It’s almost time for Super Tuesday! The 3rd of March Democrats in 14 states will vote for their favorite presidential candidate, and almost a third of all the pledged delegates will be awarded to the candidates. A president will possibly be able to make a big change in the higher education-system, and the Democratic candidates’ promises are of course important. The main take-away from the biggest candidates are (1) that all of them want to make at least some types of education for some students free, (2) that the Pell Grants1 should be expanded and (3) increased support to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)2.
Below you will find more in-dept information on the candidates’ stand on the most pressing issues in U.S. higher education; the tuition fee, the student loan debt, Pell Grants, and inclusion problems.
Tuition fee: every “hard-working individual” will be able to go to community college for up to two years without having to pay tuition.
Student loan debt: every “hard-working individual” will be able to go to two years of community college or other high-quality training program without debt.
Pell Grants: students will be able to use Pell Grants to cover expenses beyond tuition and fees. The maximum value will be doubled, and the grants will be automatically increased based on inflation.
Inclusion: support to colleges and universities that play unique and vital roles in their communities, including HBCUs and Minority-Serving Institutions.
Tuition fee: two-year public college tuition-free for all and four-year college tuition- and debt free for the lowest-income students.
Student loan debt: Possibility for students to pay back just what they can afford. The cap on student-loan payments cut by 50 percent and loans forgiven tax-free after 20 years.
Pell Grants: a doubling of Pell Grants and removal of the barriers of access for Dreamers3.
Inclusion: direct investments into HBCUS and institutions serving students from low-income backgrounds and underrepresented groups.
Tuition fee: Public tuition free for all families earning up to $100,000 and many middle-income families with multiple children. Tuition subsidies for students from families earning up to $150,000.
Student loan debt: Income-driven repayment plans, debt cancellation after 20 years of payment. Public servants get earlier full debt cancellation .
Pell Grants: $120 billion added to the Pell Grant program, including an increase on the size of the maximum Pell grant by $1,000. The Pell Grants tied to inflation and its funding guaranteed through mandatory entitlement spending. Students automatically notified of their eligibility for Pell Grants.
Inclusion: Invest an additional $50 billion in HBCUs, Tribal Colleges, and Minority-Serving Institutions over the next decade.
Tuition fee: tuition-free one- and two-year community college degrees and technical certifications.
Student loan debt: reduce the burden of student loans.
Pell Grants: expand.
Inclusion: support HBCU.
Tuition fee: guaranteed tuition- and debt-free public colleges.
Student loan debt: cancellation of all student loan debt for some 45 million American, to a sum of around $1.6 trillion.
Pell Grants: Pell Grants expanded to cover non-tuition and -fee costs.
Inclusion: Money invested in HBCUs and minority-serving institutions.
Tuition fee: two-year and four-year public college tuition- and fee-free for all Americans.
Student loan debt: debt-cancellation for more than 95 percent of the nearly 45 million Americans with student loan debt (75 percent of them will have their student loan wiped out).
Pell Grants: Pell Grants expanded with an additional $100 billion over the next ten years, eligibility of Grants expanded.
Inclusion: higher education of all kinds more inclusive and available to everyone, especially lower-income, Black, and Latinx4 students.
Nora Myrne Widfors
Intern at the Office of Science and Innovation in Washington D.C.
1. Pell Grants: a grant by the U.S. federal government to undergraduate students with financial need. The maximum Pell Grant award for 2020-2021 is $6,345, which covers about 30 percent of the average cost of attendance at a four-year public institution. As a Dreamer you are not entitled to apply.
2. HBCUs – institutions that were established before the Civil Rights Act and primarily served the African-American community.
3. Dreamers: People who immigrated to the U.S. as young and who lack legal immigration status.
4. Latinx: a gender-neutral way of referring to people of Latin American cultural or ethnic identity.