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Comparing the records of Biden and Trump on higher education

From student loan forgiveness to college curriculum, the presidential candidates hold very different views on how to handle the issues with higher education.
College Campus
Posted at 6:04 AM, May 30, 2024

The outcome of this year's elections will mean big changes in higher education. Showing up in both the presidential and congressional races, candidates are focusing on costs, student debt relief and the curriculum.

Since taking office, President Joe Biden has made good on promises to forgive some student loans. Five million Americans have seen $167 billion of their debt forgiven.

President Biden's Department of Education has taken action without Congress and amid legal fights to forgive some student loans. The Supreme Court rejected his broader plan last year that would have dissolved $20,000 for every borrower.

The loans forgiven fall into a few categories: borrowers the government determined were cheated by their schools, low-income borrowers, public service workers, and borrowers who have been paying for more than 20 years.

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Although not everyone in those categories qualified for relief, President Biden says he isn't done yet. At an April campaign event in Wisconsin, the president announced a plan that would eliminate $20,000 in interest for borrowers who owe more now than when they began paying their loans.

Those opposed to student loan forgiveness don't want tax dollars being used to pay them. They say it's unfair to people who have already paid off their loans or who never took out loans in the first place.

The increasing cost of higher education is just one battle. There's also the debate over what colleges are teaching.

In a video posted to his campaign website in July 2023, former President Donald Trump promised to "fire the radical left accreditors that have allowed our colleges to become dominated by Marxists maniacs and lunatics" if he is re-elected.

Colleges and universities are accredited by a combination of private companies and federal and state entities whose goal is to ensure the institutions meet an acceptable level of quality. An institution must be accredited for students to receive student aid from the U.S. Department of Education.

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Republican leaders who want to restrict what is being taught are focusing on social and political issues.

While president, Trump withheld federal dollars from universities that had diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs, made it more difficult for international students to attend college in the U.S., joined efforts to eliminate affirmative action in admissions, and promoted pro-American and Western civilization curriculum.

He also threatened to revoke the tax-exempt status for some institutions. Now, he says he'd go even further to eliminate DEI programs and administrators.

Republican victories in November could mean major funding changes and attempts to alter the curriculum at universities, as well as an end to new debt relief programs. Democratic victories would likely mean more efforts to restructure student loans and provide even more debt relief.