What if Biden wins? | Leadership in higher education

If Joe Biden wins his quest for the presidency, what are the implications for American higher education? As I noted in a trial last week President Trump official agenda for the second term devotes only 11 words in total to Kindergarten to Grade 12 and higher education combined. In contrast, Biden released a detailed report Planning for education beyond high school, with additional details in its Unity Working Group guidance note, which was developed by a joint task force of advisers Biden and Bernie Sanders.

After spending time as deputy director of policy on a successful presidential campaign (for Bill Clinton in 1992) and then observing efforts to implement that campaign’s agenda once the president was in power, I can tell you firsthand that there is often a giant gap between a candidate’s proposals while they are running and the policies they actually advance when in office. Nonetheless, campaign plans provide valuable insight into a candidate’s mindset and values. They also reflect political reality: the goals, needs and desires of its political supporters. While we can’t take for granted that Biden’s current proposals will end up in his budget and legislative agenda if he wins in November, they are, I think, a good guide to his inclinations, goals, and outlook.

The most important takeaway is that Biden, if he wins, is likely to invest heavily in higher education. Unlike Trump, who was deeply antagonistic towards the sector, Biden sees higher education as vital for economic opportunity, job creation and a thriving democracy. So what would Biden do? Its plan is based on five main pillars:

Invest in community colleges

Biden has long been a champion of the nation’s community colleges, perhaps in part because his wife, Jill Biden, is a former community college professor. Biden pledged to “ensure that every hard working individual, including those in part-time school and DREAMers (young adults who came to the United States as children), can go to the United States. community college for up to two years without paying tuition fees. This plan will be a federal-state partnership, with the federal government covering 75% of the cost and the states contributing the remaining obligation. Significantly, Biden vowed that support for community college students will go far beyond help with tuition. His plan explains:

There are too many Americans who do not complete their education or training programs not because of a lack of willpower, but because of other responsibilities they are juggling, such as a job to pay their bills or take care of children. children. Often, these students and their families also face housing and food insecurity. The Biden administration’s community college initiative will be a first dollar program, meaning that students will be able to use their Pell Grants, state aid, and other aid to help cover expenses in the -beyond tuition and fees. And Biden will establish a federal grant program to help community colleges create emergency grant programs for students facing an unexpected financial challenge that threatens their ability to stay enrolled.

Biden also proposed “to invest $ 8 billion to help community colleges improve the health and safety of their facilities and equip their schools with new technologies that will enable their students to succeed in the 21st century.” additional dollars for workforce training programs. in community colleges and other institutions.

In short, expect the focus to be on this vital sector of the US higher education system. Details and amounts may change, but given her background and his wife’s deep commitment, she has indicated that she continue to teach as first lady – help for community colleges is probably on the way if Biden wins.

Make college more affordable

Biden is also committed to making a four-year college education more affordable. The big news: His campaign platform expresses support for “Senator Sanders’ proposal to make public colleges and universities free for all students with family incomes below $ 125,000.” Biden’s campaign agenda doesn’t make it clear how he will achieve that goal – is he embracing all the details of the Sanders plan? – but approves two important affordability tools: a “doubling” of the Pell subsidy and a “Title I for post-secondary education to help students in underfunded four-year schools graduate ”, with assistance“ for underfunded four-year schools that serve large numbers of Pell-eligible students ”.

Remission of debts

Biden approved a number of important debt cancellation and limitation ideas in response to US $ 1.6 trillion college debt crisis, to include: (1) up to $ 10,000 in temporary student debt relief per borrower to help respond to the economic dislocation of COVID-19; (2) a moratorium on accrued interest “on federal student loans for people earning less than $ 25,000”; (3) limit debt payments to “no more than 5% of discretionary income for those earning more than $ 25,000”; and (4) automatic loan forgiveness after 20 years. The details here are probably not that important, since any plan will be subject to the push and pull of the legislative process if elected. What is important is the commitment to do something to address the shadow of debt that hangs over many young Americans.

A crackdown on exploitative for-profit colleges

The Trump administration repealed Obama-era rules designed to protect students at operating for-profit universities. Expect Biden to reverse this, and perhaps take additional action, to crack down on for-profit companies with poor investment or debt repayment records. The Biden plans explain:

Students who started their studies at for-profit colleges fail to repay student loans at a rate three times higher than those who start at nonprofit colleges. These for-profit programs are often predatory – devoted to pressurized and deceptive recruiting practices and charging higher costs for substandard education that leaves graduates with mountains of debt and good job opportunities. The Biden administration will require for-profit organizations to first prove their worth to the US Department of Education before being eligible for federal aid. The Biden administration will also revert to the Obama-Biden borrower defense rule, forgiving debt held by individuals who have been cheated by the worst profiteers of for-profit universities or careers. Finally, President Biden will enact legislation eliminating the so-called escape route 90/10 it prompts for-profit schools to enroll veterans and the military in programs that don’t work.

Support for HBCUs, Tribal Colleges and HSIs

Finally, Biden pledged to invest $ 70 billion in historically black colleges and universities, tribal colleges, Hispanic institutions and other schools serving traditionally underserved communities. Biden’s current proposal is to divide that aid in four ways: (1) $ 10 billion to support persistence, achievement, and graduation efforts; (2) $ 20 billion for infrastructure and science labs; (3) $ 10 billion for centers of excellence in research and job incubation; and (4) $ 18 billion plus “extra funds” for tuition assistance.

Takeaway meals

Biden presented a comprehensive, bold and very expensive plan to boost higher education. The plan is also quite traditional. While it contains occasional references to cost containment, there isn’t much here on transformation or disruption. Instead, Biden is trying to subsidize and improve the system that currently exists. Think reform, not revolution.

If elected, I would expect a serious push to make some, maybe most, of this agenda a reality. Earlier this year, Congress tried and failed to re-authorize the law on higher education. Relevant education committees will revisit this effort early next year. This will provide Biden, if elected, with a vehicle to move a very large part of his higher education agenda forward.

The real challenge will be funding. Under Trump, the federal deficit has exploded to an incredible $ 3.3 trillion due to tax cuts, increased spending and the COVID-19 response. Some budget conservatives – Republicans in Congress, but perhaps also leaders of a Biden administration – might try to block new initiatives in the name of “fiscal common sense.” They will note that the national debt now exceeds $ 20 trillion, a staggering figure that now exceeds our GDP. The big question is: if Biden is elected, will he be able to move this aggressive higher education agenda forward, or will he be stuck in Congress? Stay tuned.

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