Recent Biden era policies signal change in state of education in US

Apoorva Verghese, Intersections Editor

Biden policies image
Emma Vaughters

Even before his election, many voters saw President Joe Biden as a beacon of hope for the future of education in the U.S. While on the campaign trail, Biden consistently highlighted his plans to address educational issues including the state of public schools during the COVID-19 pandemic and the affordability of higher education. It didn’t take much time at all for Biden to begin executing the promises of his campaign. Over the course of his first few days in office, Biden signed several executive orders regarding issues such as immigration, environmental justice and economic equity. Among these are several orders that will significantly impact the state of higher education for millions of college-aged students in the United States. 

Even several of Biden’s policies that don’t relate directly to education have substantial effects on students at institutions of higher education, particularly policies regarding immigration. The Barack Obama-era policy Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, for example, was a particularly polarizing subject during the Trump Administration. Over the course of Trump’s term, he consistently passed legislation to weaken the program by rejecting new applicants, putting thousands of undocumented immigrants at risk of deportation. Several students who were DACA recipients were included in the at-risk group. Biden, however, made it a priority to strengthen existing legislation and has already signed an executive order fortifying the policy. 

Biden also reversed the controversial travel ban against Muslim-majority nations passed by the Trump Administration. The travel ban, which was passed about a week into Trump’s term in office, prevented citizens of various Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and Africa from entering the U.S. For several international students from these countries, the restrictions meant they were unable to continue their studies in the U.S., finding themselves stuck in their home countries with no means of continuing their studies. 

Both these immigration policies, though not specifically geared towards students, have serious repercussions for many of their lives. Beyond the clear benefits of Biden’s plans for noncitizen students, the new policies signal a significant departure from the typically exclusionary immigration policies of the Trump administration. Symbolically, these policies signal that international students are just as welcome in the U.S. as anyone else. 

Biden’s arguably most important policies for higher education, however, revolve around the affordability of higher education. Student loan debt, for example, has been a contentious subject in politics. Biden recently announced that he plans to erase $10,000 of student debt for those who have it as part of his COVID-19 relief plan. While the average college student has more than ten thousand dollars in debt, Biden’s plan is being hailed as a major step towards the elimination of student debt in the U.S. 

Total forgiveness of student loans remains a distant dream for the moment, but several proponents of the idea believe that Biden has the potential to take the country in that direction. 

Another potential major win for several college students is Biden’s decision to give dependents stimulus checks. In the COVID-19 relief package passed in December 2020, dependents aged 17 and older were excluded from any benefits. This group included several legally independent college students who were still financially dependent on their parents. 

Recently, however, Biden proposed another stimulus bill that would greatly benefit adult dependents. This proposed relief package would give people additional stimulus checks based on how many dependents they have, regardless of age. For many students who are still dependents of their parents, this announcement comes as a huge relief. 

There is still a lot of work to be done addressing issues of education equity, including issues of racial discrimination, burdening student debt and minimal career options. Education in the U.S. is far from equitable, but these recent policy changes are undoubtedly a sign of necessary progress. More importantly, they are a sign of what’s to come with the Biden administration.

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