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“Great day” for US educators, says Biden, as he clinches presidency

The education sector has welcomed Joe Biden as the 46th president to be elected, and hopes his past support for international collaboration and liberal immigration policies will see a boost for the country’s international education sector and students considering future plans.

Both Biden and Harris have close links to the education journey that the US can offer to its own citizens and immigrants. Photo: flickr/Victoria Pickering

ACE called for a $120bn Covid relief package for students and colleges and universities facing an "existential crisis"

The president elect – on Saturday – declared the election result was a “great day” for America’s educators, as his wife and future first lady Jill Biden who has had a long career as a community college professor.

She has pledged that she would like to keep working at Northern Virginia Community College if possible.

Additionally, Biden gave praise to his running mate and vice president elect, Kamala Harris, who makes “history as the first woman, first African American woman, first woman of South Asian descent, and first daughter of immigrants ever elected to national office in this country”.

“We must make the promise of the country real for everybody”

“The American story is about the slow, yet steady widening of opportunity,” he said.

“Make no mistake: Too many dreams have been deferred for too long. We must make the promise of the country real for everybody – no matter their race, their ethnicity, their faith, their identity, or their disability.”

Miriam Feldblum, executive director of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, called for a “bold and aggressive agenda” to work on damage-limitation of the previous administration, revoking any pending rule changes.

“Having witnessed first-hand the harm caused over the past four years to our campuses, communities and nation through the anti-immigrant policies of the current administration, the Presidents’ Alliance calls upon the incoming administration to… expand protection and opportunity for immigrant and international students,” said Feldblum.

“We ask that the administration immediately pause and withdraw all proposed rules and regulations undermining international students and scholars, including the duration of status and H-1B related rules,” Feldblum urged – along with rebuilding the USA’s refugee program.

“Most importantly,” she continued, the incoming administration must “enact immigration reform that establishes a roadmap to citizenship for our nation’s Dreamers, TPS holders, and undocumented individuals; and commit to immigration reform that recognises the tremendous contributions of international students, scholars, and alumni” within the first 100 days.

Former assistant vice president of Enrollment Management at George Washington University, Fred Siegel (speaking ahead of the election verdict) said Democrats would be “likely to openly support the initiatives to push international students to come into the US as Biden’s party recognises the value of foreign students and their contribution to the economy”.

Freddy Weima of Nuffic also tweeted that Biden lent his support to international education in a surprise drop-in to a meeting in the US in 2018.

“We ask that the administration withdraw all proposed rules and regulations undermining international students and scholars”

President of the American Council on Education, Ted Mitchell, said the entire higher education community will work with the incoming administration on key issues including expanding equitable access to educational opportunity and supporting cutting-edge research and innovation.

“We in higher education are committed to engaging with the administration and new Congress to confront a daunting list of challenges,” he said.

If Congress does not finalise and approve a comprehensive Covid relief package including at least $120 billion in financial assistance for students and colleges and universities facing an “existential crisis”, Mitchell added, ACE “hopes that the Biden administration and the new Congress will make doing so the top priority in January”.

Some students have hinted that the result of the election makes them feel at ease from “unfriendly/ restriction” policies regarding international students.

“We know that policy has an impact and saw that with Trump’s travel ban – we saw this in our data with declines in interest in studying in the US and the impact of the travel ban having particular impact in interest from the Middle East,” said Simon Emmett, managing director at IDP Connect.

“We also know from our annual Student Buyer Behaviour research that whilst perceptions of the US lags behind that of the US, Canada and the UK that the US consistently comes out top in terms of perceptions of the quality of education on offer.”

On the IDP search platform, there has been a “gentle upward trend” for the US over the past fortnight, Emmett added – up from 10.35% of searches to now be at 16.05% of all searches across the sites, with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and UAE witnessing rises as Biden’s victory was announced.

The news has also buoyed those working in the sector, with Nadine Baladi, founder and managing partner at The Parliament Group sharing, “Here’s to our industry in the USA! Here’s to women and minorities and social justice! Here’s to immigrants and international students! Here’s to decency and kindness!”

NAFSA executive director and CEO Esther D. Brimmer added the organisation is “eager to work with the Biden-Harris administration as president-elect Biden has pledged to directly address” issues including  travel bans, executive orders, detrimental regulatory actions and xenophobic rhetoric, as well as the global pandemic.

“The past four years have been one of the most challenging periods in the history of our field, during which international educators have shown unparalleled strength and resilience,” she said.

“We see encouraging signs that suggest a more favourable climate for international education, science, and engagement with the world.

“The need for international education has never been greater,” Brimmer noted, as she highlighted the future first lady Jill Biden’s “long-standing commitment to expanding access to higher education; specifically advancing our nation’s community colleges”.

While giving his victory speech on Saturday, Joe Biden said “this is a great day” for America’s educators.

“You’re going to have one of your own in the White House and Jill is going to make a great first lady,” he said of his wife.

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