As the 2020 election nears, the pressures on Donald Trump and Joe Biden's COVID-19 responses and economic recovery plans continue to mount. Additionally, efforts to suppress and strengthen the rights of voters — particularly students — are growing as people ages 18-29 have seen a spike in voter turnout in recent years.
Prominent issues, such as student loan debt, race relations, and the economy, are becoming increasingly important as the United States' struggles to deal with racial injustice and COVID-19.
To help keep you informed and ensure you cast an educated vote, we've put together a resource page outlining both presidential candidates' positions and policies on the major issues facing Americans today.
2020 Election Issues Impacting Students
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Joe Biden, 2020 Democratic Presidential Nominee
Joe Biden, the former vice president, is the official Democratic presidential nominee for the 2020 election. From 1973-2009, Biden served as a U.S. Senator for Delaware before becoming vice president to former President Barack Obama.
Joe Biden recently selected Senator Kamala Harris of California as his vice-presidential running mate. Senator Harris is the first woman of color to serve on a major presidential ticket. Biden and Harris are running on the Democratic platform against President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States
U.S. President Donald Trump is running for reelection in 2020. While the president has been officially running for reelection since his inauguration, Republican delegates formally nominated President Trump for a second term in office at the Republican National Convention.
Mike Pence, the current vice president and previous member of the U.S. House of Representatives, was also formally renominated as his running mate. In a time of crisis, President Trump will run against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
Where the Candidates Stand on the Issues
As of 2019, more than 44 million Americans collectively owed approximately $1.5 trillion in federal student loan debt. Among those with outstanding student loans, one in five are behind on their payments. While there are many variables that contribute to the student debt crisis, one of the primary drivers is the increasing cost of higher education.
Amid calls for student loan relief and growing concerns over the rising cost of college tuition, Biden has outlined several initiatives intended to help alleviate the burden of student loans and make earning a college degree more affordable.
- Supports tuition-free college
- Supports expanding the eligibility of low-income and middle-class students for Pell Grants
- Supports an income-based repayment plan for federal student loans
- Supports student loan forgiveness after 20 years of "responsibly made payments"
- Supports public servant loan forgiveness
- Intends to crack down on for-profit schools
- Supports historically Black colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions
- Wants to invest in community college
- Wants to take action against private lenders who are profiting off of students
The president's campaign website does not provide information about higher education policies. Trump-appointed Secretary of Education Betsy Devos, however, has passed higher education initiatives that affect college tuition, private education, and student loans.
Learn more about limiting your student loan burden by reading our debt-free degree guide.
With millions of Americans unemployed as a direct result of COVID-19, plans to revive the economy are at the forefront of election conversations. While the economy is a prominent issue in every election, its political importance has risen and become a central focus due to the pandemic.
As the U.S. continues its battle with COVID-19, Biden offers his plans to boost the middle class, jobs, and spending for economic recovery.
- Supports higher wages and stronger benefits
- Supports boosting unemployment benefits
- Supports a new tax increase on high-income earners and corporations
- Wants to revitalize the middle class and small businesses
- Intends to create millions of U.S. jobs in education, manufacturing, and technology
- Pledges to provide immediate relief to working families and small businesses impacted by COVID-19
- Intends to consider a second round of stimulus checks
- Intends to create jobs aimed at fighting the pandemic
- Wants to increase capital resources and financial support for minority-owned businesses
In a time of economic uncertainty, the GOP and President Trump offer their plans to help revitalize the economy.
- Supports "Opening Up America Again," including schools
- Supports another stimulus package that includes a second round of checks
- Supports tax cuts for businesses and high-income households, as well as a more simple tax code
- Wants to expand into new markets for manufacturers and small businesses
- Supports legislation that includes $1 trillion in infrastructure spending to create jobs
- Supports the extension of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
- Opposes federal minimum wage increases, believing it should be decided at the state level
With hundreds of thousands of deaths resulting from COVID-19 and millions of Americans filing for unemployment each week, the topic of healthcare has become a central issue for the 2020 election. Nearly half of Americans receive healthcare from their employer, and tens of millions are living without health insurance during one of the worst health crises in American history.
Biden has revealed his plans to help those impacted by COVID-19. Additionally, Biden has unveiled his plans for advancing healthcare, including several new initiatives that build on the Affordable Care Act.
- Supports free COVID-19 testing
- Intends to combat COVID-19 with direction and guidance from public health officials
- Pledges to eliminate cost barriers for COVID-19 care and treatment
- Pledges to provide financial assistance to those most affected by COVID-19
- Pledges to provide emergency paid leave for anyone affected by COVID-19
- Wants to restore the NSC Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense
- Wants to build on the Affordable Care Act
- Wants to expand Medicaid eligibility and coverage
- Supports lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 60
- Supports legislation that decreases prescription medication costs
President Trump continues to downplay the risk of COVID-19, and he has yet to provide many details on how he plans to combat the virus. President Trump and the GOP have, however, continued their efforts to repeal Obamacare. The president does support improving telehealth access.
- Wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act
- Wants to expand Medicare benefits and boost federal spending towards Medicaid programs
- Supports fewer regulations on insurance companies
- Supports telehealth access and innovation
- Supports the expansion of healthcare options, rather than universal healthcare
- Supports legislation that lowers insurance premiums
- Supports legislation that limits federal government spending in healthcare
Get your healthcare questions answered in our student's guide to health insurance.
President Trump has repeatedly called climate change a hoax, but Americans' concerns over global warming have sharply increased in recent years. While the evidence of climate change continues to mount, each party has contrasting opinions about the consequences of global warming on the environment.
Biden plans to implement several initiatives to try and protect the environment from the threats of climate change. He also intends to use the Green New Deal as a framework for addressing environmental challenges.
- Supports legislation that invests in sustainable infrastructure and clean energy
- Wants to integrate climate change initiatives into U.S. foreign policy, tackling the issue globally
- Supports the Clean Air Act
- Supports the conservation of U.S. land and waters and protecting biodiversity, including efforts to reduce drilling
- Supports protections for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
- Intends to establish the Advanced Research Projects Agency for climate research
- Supports taxes on carbon emissions
President Trump does not provide any policies on his campaign website that address global warming. Since entering office, the president has reversed many policies designed to protect and preserve the environment.
- Opposes climate change efforts and initiatives
- Supports extending the use of fossil fuels
- Oppose Obama-era energy and environmental regulation efforts
- Opposes the Clean Power Plan
- Opposes legislation that limits carbon emissions
- Supports legislation that allows for oil and gas drilling in new public areas
- Supports offshore drilling in nearly all U.S. waters
- Supports drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
Passionate about the environment? Learn more about getting involved in environmental clubs in college.
When President Trump first took office, conversations around immigration focused almost entirely on the construction of a border wall to define the United States' southern border. Today, with border wall construction slowed, topics relating to DACA and immigrantion detention facilities are on the forefront of election issues.
Biden plans to undo many immigration policies that the Trump administration has enacted, including policies that allow for harsh treatment of immigrants in facility centers. He also intends to restore policies that support a fair and humane immigration system.
- Supports the DACA and DAPA programs
- Supports the Central American Minors program
- Opposes the Migrant Protection Protocols
- Pledges to reinforce the Flores agreements, which requires fair care and treatment standards for immigrant detention centers
- Opposes the construction of a border wall
- Supports rescinding the "Muslim bans"
Upon his inauguration, President Trump promised to build a border wall between the United States and Mexico. Along with plans to complete this initiative, he also intends to keep forcibly removing undocumented immigrants by using ICE.
Stay abreast of immigration policies by reading the latest DACA news and other information for undocumented students.
- Race Relations and Criminal Justice
Amid nationwide protests and demonstrations over the many recent killings of unarmed black people by police officers, race relations and criminal justice reform are among the top issues for the 2020 election. According to the Pew Research Center, only 19% of Americans believe Trump has made progress toward improving race relations since taking office in 2016.
Biden has a detailed set of plans to advance racial equity, including initiatives to expand affordable housing and tackle racial inequity in the education system. He also supports a bill that aims to reform America's criminal justice system.
- Pledges to eliminate policies that enhance racial disparities
- Plans to tackle systemic police misconduct with the help of the U.S. Department of Justice
- Pledges to reduce federal spending on incarceration and reinvest funds back into impacted communities
- Wants to provide redemption and rehabilitation opportunities to incarcerated individuals
- Plans to tackle institutional racism by investing in educational opportunities for all
- Wants to fund initiatives that partner social workers with law enforcement officers
- Supports the SAFE Justice Act
- Wants to eliminate capital punishment
While many Americans believe Trump has worsened race relations, Trump has expressed some support for legislation that addresses police reform. Additionally, he has made steps towards criminal justice reform.
Get informed on race, racism, and racial justice issues by reading our guide to free online courses that cover these topics.
- Gun Control
In 2019, the U.S. saw the most mass shootings on record, with more than 400 separate incidents. While gun control has played a central role in many presidential elections over the last few decades, topics such as banning the sale of high-capacity assault weapons and strengthening background checks are emerging as top issues in the 2020 election.
Amid spikes in gun violence across the U.S., Biden has expressed support for strengthening background checks and gun laws. He also plans to make gun manufacturers liable for the sale of their products.
- Supports Second Amendment rights
- Plans to repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act
- Intends to ban the sale of assault and high-capacity magazine weapons
- Supports background checks for virtually all gun sales
- Wants to tackle gun violence in communities of color
- Plans to end online sales of firearms, ammunitions, and gun parts
President Trump's campaign website does not provide information regarding gun control. The GOP, however, has expressed a desire to end mass shootings.
- Supports Second Amendment rights
- Supports background checks on commercial gun purchases
- LGBTQ+ Rights
Protections for the LGBTQ+ community have become a prominent topic over the last few elections. While support among Republicans for LGBTQ+ protections continues to grow, many party leaders, including President Trump, still oppose them. The landscape surrounding these issues has changed dramatically over the last several years. For example, more than three in five American adults supported same-sex marriage in 2019, according to the Pew Research Center — in 2009, only 37% of adults in the U.S. supported same-sex marriage.
- Pledges to protect the LGBTQ+ community from discriminatory acts and practices, particularly trasngender women of color
- Pledges to provide comprehensive health coverage for LGBTQ+ individuals, including gender confirmation surgery
- Pledges to reform the criminal justice system to ensure fair treatment for LGBTQ+ individuals, particularly transgender people
President Trump's campaign website does not provide information regarding LGBTQ+ rights. In the past, however, President Trump has reversed or rolled back LGBTQ+ protections.
- Supports legislation that bans transgender troops in the military
- Appoints officials with anti-LGBTQ+ backgrounds
- Supports legislation that removes nondiscrimination protections for transgender people trying to access healthcare and insurance
- Supports "religious liberties" over protections for the LGBTQ+ community
To learn more about schools that support LGBTQ+ individuals, read about the best colleges for LGBTQ+ students in 2020.
- Reproductive Rights
Since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, reproductive rights — particularly abortion — have been continuously challenged and even rolled back in federal courts. With new legislation and changes to existing programs, President Trump has attempted to make contraceptive methods and care more difficult to access. This election will have lasting repercussions on women's access to affordable healthcare and reproductive freedoms.
- Supports abortion access (pro choice)
- Pledges to ensure access to free contraceptive methods and care
- Plans to continue efforts to end gender discrimination
- Supports federal funding for Planned Parenthood
- Opposes the Hyde Amendment
- Wants to tackle state laws that violate Roe v. Wade ruling
President Trump has switched his position on reproductive rights multiple times, but stated he was anti-abortion prior to the 2016 presidential election. Since then, the Trump administration has attempted to limit women's reproductive healthcare access, particularly by withholding funding from clinics that refer patients for abortions.
- Foreign Policy
While foreign policy may fall behind other pressing issues currently facing the U.S., Trump and Biden have expressed differing opinions on how the United States should facilitate international relationships and economic interests.
Biden has laid out his plans to restore the United States' relationship with NATO, rejoin international agreements, and strengthen alliances with Japan, South Korea, and other Asian democracies.
- Plans to restore the Iran nuclear deal
- Wants to coordinate efforts with allies to denuclearize North Korea
- Supports the New START Treaty
- Plans to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord
- Wants to reduce the role of nuclear weapons
While President Trump's campaign website does not provide his positions on foreign policies, he has challenged international alliances on multiple occasions. President Trump has also considered leaving the NATO alliance.
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The Political Parties
There are more than 30 recognized political parties in the United States, but the Republican and Democratic parties have dominated the political landscape since the middle of the 19th century. Registering as a member of a particular political party is not required to vote in a general election, but is required to vote in primary elections in several states. Here is a general description of the Democratic and Republican parties.
The Democratic Party was founded in 1828 and traces its roots back to the Democratic-Republican Party. At its core, the Democratic Party tends to hold views that are more liberal, placing responsibility for governance in the hands of the federal government.
The Republican Party — founded in 1854 — is driven by the principles of conservatism, including an emphasis on state and local government, free market capitalism, and a dedication to traditional values.
Disclaimer: BestColleges is not affiliated with any political parties, and none of the information on this page is intended as or should be construed as legal advice. The information contained on this page is for general informational purposes only.