The new administration in Washington is moving ahead quickly and several of the actions taken by President Joe Biden in the past week and a half will have a direct impact on higher education.
Biden signed an executive order on Jan. 21 directing the secretary of education to provide, in consultation with the secretary of health and human services, “evidence-based guidance to institutions of higher education on safely reopening for in-person learning, which shall take into account considerations such as the institution’s setting, resources, and the population it serves.”
The order was one of 10 signed by Biden in conjunction with the release of a new 200-page strategy from the White House on COVID-19 response.
The guidance will take into account the wide variety of settings in which colleges operate and will “provide updates that give colleges and universities the latest, science-backed and data-driven recommendations on how and when to open.”
The administration’s COVID-19 plan also would provide colleges with $35 billion in extra “emergency stabilization funds” if Congress approves the comprehensive package.
Student loan payments
Biden’s executive order last week extended the moratorium on federal student-loan payments until at least Sept. 30. Most borrowers with federal student loans have not had to make a payment since the first coronavirus stimulus package was enacted in March. That pause in payments was set to expire this month.
A sweeping overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws includes a proposal that would exempt graduates of U.S. universities with advanced STEM degrees from immigrant visa caps. It also provides a pathway to citizenship for many immigrants who have a destabilized status in the United States, including DACA recipients, essential workers, and those with temporary protected status. Find a summary at National Review.
The Trump administration had gone through a years-long process to roll back the Obama administration’s aggressive enforcement of Title IX, which Biden had spearheaded. In August 2020, new rules were finalized that forced sexual harassment allegations to meet a higher standard than general harassment allegations and narrowed the definition of what sexual harassment is.
The Trump-era rules also allowed for cross examination, in which the students involved in a sexual-misconduct case have the opportunity, through their advisers, to directly question each other’s version of events at a live hearing.
Biden has vowed to put a “quick end” to the Title IX rules as president. On Jan. 21, Biden appointed Suzanne Goldberg, Columbia University’s executive vice president for university life and founding director of the Columbia Law School's Sexuality & Gender Law Clinic, as acting assistant secretary in the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights. Goldberg has been an outspoken critic of the cross-examination policy.
Biden also issued an order asserting that Title IX’s protections based on sex extend to sexual orientation and gender identity.
— Susan Jones
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