Kamala Harris' Stance on Education
- Vice President-elect Kamala Harris has supported free-college plans for several years.
- Harris' education policy favors generous educational funding, with some caveats.
- President-elect Joe Biden and Harris plan to reverse President Trump's Title IX changes.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris could help move President-elect Joe Biden's center-left education policy a little further to the left. While Biden seemed relatively reluctant to adopt Senator Bernie Sanders' plan for free college, Harris endorsed it back in 2017.
As a California senator, Harris supported free-college plans at the state and federal levels. The education policies of Biden and Harris overlap on a number of key issues: providing universal pre-K programs, investing in Title I schools, and making college debt-free for more students.
The education policies of Biden and Harris overlap on a number of key issues: providing universal pre-K programs, investing in Title I schools, and making college debt-free for more students.
Harris doesn't have an extensive record on higher education issues and did not present as many specific education policies during the primaries as other presidential candidates. However, the vice president-elect now promises that universal preschool and college affordability will be top priorities.
The Trump administration's Department of Education has argued that more money isn't the way to improve public schools, citing increased spending alongside worsening test results. Harris has opposed budget proposals that would have led to deep cuts in education. Biden and Harris promise dramatic increases to federal funding on education, from pre-K to graduate school.
- Establish national prekindergarten program
- Expand Head Start and Early Head Start programs
- Raise teacher salaries by $13,500
- Increase funding for Title I schools
- Provide mental health support
- Fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
After High School
- Ensure free community college to all
- Ensure free four-year college to students with an annual family income less than $125,000
Harris Endorses Free College and Some Types of Debt Forgiveness
Harris has a history of supporting federal funding for community colleges, minority-serving institutions, and college students' basic needs.
Harris pledged support of Sanders' College for All plan when it was unveiled in 2017. The plan would make community college free to all and public four-year colleges and universities free to students whose annual family income is less than $125,000. The plan would also halve student loan interest rates and triple funding for the Federal Work-Study Program.
The plan would make community college free to all and public four-year colleges and universities free to students whose annual family income is less than $125,000.
Harris, like President-elect Biden, also promises to fix the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. The current program sets a high bar for applicants, who must complete 10 years of work in public service and make 10 years of student loan payments in order to have their remaining balance forgiven. Just a fraction of applicants to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program have been approved.
Some critics find the vice president-elect's debt forgiveness plans similarly narrow and complex. For example, as a presidential candidate, Harris proposed canceling the debt of (1) Pell Grant recipients who (2) start a business in a disadvantaged community and (3) keep their business for at least three years.
Harris' other proposals include refinancing high-interest education loans to lower rates and creating new income-based repayment programs. However, while Sanders and other Democrats want to cancel most or all student debt, Harris only seeks to expand students' existing repayment options.
Harris Promises to Invest in Minority Students
Like Biden, Harris wants to increase funding to support students from pre-K through career preparation. Harris also emphasizes that this support should first flow to institutions that serve low-income and minority students.
As a child, Harris was bused to a more affluent, majority-white elementary school as part of a school desegregation push. As a college student, she attended Howard University, which is designated as an HBCU. As vice president, Harris plans to "stand up for Black America" by equitably funding Title I schools and making HBCUs debt-free for students.
If a Black student has a Black teacher before the end of third grade, they're 13% more likely to go to college.— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) September 16, 2019
If they have two Black teachers before the end of third grade, they're 32% more likely to go to college.
Investing in public education and in HBCUs matters.
Harris' education plan would invest billions of dollars in HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions. Supporting these schools could help close gaps at every educational stage. HBCUs produce 50% of Black teachers in the U.S. with bachelor's degrees. Research shows Black students are more likely to go to college if they have a Black teacher by third grade.
Harris Sued For-Profit Colleges for Misleading Students
While serving as the California state attorney general, Harris sued Corinthian Colleges — a for-profit chain of colleges — for using false and predatory advertising and reporting inflated attendance numbers. She also pushed for debt cancellation for former Corinthian students.
To protect students from the deceptive practices of for-profit colleges, Harris cosponsored the Students Before Profits Act. More recently, Harris joined with over a dozen other Democratic senators urging Congress not to allow for-profit colleges to receive coronavirus aid.
Biden and Harris Vow to Roll Back Title IX Changes
This August, controversial changes to Title IX went into effect. Federal law dictates how colleges that receive federal funding must respond to sexual assault allegations. The new rules require a higher standard of evidence as well as a live meeting between the plaintiff and the respondent, among other standards typically reserved for criminal courts.
The Trump administration's changes reverse Obama-era guidance on handling sexual assault on campus. Victims' rights advocates, as well as many educators and students, have said the rule changes undermine decades of progress toward believing and supporting victims. However, others argue that the large upswing in Title IX sexual assault allegations have led to disproportionately high rates of discipline for students of color.
Biden vows to overturn the Title IX changes as president, and Harris has urged the government to rescind a Title IX rule that "will weaken protections for student survivors of sexual harassment and assault."
Feature Image: Justin Sullivan / Staff / Getty Images News / Getty Images