If Joe Biden wins his quest for the presidency, what are the implications for American higher education? As I noted in an essay last week, President Trump’s official second-term agenda devotes only 11 total words to K-12 and higher education combined. In contrast, Biden has released a detailed Plan for Education Beyond High School, with additional details laid out in his Unity Task Force policy brief, which was crafted by a joint working group of Biden and Bernie Sanders advisers.
Having spent time as the deputy policy director on a successful presidential campaign (for Bill Clinton way back in 1992) and then watched efforts to implement that campaign’s agenda once the president was in office, I can tell you firsthand that there is often a giant gap between a candidate’s proposals while running and the policies he or she actually advances once in office. Nevertheless, campaign plans offer a valuable insight into a candidate’s mind-set and values. They also reflect political reality: the goals, needs and desires of his political supporters. While we can’t take for granted that Biden’s current proposals will find their way into his budget and legislative agenda should he win in November, they are a good guide, I think, to his inclinations, goals and perspective.
The most important takeaway is that Biden, if he wins, is likely to invest heavily in higher education. Unlike Trump, who has been deeply antagonistic toward the sector, Biden sees higher education as vital to economic opportunity, job creation, and a thriving democracy. So, what would Biden do? His plan has five main pillars: