Regulatory policy

Here’s what the midterm exams for higher education mean

The midterm elections are finally over. It is increasingly clear that the Democrats will control the Senate while the Republicans will control the house. While Democrats have exceeded expectations, the next Congress will be less supportive of President Biden’s legislative agenda. This has important implications for higher education policy. Understanding these implications can help quorum leaders prepare for the next two years.

Since taking office, the Biden administration has made substantial progress helping students and institutions recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. The administration adopted the US bailout plan, which called for nearly $40 billion institutions to help meet student needs and launched a National strategy on hunger, nutrition and health, which could significantly reduce food insecurity on college campuses. These actions, coupled with the administration’s decision to forgive up to $20,000 in student debt for millions of borrowers, demonstrated a commitment to delivering large-scale federal solutions to education’s biggest problems. superior.

But the Biden administration’s efforts to help students and institutions are incomplete. The administration was unable to tuition-free community college nationally, a key policy of Biden’s presidential campaign. And while the Biden administration has enacted policies that will help students meet their basic needs, insecurity of basic needs continues to threaten a student’s academic and mental well-being. alarming number college students. Likewise, the Biden administration has provided colleges with the resources to deal with the pandemic, but amid continued decline in enrollment many colleges, especially community colleges– need federal resources now more than ever.

To address higher education’s most pressing issues—like the crisis in college affordability, rising insecurity in basic student needs, and steep declines in college enrollment—Congress must pass additional legislation. However, the field of higher education cannot rely on a newly divided Congress to pass legislation capable of responding to this moment. Democrats and Republicans disagreement over whether the government should provide increased funding for colleges, because most Republicans believe that students — rather than the federal government — should fund their own paths to college. Even if Congress finds bipartisan agreement on some higher education issues, Congress is unlikely to provide colleges with additional resources to address the challenges they face.

Despite this, there are silver linings to this year’s midterm elections. First, the Biden administration can use executive power to help students meet their basic needs without having to rely on Congress. By reviewing and reforming regulations for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), SNAP, Department of Transportation (DOT), and Medicaid, the Biden administration can advance many policies that can help students meet to their basic needs. If the administration reduces food, housing, transportation, and healthcare costs for students, it can have a positive impact on higher education without passing legislation.

Second, there have been positive results for higher education at the state and local level. The Democrats have won important gubernatorial elections and took control in critical swing state legislatures. These findings could create opportunities to advance higher education policies at the state level. This is particularly promising given the increase recent state policies who made community college free for millions of Americans. For this reason, states now have plans to pass bipartisan bills that can lower the cost of a college education, which is a promising way to advance educational equity and economic mobility.

In light of the new federal political landscape, two key lessons stand out for college leaders:

Advocacy for policy change at the state and local level

Given the success of recent state policies that reduce the cost of a college education, as well as new federal and state policy landscapes, higher education officials should advocate for policies that will advance educational equity. education and economic mobility at the state and local levels. University leaders can learn from bipartisan efforts to make the university most affordable in Michigan to inform their own advocacy. Given the mid-term results, there is both a greater need and a greater opportunity to advance change at the national and local levels, and college leaders should take advantage of this.

Connect programs to workforce needs

Despite the likely stalemate in Congress, there is bipartisan support for college programs that meet workforce needs. The renewed focus on labor shortages since the onset of COVID-19 has increased support for workforce development initiatives. While higher education does more than just address labor shortages, college leaders can leverage bipartisan support for workforce development and training initiatives by highlighting the benefits of their workforce programs. By doing so, college leaders can gain political support for their work, which could help advance needed higher education policies.

Although midterm reviews may lead to a deadlock in Congress, there are opportunities to advance equity in higher education through state, local, and executive action. College leaders can — and should — play an important role in realizing these opportunities.

Chris Geary is a senior policy analyst at the Center on Education & Labor at New America, where he focuses on the intersection of higher education and labor policy. Previously, Chris was a policy analyst at the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality, a policy officer in the New Orleans mayor’s office, and a public school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @chrisggeary