How Jill Biden Is Paid Her $86K Teaching Salary to Avoid Ethics Problems

Dr. Biden's salary is not paid with state funds, though she teaches at a public community college

Jill Biden
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden. Photo: CBS via Getty

Dr. Jill Biden's recent return to in-person teaching highlights the history she's made as the only first lady in memory to maintain a paying job outside the White House. But it has also raised questions regarding the ethics of — and perceptions of a conflict from — that paid work while husband Joe Biden is president.

The emoluments clause in the U.S. Constitution, which prevents any president from profiting from his role beyond his compensation as commander in chief, doesn't extend to the first lady.

Even so, the Biden administration has reportedly been sensitive to perceptions of anything untoward.

As The New York Times details in a new profile of the first lady, Dr. Biden, 70 is working around that by having her employer — Northern Virginia Community College, a state institution — pay her via a nonprofit called the NOVA Foundation.

Dr. Biden's salary, in other words, is neither paid with state funding nor does it come from one specific donor.

As a spokesperson explained to CBS News, the funds used to pay the salary "are not attributable to any specific donor" and instead come via the "unrestricted proceeds of a grant NOVA completed in 2019."

According to an employment contract published by the student-reported website the College Fix, Dr. Biden's salary is $85,999 for the nine-month 2021-2022 school year.

A spokesperson for NOVA confirmed Dr. Biden's salary and its funding to PEOPLE.

US First Lady Jill Biden speaks with students in Becky Taylors classroom as she visits the Christa McAuliffe School in Concord, New Hampshire, on March 17, 2021
Dr. Jill Biden. SUSAN WALSH/POOL/AFP via Getty

According to the CBS News report, the first lady's team was already considering the ethical implications of her teaching role in the days and weeks after her husband was elected, with NOVA's dean telling fellow administrators that Dr. Biden's staff was "meeting with attorneys to make sure there were no legal barriers to her teaching."

In a case since-dismissed by the Supreme Court, former President Donald Trump was sued over the emoluments clause due to his financial interest in several hotels and restaurants, including the Trump International Hotel, which is located near the White House. (The Trumps deny any wrongdoing, though critics have long alleged the family's private business profited from the presidency — which is also at the center of an ongoing federal investigation.)

Dr. Biden, who has worked at NOVA since 2009, teaches writing and English. She made headlines last year when she said would continue teaching if she became first lady.

"If we get to the White House, I'm going to continue to teach," she told CBS Sunday Morning in November. "It's important, and I want people to value teachers and know their contributions and lift up their profession."

She says she has worked to maintain a strict divide between her personal and professional life. Known as "Dr. B" to many of her students, she keeps politics out of the classroom and previously said some of her students were unaware she was married to the then-vice president according to the Associated Press.

The first several months of her husband's administration were, for Dr, Biden, full of remote instruction amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The first lady marked the start of a new academic year recently, with the AP reporting she returned to campus at NOVA to teach classes in-person earlier this month.

Dr. Biden, who has received the COVID-19 vaccine, will be taking safety precautions, as NOVA is requiring everyone to wear a face covering while indoors this semester, regardless of vaccination status.

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