Research suggests that college students may have had a major impact on this presidential election in former Vice President Joe Biden’s favor. Experts credit that to his educational agenda focused on this generation of college students' needs and expectations.
President-elect Biden’s platform on education is much more extensive than the incumbent Presidents', making Biden popular among college students. His federal education plan includes free public college for families whose income is less than $125,000, an emergency federal grant, doubling the maximum value of the Pell grant, and providing dreamers as well as formerly incarcerated students with tuition assistance and increased funds from Pell grants, said Audrey Dow, a USC alumnae, Princeton graduate, and co-lead for media and communications strategy at College Opportunity.
College students are hoping for Biden to prioritize investment in community college reform as his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, did previously during her time in the Obama administration. Dr. Biden travelled the country with “Community College to Career” where she meets with students, teachers, and industry representatives to underscore the importance of community college.
“I’m really excited about the role that Dr. Jill Biden played in the Obama administration and how she really prioritized the community colleges across our nation,” said Dow. “They play a vital role in our country’s overall economic health and degree attainment, and so I expect that Dr. Biden will continue that — prioritizing investing in community colleges across the nation.”
Another part of Biden’s education platform is financial aid reform for DACA recipients and formerly incarcerated students, but this is the section where Dow thinks Biden really has his work cut out for himself because of how much needs to be done and its importance to bettering our education system.
“I think there’s a lot of work to be done in financial aid and really making sure that our lowest income students in the country have access to the aid they need to make a college degree possible,” she said. “Within that low-income category, we have to make sure we don’t exclude students who call this country home. We need to ensure that undocumented students or dreamers are eligible for aid.”
According to CNBC, college students would favor the candidate who could embrace diversity and would address issues such as health care, racial wealth gap and college student debt.
The Interfaith Diversity Experiences and Attitudes Longitudinal Survey (IDEALS) also found that around the time of Trump’s election, attitudes of college students toward political conservatives began to drop, a trajectory that continued through 2019.
“The takeaway here is thus applicable to both parties—the next generation of voters wants political leaders who value, rather than disparage, diverse perspectives,” said Shauna Morin of Interfaith Youth Core.
According to a report from the Knight Foundation and College Pulse, college students planned to make their voices heard in the 2020 election. The report surveyed 4,000 college students and found 71% were “absolutely certain” they would vote in this year’s election.
This impact is made even more significant by the fact that of those surveyed, 70% said they would vote for Biden, as opposed to the 18% who would vote for President Donald Trump. This is notable as in past elections young adults were found to have been the least engaged members of the US population of eligible voters accounting for only 13% of the electorate according to Pew Research Center.
With months to go before he takes office, Biden already has the hopes of college students riding on whether he can make good on the promises he made during the campaign.