Where Did Joe Biden Go to College?

The president's push for student loan cancellation is polarizing but personal, reflective of his own family's struggle to afford his state-school education in the 1960s.
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  • President Biden, a first-generation student, stayed in state and attended the University of Delaware for his undergraduate degrees in history and political science.
  • For law school, he attended Syracuse University.
  • Biden is the first president since Ronald Reagan to attend state school and not an Ivy.
  • Biden will be the keynote speaker at Howard University this spring, where he will receive another honorary degree.

Last August, President Joe Biden proposed a plan to erase millions of dollars in student loan debt for borrowers.

The proposal immediately struck a political cord along state lines: Seven conservative-leaning states, including Arkansas and South Carolina, filed a joint federal lawsuit against the president and the Department of Education (ED).

Meanwhile, some states, including North Carolina and Pennsylvania, filed amicus briefs in support of debt forgiveness. Some progressive Democrats have even pushed to eliminate all student loan debt.

The future of the proposal will likely be decided this summer.

To Biden, who often embraces his nickname "Middle-Class Joe," the ultimate decision is personal. When the president first announced his plan, his opening remarks at the White House revealed his family's struggle to fund his education.

"My dad was like millions of parents all across the country who want[ed] to help their kids to get to school, but there was just no way to be able to do it. … He believed, as I do, that an education is a ticket to a better life," he said.

Biden is the first president since Ronald Reagan, who finished his term in 1989, to attend a state school to get an undergraduate degree. Even former President Donald Trump, who attended Fordham University for two years, transferred to the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School to complete his bachelor's degree.

Even though Biden was accepted into "one of the little Ivies," he ultimately decided to stay in state and attend the University of Delaware between 1961 and 1965 where he double majored in political science and history.

Biden was plugged in socially at the university both on the football field and in student government. He was elected as first-year class president for the 1961-62 academic year and had an "uncanny ability to connect with people," according to the University of Delaware.

Even though prior to 1972, first-year students were not eligible to compete in NCAA varsity football, Biden played defensive back on the "freshman team," also known as the "Blue Chicks" for the fall season his first year, according to The Daily Pennsylvanian. It was always a dream of his to make the varsity team, but his fall semester 1.9 grade point average forced him to focus on academics.

Even during his first year of undergrad at the University of Delaware, Biden already knew he wanted to attend law school, with the dream of becoming a "political figure," according to the University of Virginia's Miller Center.

During spring break of his junior year in college, Biden met Neilia Hunter from Syracuse University, the woman who would eventually become his first wife. After graduation, he followed Hunter to New York and started his first year of law school at the Syracuse College of Law.

Immediately following Syracuse, Biden decided to try his hand at politics in his home state of Delaware. In 1970, he was elected to the New Castle County Council. And two years later at age 30, Biden was elected to the U.S. Senate, according to the University of Delaware Messenger.

Honorary Degrees

On May 13, Biden will deliver the 2023 commencement address to students at Howard University, Vice President Kamala Harris' alma mater. Biden will become the seventh sitting president to deliver the keynote speech at Howard.

According to a press release from the university, the president will also receive the honorary doctor of letters.

Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick, Howard's president, said in the release, "We are excited to receive the President as this year’s distinguished guest and recognize him for his relentless work uplifting our communities that have been historically left behind."

This isn't the first time Biden has received an honorary degree. Since 1976, he has received 14 honorary degrees from colleges and universities in the U.S.: