President Joseph R. Biden and the New World Order

Sometimes, comparison is not the thief of joy.

It will take some time before the residuals of the past four years of the Trump administration’s negative impact on American higher education can be unpacked and analyzed. The negative statistics are known to any higher education administrator in the United States. Many articles and analysts have projected the “forever decline” of America’s place on the world stage and the demise of American higher education. Past policies closed America’s borders to many groups of students and researchers. Past policies closed many minds to the value and necessity of international engagement.

The quaesitum to this problem is not to continue with closed borders and minds but to re-engage with the world.

It may be too early to report on how the Biden administration‘s proposed education reforms will impact higher education, but I thought it would be useful to at least know what policies are under consideration at this time.

This is what we know today.

  1. President Biden has called for a continued pause on the collection of federal student loan payments, immediate cancellation of $10,000 in federal student loan debt, and forgiveness of up to $10,000 for every year of national or community service, up to 5 years.
  2. The former president’s travel ban on students from Muslim-majority countries has been repealed and new visa regulations for all international students is now under the direction of the Department of State.
  3. A bill allowing DACA recipients to apply for permanent residency is under consideration.
  4. President Biden has proposed tuition-free community college for any family
  5. with an income below $125,000.
  6. President Biden has proposed speeding up the processing of visas and Optional Practical Training authorizations for students who earn PhDs in STEM fields and giving consular officials more flexibility in interpreting international students’ intentions in application. (A U.S. District Court judge ruling on February 2, 2021, upheld the program, allowing international students to stay and work in the U.S. after they graduate in a field related to their field of study.)
  7. The OPT Compliance Unit, established in the final days of the previous administration, has been disbanded.
  8. A proposal to remove the recognition of the controversial Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools has been recommended. (This is the accrediting organization that, according to one report, approved accrediting Reagan National University in South Dakota, that had no faculty, staff, or classrooms.)
  9. President Biden has proposed allocating $20 billion to fund new research facilities across the U.S.
  10. The Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service, is investigating ways to improve student connectivity, especially in rural areas of the country.

The president, through the Department of State, is supporting a robust return for American students to study abroad. And initiates are underway to “re-brand” the United States as open for business and welcoming to international students.

Ten higher education proposals; two weeks in office. Perhaps the cadence of calamities that marked the last four years, is finally over.

PS According to data from the Common App, international applications to American colleges and universities increased 9% as of January 22nd. Although applications are down 18% from China, that loss is offset by increased applications from prospective students from: India +28%, Canada, +22%, Nigeria, + 12%, Pakistan, + 37%, the United Kingdom, + 23% and Brazil, + 41%.

Is this a “Biden Bump?” More to come. Stay tuned.