Anthony Hennen of the Martin Center explores the 2020 election’s likely effects on federal higher education policy.

Though the 2020 election has focused on COVID-19 and the economy, higher ed has still gotten some attention. But only one party has a plan to transform college in their image. The Democrats have promised more money, more student debt forgiveness, and more initiatives to push young people through the college system in some way, shape, or form.

The Trump campaign, however, has been almost silent on higher ed. It did not release a platform for the next four years. College has remained a minor issue for Trump. Though few voters will go to the polls thinking about higher ed, the next election could determine what it looks like.

Democrats have treated higher ed as a major issue, especially one to motivate young voters. The Republicans have treated it as an afterthought. The Biden campaign’s plan is wordy and in-depth, whereas the Trump campaign’s plan—a bullet list of self-proclaimed accomplishments—offers little detail. If Trump wins, higher ed policy won’t change much.

What Biden offers voters is a dramatic boost in federal spending and more interference in higher education. The “college for all” agenda will return with force.

The Biden platform promises to “strengthen college as the reliable pathway to the middle class” and backs it up with a long list of new spending. …

… Making two-year and four-year colleges tuition-free would mean paying tuition for about 75 percent of all American undergraduates, as well as tying state colleges even closer to the federal government. One study that supported the Biden plan estimated that it would cost $50 billion in its first year. An initial cost estimate from the Biden campaign pegged its 10-year cost at $750 billion. Overall, according to a Forbes analysis, Biden’s education plan could cost $1.22 trillion.