Post-Election Update: What to Expect from the New Biden Administration

By IECAs Lobbyists/Government Relations Team of Brian Finch and Craig Saperstein, Pillsbury Law and Public Policy; and the IECA Government Relations Committee

With the November 2020 general election nearly concluded, the Biden-Harris transition team is beginning its initial tasks of identifying individuals for key agency positions, and setting the groundwork to implement the new Administration’s major policy initiatives. The Biden Transition Team has begun formal coordination with current agency officials, and now has access to direct government funding for the transition. Given President-elect Joe Biden’s campaign promises and stated policy goals, there may be substantive developments in the higher education space within the first few months of the Biden presidency of which independent educational consultants should be aware.

Top Biden Policy Goals

Whether by executive order or through legislation, President-elect Biden has already indicated that he hopes to address student debt within the first 100 days of his presidency. Although no specifics have been revealed by the Biden team, potential relief may include a specific amount of debt forgiveness for undergraduate loans (rumored to be ranging anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000, with income-based caps), an extension of the COVID-19 forbearance period, and reduced federal interest rates on future federal loans.

Another priority for the Biden Administration will be reauthorizing the Higher Education Act (HEA), which establishes federal student aid programs and governs most federal money going to colleges and universities in the United States. The HEA is designed to be reauthorized and updated every 5 years. However, the most recent update has not occurred since 2008. House Democrats introduced a bill, known as the College Affordability Act, to reauthorize the HEA in the current session of Congress, but action on HEA reauthorization is not likely to occur until the next session of Congress.

Beyond these initial objectives, the Biden team made education reform a key priority throughout the presidential campaign. Specific to higher education, the Biden campaign promised to invest in educational pathways programs in high schools, including investing in school vocational training programs, building partnerships between high schools, community colleges and employers to allow students programs to earn industry credentials while in high school. The Biden team has also promised to allow Pell grants to be used for dual enrollment programs, allowing high school students to take classes at community colleges for college credit.

Stakeholder groups have also been using this transition period to identify specific Trump Administration directives that the incoming Biden Administration should address. This week, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the American Council on Education (ACE) both sent their policy priorities and recommendations to the Biden transition team. Their recommendations include reversing Trump Administration limits on H-1B visas that have limited international student enrollment in colleges, ending the Trump executive order limiting diversity and critical race theory trainings, and ending certain “unnecessarily adversarial” investigations by Department of Education into admissions practices. While the Biden team has not responded to these requests, these two influential higher education lobbying organizations and may help shape the initial Biden Administration policy goals.

Department of Education

Recently, the Biden-Harris transition team named its Agency Review Team for the Department of Education. The Review Team is led by Linda Darling-Hammond of the Learning Policy Institute, who previously served in the same role in 2008 for the Obama-Biden transition. Other Review Team members include the head of the Institute for College Access and Success, the postsecondary education leader at the Center for American Progress, a senior administrator at Howard University, the policy director for the Alliance for Excellent Education and numerous stakeholders from the primary and secondary education worlds. These volunteers are responsible for reviewing and understanding the operations of the Department of Education, coordinating the transition of power, and preparing President-elect Biden, Vice President-elect Harris and incoming Administration leaders to implement key policy priorities.

As part of the COVID-19 relief measures, federal student loan payments had been suspended through the end of 2020. The Biden – Harris administration had signaled a desire to extend student loan relief in some way. Recently the Trump administration announced that student loan relief for 41 million Americans who have benefited from a freeze on monthly payments will now have this relief extended to January 31, 2021.

While President-elect Biden has started naming his picks for top Administration positions, he has not yet indicated his choice for Secretary of Education. While campaigning in 2019, Biden promised to pick a teacher for the position, but left it unclear whether this only meant a K-12 teacher, or whether he would also consider a post-secondary educator. Potential rumored candidates for the position include Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers; Lily Eskelsen García, the former president of the National Education Association; Baltimore City Schools CEO Sonja Santelises; Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson; and Philadelphia superintendent William Hite.

Regardless of who is ultimately named as Secretary of Education, the largest priorities will remain the same: increasing federal funding for schools to address the COVID-19 impacts, restoring Obama Administration civil rights guidance in schools, rolling back many of the Trump Administration and Secretary DeVos positions and directives and restoring funding cut over the past 4 years.

Potential Washington Gridlock

Despite the many Biden team objectives and promises, the viability of many higher education reform proposals will largely depend on the outcome of the January 5th Senate runoff elections in Georgia. The results of these two races will determine political control of the Senate. Victories by the Democratic candidates, Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, would give Democrats 50 seats in the Senate, along with the tiebreaking vote by Vice President Harris. If Republicans are able to win either seat, they will maintain control in the Senate. A divided Congress, with a Republican-controlled Senate and a Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, would be far less likely to enact any sweeping changes to federal higher education policies than if Democrats have unified control of Congress and the Presidency. While some of Biden’s policy objectives can be accomplished by executive order, and through Department of Education initiatives, control of the Senate will be critical to the success of the Biden Administration’s legislative goals.  Without such control, there is a distinct possibility that Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will not even permit a vote on legislation he or the majority of the Senate Republican Caucus opposes.  Democratic control of the Senate will permit the party to set the committee and floor agenda, though even having a majority is not a panacea; bipartisan support for higher education reform legislation will likely be necessary regardless of which party controls the Senate, given that Senate rules dictate that a 60-vote majority is needed to pass the vast majority of legislation.

 

 

IECA Statement of Support for International Students and Education in the USA

The Independent Educational Consultants Association stands fully in support of the 1.2 million international students studying in the United States and urges ICE to rescind its decision to force international students back to their home countries in the current COVID-19 pandemic.

On Monday, July 6, 2020, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that international students in the United States whose schools and colleges are open for the fall 2020 semester with online-only classes, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will not be issued student visas or otherwise be allowed to enter or remain in this country. Most devastating, ICE’s policy holds that if colleges are forced to switch to online study as a result of a spike of COVID-19 cases—at any point in the semester—international students would be immediately deported, despite financial obligations, closed air routes, or violence that may await them in their home countries.

ICE’s policy and its requirement that international students “take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction” to remain in the United States is discriminatory, ill-advised, and capricious. In no way does this improve our educational system, strengthen the financial viability of schools or colleges, or help to combat—or even address—the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather, the policy leverages the current public health crisis for political gain, targeting international students by those who oppose diversity in learning. IECA believes this policy is part of an ongoing effort to force schools and colleges to reopen for in-person instruction prematurely, using significant financial incentive—and overriding the health and best interests of students and educational institutions.

The United States’ educational system leads the world, and young people from across the globe flock here to learn. Millions have become doctors, researchers, and entrepreneurs enhancing American life or serving as ambassadors upon returning home. American students have their experience enhanced through daily interaction with friends from other cultures, and educational institutions rely on the approximately $45 billion dollars that international students contribute to the schools’ bottom line and the US economy annually. Without international students, some small colleges and boarding schools may no longer be viable. ICE’s policy further erodes the interest of top students across the globe in pursuing their education in the United States, and its rippling impacts hurt us all.

Looking Beyond Today’s Industries and Jobs

By Pamela Kwartler, MA, IECA (NJ)

“There is a mismatch in talent pool and market demand, both currently and in the future. Though academic research often leads business, what’s taught in business courses is generally at least five to ten years behind the business sector.” Those words from economist and business leader Tess Mateo, managing director and founder of CXCatalysts, drive home an important point for IECs: what students learn in today’s business classes will not be enough. We must understand the world our students will graduate into to help them make choices that will propel them forward. Students and families who go on autopilot and reach for a career with a seemingly high ROI today may be surprised by the outcomes. The fact is that none of the fields we know will exist as they are today in the future.

In January 2016, the World Economic Forum introduced leaders of industry, governments, and civil society to the “fourth industrial revolution,” (see www.weforum.org/centre-for-the-fourth-industrial-revolution for more information), a term that CEOs, policymakers, and industry now use to describe how emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, 3D printing, and the Internet of things, are converging with humans’ biological and physical lives. New technologies will increasingly do more, to the extent that traditionally economically rewarding positions, such as financial analysts, accountants, finance and medical professionals, and even lawyers will become “redundant, and therefore replaceable.” Many Wall Street traders have had to reinvent themselves because their jobs have also been eliminated by technology. Business is evolving more quickly than ever before: large corporations are being broken up as business units are broken into yet smaller companies. Even 50% of the world’s medical services are delivered electronically.

How do IECs help students prepare for new markets and future economic success when the rules have changed? We often observe that it is students—who they are and what they bring to the world—that matter more than where they earn their degrees. An elite education alone will not necessarily provide the answer.

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang is a Brown-educated, former corporate lawyer, dot-com executive, and CEO of a GMAT test prep company: a symbol of the meritocracy. Today, he doesn’t believe it should be the job of our institutions “to train 80% of our graduates to do one of six things—financial services, management consulting, technology, law, medicine, or academia in New York, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Washington, DC, or Los Angeles.” Yang blames the meritocracy for blissfully ignoring the country’s economic crisis and failing to fix problems caused by manufacturing job losses in middle America. The problems that need solving are even bigger than that. Fortunately, so are the opportunities.

Although there is great focus on STEM these days, all majors will matter, and students can study at a wide range of colleges. In 2015, world leaders agreed on the world’s biggest problems, which are collectively referred to the Global Goals or the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). (More information is available at https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/?menu=1300.) For example, consider that tackling the individual problems caused by climate change will create new jobs worldwide. Along with solutions developed by engineers and scientists, environmental studies majors can explore how indigenous people have farmed sustainably for centuries. The skill of diplomacy will be essential to work cross-culturally and make progress within the worldwide community. As the water table rises and the carbon footprint expands, innovation in agriculture will continue to be a priority. These 21st-century businesses, unlike those that have benefited a small sliver of the first world since the 1980s, will improve the quality of life for all. Deep, nuanced thinkers will need to parse and define the ethics of evolving business models and, hopefully, enforce ethical regulations.

What Can IECs Do?

• Learn more about the fourth industrial revolution so that you help your students explore industries with increasing opportunities. Start by reading more at www.cnbc.com/2019/01/16/fourth-industrial-revolution-explained-davos-2019.html.

• Get smart about SDGs—consider using the global goals as a roadmap, then ask your students which topics they are interested in helping solve. These are big problems that will be around for a lifetime. Discover what passions and skills might be useful—there is a demand for many skill sets. (See page two of the following link to see all the goals and share them with your students: www.undp.org/content/dam/undp/library/corporate/brochure/SDGs_Booklet_Web_En.pdf.)

• Ask students what they can do during high school to develop their interests. Can they travel to explore global problems or spearhead local programs that focus on any of the SDGs?

• Research which colleges are positioning themselves to participate in solutions. For example, developing sustainable food systems is a major global problem (SDG #12), and many college agriculture programs are well-positioned to innovate, including Cornell, Ohio State, Purdue, UMass Amherst, PSU, University of Delaware, the University of Arizona, and the University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign, offer options for many academic levels. Some other examples include Goal #16 Peace and Justice (diplomacy, political science, international relations), Goal #11 Sustainable Cities and Communities (urban planning, construction, real estate), or Goal #7 Affordable and Clean Energy (environmental or civil engineering).

We can guide our students toward fulfilling college experiences that incorporate research, productive study abroad programs, and internships that will lead to employment in fields that truly allow them to impact their world—and ours.

Pamela Kwartler, College Process Counseling, can be reached at [email protected]

Executive Functions for College Students: Don’t Leave Home Without Them

By Patti Schabinger, MEd, IECA (IL)

While attending my youngest son’s freshmen summer welcome session, I sat with other eagerly attentive parents and students as the dean asked what we considered the most important skill necessary for success in college. Some listeners may have thought academic preparation would trump the list; however, when the speaker announced time management, heads subsequently nodded in silent agreement.

A Holistic Approach to Preparation, Planning, and Placement for Students With LD

By Kyle Kane, JD, IECA (SC)

The last several years have seen a welcome increase in the number of students with learning challenges going off to a four-year college. Although students with learning disabilities attend at half the rate of the general population, they are beginning to recognize that they can also reap the benefits of participating in the traditional college experience.