Biden's education plan would level death blow to private and religious colleges

Biden's education plan would level death blow to private and religious colleges

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenHarris to host virtual Hollywood campaign event co-chaired by Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling Trump plans to accept Republican nomination from White House lawn US seizes four vessels loaded with Iranian fuel MORE recently released his “Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force Recommendations,” a 110-page blueprint of policy prescriptions that the Biden administration would implement. The far-reaching policies cover six main topics, including Biden’s higher education agenda.

So, what does Biden advocate for America’s higher education system? According to the recommendations, “Democrats believe that everyone should be able to earn a degree beyond high school, if they choose to, without money standing in the way. That is why we will fight to make public colleges and universities tuition-free for students whose families earn less than $125,000.”

Put another way, Biden believes public colleges should be “free,” which would effectively put private and religious universities out of business.

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Aside from the discriminatory nature of this policy, there is no such thing as “free” tuition. One way or another, someone is going to pay for this, and you can bet your bottom dollar that the burden will not fall on those making less than $125,000. A more accurate description of this policy would be Democrats want “the rich” to subsidize college tuition for 80 percent of America’s students.

Biden also wants to provide “two years of tuition-free community college, including for Dreamers.” Needless to say, this would further incentivize students to forego private and religious universities, putting those institutions at a severe economic disadvantage and undermining their future existence.

Moreover, under Biden’s plan, “Recipient institutions would be required to provide transparency and accurate public disclosure of the working conditions of all of their faculty and professional staff.”

In effect, this would place all public institutions of higher education under the federal government’s employment-practice microscope. Is it a good idea to have Washington, D.C. bureaucrats micromanaging the enormous number of employees at these places of higher education? Probably not.

As if making public colleges “tuition-free” for millions of students does not go far enough, Biden also would “Create a ‘Title I for postsecondary education’ to enable colleges and universities to more comprehensively serve the needs of low-income and /or underprepared students.”

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What would this money go towards? According to the task force, “The money could be used for a variety of purposes.” In other words, Biden would like to provide a slush fund for public universities – presumably not available to private and religious colleges – that could be used for a “variety of purposes,” many of which probably have little to do with education.

A Biden administration would also radically rewrite the terms of student loan forgiveness and debt cancellation. For instance, under Biden’s proposal, up to $50,000 of public service employees’ student debt would be forgiven. And student loan debt could be “discharged in bankruptcy.”

A Biden administration would bend over backwards to make it easier for students to shirk their responsibility and not pay back their student loans. Guess who will be left holding the bag? Taxpayers, including the millions of Americans who have paid off their student loans throughout the decades. Not only is this an affront to fiscally responsible Americans, it also introduces a grave danger to the sanctity of contracts and the rule of law.

The overriding goals of Biden’s “reimagining” of higher education are simple and scary. Not only would Biden’s plan severely undermine the survival of most private and religious colleges. (Places like Harvard, with its $40 billion endowment, would largely be unimpacted.) It would also pour billions more of taxpayer-funded tuition into public colleges, which already receive more than enough in federal government aid. Moreover, it would all but absolve personal responsibility by cancelling close to $1 trillion in outstanding student loan debt.

In short, Biden’s plan does little to actually address the fundamental problems of America’s lagging higher education system. But it does a whole lot to ensure students attend “free” public universities instead of enrolling in private and religious colleges, while placating elites in the Ivory Tower and instructing young Americans that personal responsibility and paying back debt doesn’t much matter anymore. That lesson alone will produce reverberations that will further destroy the ethical foundation that higher education is supposed to uphold.

Chris Talgo (ctalgo@heartland.org) is an editor at The Heartland Institute.