• Possible Shifts in Federal Policies Following the 2020 Elections

    The mixed results of the 2020 election cycle confront higher education with a series of opportunities and challenges. Joe Biden’s victory, while it continues to be contested without much evidence or legal success, signals an end of the current administration’s disruptive higher education policies on multiple fronts. Not only is the Biden-Harris administration likely to take immediate steps to protect the "Dreamers" and reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, it is also expected to reverse several other education-related policies of the outgoing administration. The short list of possible shifts in federal policies includes:

    • The reversal of the Department of Education’s Title IX regulations, which went into effect on Aug. 14 of this year. Because the regulation has already gone into effect, the Biden Department of Education will have to go through an elaborate regulatory process to rescind the current rule and replace it with either guidance or, more likely, new regulations.
    • The reversal of the current regulation on borrower defense to repayment and the promulgation of a new rule on the “gainful employment” criterion for the eligibility of all non-degree programs and all for-profit schools for Title IV assistance.
    • The rescission of certain pending rules on visas affecting international students, scholars, and highly skilled professionals. Reversing the current administration’s visa policies would help restore the preeminence of the U.S. as the destination of choice for international students and scholars.
    • An end to the Department of Education’s onerous and costly collection of massive amounts of confidential data from institutions through an overbroad and legally questionable interpretation of Section 117 of the Higher Education Act that only requires reporting of foreign gifts and contracts in excess of $250,000. 
    • The reversal of President Trump’s executive orders on “Race and Sex Stereotyping” and “Improving Free Inquiry, Transparency, and Accountability at Colleges and Universities.”

    The longer-term trajectory of the Biden presidency will significantly depend on the outcome of two pending Senate races in Georgia, which will determine which political party will control the Senate. With the House and the White House under Democratic control, a GOP-controlled Senate would likely emerge as a roadblock to significant Biden administration legislative initiatives, including any efforts to mount a large COVID-related federal support program for the economy. The legislative logjam, if it were to materialize, would effectively postpone a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act to 2023 at the earliest.

    During this period of transition, AASCU is actively engaged with the policy community to advance proposals that strengthen public higher education and support access to affordable, high-quality programs for all students. View our recent community letters to President-elect Joe Biden and Secretary Betsy DeVos.