Vote Biden

A clear choice for those who care about higher education.

October 28, 2020

If you care about higher education, Joe Biden should be your pick for president in next Tuesday’s election.

For the past four years, President Donald Trump has failed to advance a coherent higher education agenda for our nation. He has done nothing to cut college costs, expand access or address exploding debt burdens. He has proposed major cuts to research funding, and his attacks on the relevance and value of science itself have gutted our response to COVID-19 and climate change. His legal actions challenging affirmative action in college admissions, attacks on universities like Princeton trying to recognize and address systemic racism, and refusal to condemn white supremacy have impeded our vital national effort to acknowledge and make amends for hundreds of years of racism. His announcement of a new “patriotic education” initiative and his tweet threatening to eliminate the tax-exempt status of universities with which he disagrees undercut academic freedom. He even repealed Obama-era rules designed to protect students from exploitative for-profit colleges. There is nothing here for education advocates to support.

Joe Biden, in contrast, has advanced a comprehensive Plan for Education Beyond High School. In my view, there are three particularly important elements in this plan.

  • First, Biden wants to expand access to a college education for lower- and middle-income students by creating tuition-free public undergraduate degrees, doubling the size of the Pell Grant program and providing significant financial support for community colleges, HBCUs and institutions serving large numbers of Pell students.
  • Second, Biden has called for regulatory action against for-profit organizations that exploit students, leaving them with high debt and no job prospects. This is vital if we want to protect students, increase economic mobility and ensure that our tax dollars are used wisely and in the public interest.
  • Finally, Biden has endorsed a number of important debt forgiveness and debt limitation ideas in response to America’s $1.6 trillion college debt crisis, including: up to $10,000 in temporary student debt relief per borrower to help respond to COVID-19 economic dislocation; a moratorium on interest accrual on federal student loans for people earning less than $25,000; limiting debt payments to “no more than 5 percent of discretionary income for those earning more than $25,000”; and automatic loan forgiveness after 20 years. This commitment will help rescue millions of Americans living under the shadow of debt they can never repay, and is an important recognition that because college is a public good, no student should be forced to finance their education on their own, without adequate public help.

There are, of course, many reasons to vote for Biden aside from his commitment to higher education. If you care about COVID-19, economic growth or national security, Biden is the right choice. But as a longtime professor and former college president, I find his clear commitment to higher education inspiring, refreshing and necessary. Please vote.

[The views expressed in this essay are stated in my personal capacity and do not necessarily reflect those of any organizations with which I am affiliated as an employee or volunteer.]


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