Higher Ed in the News: Post-election edition

After a divisive election cycle, America’s people have spoken and Joe Biden is the presumptive winner of the 2020 presidential election. With a new president comes a new administration, including a new leader for the Department of Education, and undoubtedly Biden wants to move the country in a different direction than his predecessor.

While Joe Biden has an ambitious education agenda, including tuition-free college and cancelling student debt, the shakeout of the U.S. Senate may seriously limit his ability to move forward significant legislation, as Kery Murakami of Inside Higher Ed writes. Democrats need to win both seats in a Georgia run-off in order to have a tie in the Senate.

“Winning the presidency is critical but insufficient to enacting many of the bold initiatives that the Biden campaign has proposed in education, health care and tax policy,” Terry Hartle, the American Council on Education’s senior vice president for government relations, told IHE. “Once in office, presidents can do many things to advance their agendas, but actually making major changes in public policy requires Senate approval.”

Where Biden can take action and make a difference are in his COVID-19 relief efforts and reversing Trump policies such as Besty Devos’ Title IX rule hampering responses to sexual assault on campusand the administration’s general leniency toward predatory for-profit institutions, according to Jeremy Bauer-Wolf of Education Dive.  

The Trump administration’s immigration policy, meanwhile, decreased applications and lowered trust in the country’s ability to accommodate and support international students, as Michael Vasquez noted in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Expect a Biden administration to make efforts to change that, based on his policy platform.

Bauer-Wolf and Vasquez noted that Biden could use executive orders and other means to enact change for college affordability, such as increasing the opportunity for Pell Grants and providing more support to HBCUs, community colleges, and other institutions that have been poorly supported by the government historically. 

America is still first and foremost dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. In terms of the immediate impact of a Biden administration on higher ed, it is this writer’s opinion that the way he handles the pandemic, including federal safety guidelines, financial relief, and new emergency policies, will be most important for colleges and universities in the short run.