Higher education policy priorities to shift under Biden administration

February 9, 2021
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The White House in Washington DC with american flag on sunset sky at sunset

The election of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States is expected to usher in a dramatic shift in higher education policy priorities at the federal level. The president’s platform includes an extensive plan that aims to make college more affordable with tuition-free community college, double the maximum Pell Grant, and broader debt relief for student loan borrowers, among other things.

New executive orders

“Right out of the gate, President Biden signed a series of executive directives to extend pandemic-related student loan relief, preserve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and strengthen protections for LGBTQ students,” said Michelle Mott, AACRAO’s Associate Director of Government Relations and Communications. “These actions highlight the new administration's immediate priorities, but longer-term goals will require the more difficult work of legislative or regulatory action.”

A divided Congress

In addition to the shift in power at the White House, Democrats took control of the Senate in early January with a pair of historic victories in Georgia's runoff elections, assuring slim majorities in both chambers of Congress. The Democrats' twin victories will bring the balance of power in the Senate to 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris able to cast tie-breaking votes. That advantage will pave the way for at least some elements of Biden's agenda; however, Congress remains sharply divided, and bipartisan support will be needed to advance most legislative proposals.

“What is certain is that Democrats will have razor thin majorities in both chambers of Congress.  Will compromise win out? Or will the Democrats need to find a balance within their own factions to pass meaningful legislation? It should certainly prove to be an action-packed Congress,” stated William Gil, Director of Government Relations at AACRAO. “Meanwhile, there are regulatory issues the new administration wants to address at the Department of Education, such as Title IX, gainful employment, and even borrower defense. These next four years will prove to be interesting.” 

For a more in-depth conversation on what the AACRAO Government Relations team has been hearing regarding the higher education priorities for the new administration, please join us for a webinar on February 10 at 3:00 p.m. ET.



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