The past year has presented many challenges for college students including financial strains caused by the pandemic, a national reckoning over race and adjusting to classes online.
President Joe Biden was inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday afternoon.
During his campaign, Biden pledged to change policies on higher education. He favors student debt relief, reimplementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and a reversal of the Trump Administration’s Title IX rules.
During his campaign, Biden introduced a plan for tuition-free education at public universities for families with less than a $125,000 yearly income. This adopts part of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ , I-Vt.), College for All Act of 2017, which did not pass.
Biden’s college affordability program could help Indiana families in underprivileged communities attend college on all IU campuses, said Phil Schuman, IU’s executive director of financial wellness and education.
“The opportunity for families to be able to send their kids locally or just adults to go back to school could present a significant economic boost to those communities,” Schuman said.
Student loan debt
During the 2018-19 school year, 44% of IU students graduated with an average of $27,555 in student loan debt, according to the Project on Student Debt.
Biden said he supports forgiving student loan debt. He also said he plans to extend the suspension of federal student loan payments and accumulation of interest until Sept. 30, 2021 due to the pandemic, a provision of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act that passed in March 2020.
During his campaign, he supported forgiving $10,000 in student loan debt per person every year. However, this was not included in his 1.9 trillion stimulus package proposal released Jan. 14.
IU College Republicans Press Secretary Alice Lopera said Biden’s promises to provide free college and reduce student loan debt are admirable, but she worries it is not economically feasible.
“We aren’t paying for it now, we’ll be paying for it later on,” Lopera said. “I’d rather pay for my own things now than see my taxes raised in my twenties.”
Students who are DACA recipients
IU students in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program will no longer have to fear deportation. Biden said he will ensure students in the DACA program are eligible for all forms of federal student aid.
At IU, 240 DACA recipients attended classes during the 2019-2020 school year.
Biden officials announced Tuesday that he would send legislation to Congress on his first day in office allowing immigrants living in the U.S. without legal status to apply for permanent residency. The DACA policy terminated by the Trump administration in 2017 will also be reinstated. This will allow DACA recipients to renew their status and ability to work in the U.S. for a two-year period.
Political science assistant professor Vanessa Cruz Nichols said Trump’s immigration policies were the hardest on immigrants living in the U.S. without legal status. Trump’s policies had different effects on varying immigrant groups. Those with a green card or an application for permanent residency likely had different experiences.
“Trump tried to make living conditions more difficult for undocumented immigrants by increasing deportations, by using rhetoric that made people feel more vulnerable,” Cruz Nichols said.
Students who were DACA recipients prior to the policy elimination could reapply, but no new applicants would be considered.
“DACA provided in-state tuition,” Cruz Nichols said. “That is something new applicants couldn’t get under the Trump administration. Biden promises to roll back what the Trump administration hda in place.”
Title IX regulations
Biden promised to undo former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s Title IX changes. IU updated its policies in August to reflect the federal law DeVos put in place, which established a narrower definition of sexual harassment. This varies from IU’s definition, which is still in place for cases not within the scope of Title IX. The federal definition determines when a school must handle a sexual harassment case under Title IX.
Biden said he will restore Obama-era Title IX policies to expand the rights of those who have experienced sexual assault and expand requirements for sexual assault and dating violence prevention education on college campuses.
College Democrats at IU Press Secretary Abe Plaut said he hopes the Biden administration will be more open, understanding and receptive to criticism of existing policies than Trump. He said he believes certain policies can unintentionally suppress the rights of certain demographics in the U.S.
“I do hope that President Biden is successful,” Plaut said. “Because that means Americans will be successful.”