NAICU Washington Update

Biden Takes Several Executive Actions Affecting Higher Education

January 22, 2021

On his first day in office, President Biden announced his plan to immediately address a variety of issues, including the pandemic, climate change, racial inequity, student loan relief, the uncertain status of undocumented immigrants, and more.  Some of his plans will be advanced via Presidential Memorandums, while others will be implemented by Executive Order (EO).

Several of President Biden’s actions will have reverberations for private, nonprofit colleges and universities.  With respect to immigration, the President signed a Presidential Memorandum directing the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Attorney General, to take all appropriate actions to revive and renew the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program.  The DACA program was rescinded early in the Trump Administration, but has been upheld by federal courts.  The Memorandum also calls on Congress to enact legislation providing permanent status and a path to citizenship for “Dreamers,” individuals who came to this country as children and have remained here.

In addition, via EO, President Biden has ended the travel ban to Muslim and African countries and reversed the immigration enforcement measures added during the Trump Administration.  President Biden has also halted funding for the border wall. Regarding student loans, the President will extend, by EO, the student loan relief provisions for federal student loan borrowers with loans held by the Department of Education until September 30. These provisions are currently extended until January 31. 

Finally, President Biden issued two EOs addressing equal opportunity. The first seeks to advance racial equity and support for underserved communities by directing federal agencies to examine their policies and eliminate barriers to full and equal access to federal programs for all individuals. As part of that effort, the Administration also revoked President Trump’s controversial EO restricting federal contractors from conducting workplace training that is based on race or sex stereotypes. 

The second equity-focused EO instructs federal agencies to ensure that federal laws that prohibit sex discrimination are interpreted to bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The EO specifically cites the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton, which held that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals are protected under a federal employment discrimination law. The Department of Education is likely to shift its current interpretation of Title IX as a result, particularly as the statute relates to transgender students’ participation in athletics and access to shared facilities such as restrooms. 

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