On February 9th Carmel Martin, deputy director for economic mobility on the White House Domestic Policy Council, and Acting Assistant Secretary of Postsecondary Education, Michelle Asha Cooper, laid out President Biden’s Higher Education Agenda to an audience of community college leaders. The plan comes with an estimated price tag of $750 billion and focuses on college affordability, equity and alignment of educational programs with career opportunities. Below are some of the priorities Martin and Cooper addressed.
College As a Platform for Career Development
The Biden Administration supports the promise of free public, two-year education for all students nationwide including adult learners and DREAMers. Additionally, this plan calls for a stepped-up investment in technology to fulfill the needs of students hoping to gain the skills needed for the next stage of their careers.
Short-term Training Programs to Support the Transition to Work or Another College Degree Program
Funding will be dedicated to creating or supporting programs that will enable individuals to earn the appropriate credentials to enter the workforce in their preferred career track or receive the necessary counseling to be able to transition successfully from community college to a four-year program.
Changes to the Federal Financial Aid Programs
The plan strives to double the amount of the maximum Pell Grant within ten years and to make the amount ‘inflation proof’ by aligning the annual commitment with the prevailing inflation rate. By fully reinstating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, participants would regain eligibility for federal financial aid. To make federal student loans more affordable, the administration supports a maximum monthly loan payment that is no more than 5% of a borrower’s discretionary income and a maximum repayment term of 20 years after which any remaining balance would be forgiven. Biden has also proposed universal loan forgiveness of $10,000.
A Return to Making Consumer Protection a Priority
There aren’t too many details on this part of the plan yet but it seems like there will be new restrictions and regulations for for-profit institutions. One likely change will be to expand the resources counting toward the ‘90’ in the 90/10 rule beyond just Title IV assistance – GI benefits, workforce funds and even employer benefits are on the table.
President Biden’s nominee for Education Secretary, Miguel Cardona, was approved by the Senate HELP committee on February 11 and at this writing is expected to be confirmed by the full Senate next week. That’s when the real work on these initiatives can commence, so stay tuned for more details in the near future.