#collegesafety | Joe Biden Won. Here’s What Higher Ed Can Expect. | #parenting | #parenting | #kids

Joseph R. Biden Jr. crossed the 270 electoral-vote threshold on Saturday and, barring a successful legal challenge, he will be sworn in January 20 as the 46th president of the United States.

In sharp contrast to President Trump, whose administration spent much of the past four years actively attacking higher education, Biden — whose wife, Jill, is a longtime community-college educator — has signaled his support for the sector. His extensive Plan for Education Beyond High School promises to “strengthen college as a reliable pathway to the middle class.”

Before expanding Americans’ access to higher ed, however, Biden must first rescue a system beset by pandemic-induced crises that threaten to consume it. Deep financial problems stemming from enrollment drops and increased instructional expenses have forced thousands of layoffs and left an unknown number of colleges teetering on the brink of failure. Biden has called for a sevenfold increase in coronavirus testing — a plan that would provide vital health information to colleges eager to return students and professors to classrooms.

The Democrat appears likely to face a Republican majority in the Senate, which would hamstring some of his plans to revive higher ed. A divided government in Washington would force Biden to lean more heavily on his executive powers to influence higher-education policy. Some legislative items, such as larger Pell Grants, could still survive, but they would most likely be scaled back. Democrats might have one last shot at capturing control of the Senate in January, when both of Georgia’s seats could be up for grabs in a rare double-runoff election.

No matter the outcome of the Senate races, a new administration in Washington will have a big impact. Here are some key areas where Biden could shape the future of higher ed:

Campus sexual assault — As Barack Obama’s vice president, Biden played a key role in the White House’s campaign to push colleges to do more to combat sexual assault on campus. In 2011, he unveiled the landmark “Dear Colleague” letter stating that the federal gender-equity law known as Title IX made colleges broadly responsible for doing all they could to prevent such crimes and punish the perpetrators.


In 2011, Vice President Joe Biden visited the U. of New Hampshire, where he unveiled the Obama administration’s landmark guidance on how colleges would be expected to respond to accusations of sexual assault.

But the focus completely shifted under President Trump, whose Education Department instead embraced arguments that the accused are treated unfairly during hearings under Title IX. Those hearings could potentially lead to suspension or expulsion of the accused.

To protect the rights of the accused, who are usually men, the Trump administration forced colleges to adopt more of a courtroom-style process. And hearing procedures were changed in ways that made it harder for survivors to prove their cases, or even to get a hearing in the first place.

Sage Carson, manager of Know Your IX, a group that advocates for survivors of sexual assault, said the Trump administration’s approach represented a radical departure from decades of Education Department policy.

“There is a hope that the Department of Education may return to the rules of the road,” Carson said. “And that doesn’t mean a third term of the Obama administration, but more returning to what had been done on Title IX, and education, since the 80s.”

Under Obama, Carson said, most accusers who contacted her organization were eligible to take their case to a Title IX hearing. Under Trump, a majority of them no longer qualify.

The 2011 letter, released by the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, caused frustration among some college administrators, as it outlined entirely new standards for how colleges should investigate rape allegations. The letter also made it clear that the federal government would be aggressive in holding colleges accountable for preventing sexual assault.

But the Trump administration’s new direction also caused headaches for colleges, because its directives on sexual assault took away much of institutions’ autonomy, said Sarah Flanagan, head of the government-relations staff at the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

Under Trump, she said, the Title IX process became “much more expensive for a campus, and much less flexible.”

Coronavirus stimulus — The economic collapse caused by Covid-19 has sent many colleges into a financial tailspin, and Congress is under enormous pressure to provide a second round of stimulus money to higher education. If another stimulus bill is approved, some federal dollars could flow to colleges directly, but institutions would also benefit from money awarded to states, since public higher education’s fortunes are directly tied to the overall health of state budgets.

Congress could approve a stimulus package under President Trump, during the lame-duck session. Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate majority leader, said Wednesday that passing a stimulus package would be a top priority, and “we need to do it before the end of the year.” McConnell signaled that he is open to including aid to state and local governments in the legislation.


William Thomas Cain, Getty Images

If Democrats and Republicans are able to strike a deal, and President Trump signs off on it, that doesn’t mean that Biden wouldn’t influence the stimulus debate. After taking office, he is expected to push forcefully for additional government spending to reinvigorate the economy. Higher-education funding could become a huge part of that effort — in particular, support for short-term certificate and associate-degree programs that will retrain workers laid off during the pandemic.

One complicating factor: Higher education is now a partisan issue, with Republicans increasingly questioning the usefulness of certain degrees, particularly in the liberal arts. Republicans have also accused higher ed of being biased against conservative viewpoints.

If Democrats fail to capture 50 seats in the Senate, Biden’s ability to deliver additional federal aid to colleges could depend heavily on his ability to negotiate with Senate Republicans — and on their willingness to compromise.

College affordability and student debt — Trump used his executive authority to extend a temporary pause on federal student-loan repayments until the end of 2020. As president, Biden could use the same executive power to provide borrowers with broader (and more permanent) debt relief.

Biden campaigned on a plan to provide student-debt relief, but only to certain kinds of borrowers: those who earn less than $125,000, have loans from an undergraduate degree, and earned that degree at either a public university, a minority-serving institution, or a historically Black college.

Biden has also proposed $10,000 in student-loan forgiveness for all borrowers.

The National Student Legal Defense Network, an advocacy group whose founders include former Obama Education Department staffers, is recommending that the Biden administration use its executive powers aggressively when it comes to debt forgiveness. Among the group’s proposals: Biden could make debt forgiveness automatic for borrowers whom the federal government deems “totally and permanently” disabled.

Those borrowers are already entitled to loan forgiveness, but roughly 350,000 disabled borrowers have never applied with the Education Department — presumably because they are unaware of their legal rights.

Vasquez-Biden-FreeCollege-1104 windle

Paul Windle for The Chronicle

On the issue of college affordability, Biden has proposed doubling the maximum value of Pell Grants, while also making “public colleges and universities tuition-free for all families with incomes below $125,000.”

Turning those proposals into reality will require getting buy-in from Congress, and if Republicans control the Senate, they will probably be resistant — particularly when there is a Democrat in the White House. That dynamic could force the Biden administration to pursue more-modest affordability measures.

In that scenario, Pell Grants might increase, but not by much.

But the need for a bigger investment in Pell is clear, says the Association of American Universities, which represents more than 60 elite research institutions.

While Biden has called for a doubling of Pell, the AAU says the maximum Pell Grant — set at $6,345 for the 2020-21 academic year — should be tripled.

“When Pell started back in the 70s, the award covered more than 75 percent of the cost of in-state tuition and fees at public universities,” said Barbara Snyder, AAU’s president. “That’s now down to about 30 percent. And that erosion in buying power obviously makes a significant difference for kids from low-income families.”

International students — America’s higher-education system has long enjoyed pre-eminent status around the world, and colleges in recent years became increasingly reliant on international students to provide needed revenue.

Then the Trump administration applied the brakes — imposing a series of policies that discouraged foreign students from coming to the United States.

Protestors Rally At Dulles International Airport Against Muslim Immigration Ban

Riccardo Savi, Sipa via AP

Protesters rally at Dulles International Airport in 2017 against President Trump’s executive order barring visitors to the United States from seven majority-Muslim countries.

International enrollments didn’t completely crash, but they grew at much slower rates than in the Obama years. In the 2014-2015 academic year, for example, the number of foreign students at American institutions grew by 10 percent.

In the 2018-2019 academic year, the population of international students increased by a mere 0.05 percent, according to the annual Open Doors survey sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.

International education is an area where the Biden administration will most likely establish policies that are the complete opposite of Trump-era rules. For example, Biden has promised to repeal the Trump administration’s ban on travelers from several primarily Muslim countries. That ban affected both students and scholars.

Biden has also promised to be more welcoming to foreign students — in particular those studying for STEM careers. A tweet in July signaled his intentions:

That shift in tone, and policy, could influence international students who are considering whether to study at American colleges.

Cash-strapped colleges would welcome that trend with open arms.

For-profit colleges — Oversight and regulation of for-profit colleges is another area poised for big changes under Biden’s administration.

Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, has been an ally of the for-profit college industry, despite persistent scandals surrounding the sector — scandals that one observer said have “thrown a spotlight on flaws in the accreditation system.”

While some students are satisfied with their for-profit college experiences, others have complained that they were pressured to enroll in high-cost, low-quality degree programs that failed to lead to a meaningful career.

President Trump Announces Johnny Taylor Jr.  To Become Chairman Of White House Initiative Of Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Alex Wong, Getty Images

As President Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos has been a friend to the for-profit education industry.

The Obama administration tried to crack down on abuses and hold for-profit colleges accountable with its gainful-employment and “borrower defense to repayment” rules. But DeVos reversed one of those rules and has denied the vast majority of defrauded borrowers’ claims under the other.

She also hired former for-profit college executives for high-ranking positions within the Education Department and broke up a team that was investigating fraud within the industry.

As president, Biden has pledged to return to the Obama regulations, and his campaign website promised to “stop for-profit education programs from profiteering off of students.”

Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, battled the for-profit college industry when she was California’s attorney general, and that expertise may help the new administration navigate this politically tricky issue.

Amy Laitinen, who directs higher-education policy at New America, a Washington think tank, noted that for-profit colleges enroll large numbers of minority students. It is a racial-equity issue to ensure those students are well-served, she said.

“These things matter because students are borrowing a lot of money to go to schools that are saddling them with a lot of debt, and not giving them the education they promised,” Laitinen said. “Those are the students who most need what higher education has promised, and the ones who are being most harmed by its failure to deliver on that promise.”

Betsy Devos Back to School Tour

GOP control of the Senate could prevent any passage of legislation regulating for-profits, but the Biden administration could still take significant action through both its regulatory and enforcement powers.

Steve Gunderson, president and CEO of Career Education Colleges and Universities, said the for-profit sector is well aware that it will now be put on the defensive.

“Clearly there’s going to be a regulatory assault from the Department of Education,” Gunderson said. “I think enough of them, including Biden himself, have made clear that they want to do that.”

Gunderson acknowledged that some for-profit colleges have behaved poorly, but he said most of those colleges are now out of business. The for-profit sector, he said, is dominated by family-owned vocational schools, not publicly traded mega-corporations.

“Most of the bad actors are gone,” Gunderson said. “That’s really important.”

“I’ve said to my opponents, Why don’t you just declare victory and go home?”

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