Manhattan Caucus: Here’s What a Biden Presidency Means for Higher Education

by, Katie Heneghan, Web Editor

As President-elect Joe Biden’s return to the White House is approaching quickly, the question of what changes college students, administrators, and institutions of higher education expect is being raised. Biden is a supporter of free college education, student loan debt relief, as well as the return to a new normal amid the pandemic. 

Biden carried overwhelming support from college students with CNBC reporting that 70 percent of college students voted for the former Vice President, who ran as a democrat with California senator Kamala Harris as his pick for Vice President. Harris will be the first female holding the office of Vice President. 

Biden’s wife, Dr. Jill Biden, is a college professor herself. Dr. Biden taught English at Northern Virginia Community College through both of her husband’s terms as Vice President, and is planning to continue to do so as First Lady. 

According to Joe Biden’s campaign website, Biden has big plans for higher education. Biden’s website reads that he hopes to, “Strengthen college as a reliable pathway to the middle class.” 

Biden also hopes to eliminate the cost of tuition at public colleges and universities for those whose household income is below $125,000 yearly. However, Biden believes that much of higher-ed reform begins with the community college level. Biden’s website promises that as president his administration will “Invest in community colleges and training to improve student success and grow a stronger, more prosperous, and more inclusive middle class”.

Biden plans to tackle the student loan debt crisis in America. His plan revolves around simplifying the loan-repayment process, with more income based forgiveness. 

“Under the Biden plan, individuals making $25,000 or less per year will not owe any payments on their undergraduate federal student loans and also won’t accrue any interest on those loans. Everyone else will pay 5% of their discretionary income (income minus taxes and essential spending like housing and food) over $25,000 toward their loans,” Biden’s campaign website reads.

Additionally, Biden has promised more funding for work-studies oriented around public service as well as focusing on jobs that give students real-world experiences and skills. Biden has a strong focus on public service with plans to provide greater loan forgiveness for those working as public servants. 

Biden’s website reads, “Biden will create a new, simple program which offers $10,000 of undergraduate or graduate student debt relief for every year of national or community service, up to five years”. 

In his campaign, Biden and Harris have also placed a tremendous amount of importance on ensuring that underprivileged students across the country have greater access to job training beyond the K-12 education. Biden plans to invest billions of dollars into historically Black colleges and universities, Native American colleges and universities, Hispanic serving institutions as well other colleges and universities with a heavy emphasis on minority education. 

In terms of the COVID-19 pandemic, the president-elect has released a five-step roadmap to safely and fully reopen schools across the country. The first step of Biden’s plan includes getting the national case count under control with greater access to testing and contact tracing. Biden also plans to set more national guidelines that provide guidance to schools and districts on how to react to cases on campus and in the classroom. This also includes access to PPE (personal protective equipment), as well as funding to ensure that social distancing and remote options are accessible to all. 

Biden plans to initiate more national guidelines to ensure that there is an understanding on how to answer the many difficult questions the pandemic presents. Additionally, Biden plans to focus heavily on the education gap that the pandemic has created. 

The president-elect’s website reads that he plans to, ”Direct a White House-led initiative to identify evidence-based policy solutions that address gaps in learning, mental health, social and emotional well-being, and systemic racial and socioeconomic disparities in education that the pandemic has exacerbated,”. 

In terms of higher education, we could see a major change in the cost of public colleges and universities in the next four years. If all goes according to Biden’s plan, the pandemic will subside using his plan to stop the spread. 

For Manhattan College specifically, students should keep their eyes out for an increase in work-study opportunities, as well as greater loan debt relief after graduating and for working in public service. While Manhattan College is a private institution, Biden’s plan focuses on easing the financial burden of college and increasing opportunities for working class Americans.