tax, costs the U.S. Treasury $17 billion a year, the vice president said, adding that it affects less than 1 percent of Americans.
"If we eliminate that one single loophole, we could pay for every single solitary person to go to community college free for two years and we could reduce the deficit by another $11 billion," he said.
Even after the White House changes hands next year to either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, Jill Biden said she'll continue to push for tuition-free community college.
"This is our moment," she said. "We don't know what we're going to have two months from now or four months from now, but we have to go forward with free community college."