Biden Administration Undertakes Significant Higher Ed Policy Shifts

Published: February 16, 2021

The inauguration of a new President has led to significant early shifts in Federal higher education policy. Through the issuance of several executive actions, the Biden administration has quickly moved to stake out its agenda. Additional movement is forthcoming, with the impending confirmation of a new Secretary of Education.

In its first weeks, the new administration undertook several actions that will likely affect higher education institutions. The most recent of these, Executive Order 14007, establishes a new Council of Advisors on Science and Technology to serve the President. While the precise parameters of the work of this Council are not yet fully defined, its members will be “non-Federal” experts in “science, technology and innovation,” according to the order and will advise the President on public policy issues in various areas, including “education.”

In addition, Executive Order 14000 places priority upon the safe and rapid re-opening of schools, colleges, and universities to in-person learning. The order calls for the creation of a Federal “Best Practices Clearinghouse” to support educational institutions as they reopen and the provision of “technical assistance.” Key questions may arise for institutions regarding the order’s implementation timeline and resource eligibility standards.

As well, Memorandum FR 2021-01769 was issued, which seeks to restore the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). DACA has provided protections to law-abiding immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. Many higher education institutions have hosted DACA students and their status has been a matter of concern, as the program faced recent scrutiny.

Steptoe & Johnson attorneys understand that actions undertaken by the new administration may create both opportunities and new regulatory complexities for educational institutions. With extensive experience in Federal and state policy and compliance matters, our attorneys are available to you as your institution navigates this changing landscape. Please contact our Higher Education Team to find out how we can help.

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