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The 2020 Election Guide for Students

Election Day is only two weeks from now. Here is a quick primer on some student-specific issues and how each candidate has acted or pledges to act.

Student Debt

Student Loan debt in the United States is at 1.56 trillion dollars, surpassed only by mortgage debt. The average debt for the class of 2018 is $29,200 per student. 44.7 million people, about 1 in 8, in the US have student loan debt. 1 in 5 persons with student loans will default on payment, a disproportionate number being Black.


An executive action from President Donald J. Trump caused the administration to release data on college majors and their respective average incomes and debt. He created a task force that advises the private sector on increasing its non-degree training programs, including apprenticeships. President Trump signed an executive order removing the requirement for a degree to get a federal job. Trump’s Administration suspended student loan debt for veterans with severe disabilities. The administration temporarily paused student loan payments and interest accrual until December 31, 2020


VP Biden wants to make two-year community college education free, invest $50 billion in workforce training, double the maximum value of Pell Grants, and “make public colleges and universities tuition-free for all families with incomes below $125,000.”

Biden also intends to halve payments on undergraduate federal student loans. Individuals making less than $25,000 per year will not be required to make payments on their student loans. Individuals making more than $25,000 per year will pay 5% of their “discretionary income.” Essentially, your income, minus rent, utilities, insurance, and food.

Title IX

Title IX is a federal law passed in 1972 protecting students from discrimination based on sex.


Betsy DeVos redifined the Title IX definition of sexual harassment as “unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the school’s education program or activity,” and that in order to get a response there needs to be “clear and convincing evidence,” a change from the previous requirement of a “preponderance of evidence.” DeVos said this change will help protect the due-process rights of the accused. 


VP Biden said the new rule “gives colleges a green light to ignore sexual violence and strip survivors of their rights.” He said he will get rid of the rule if he becomes president.

Both Biden and Trump have been accused of sexual assault.

Immigration Rights


President Trump’s platform in 2016 included a promise to build a wall between Mexico and the US. Trump declared a national emergency to increase power and resources at the border between Mexico and the US.

Trump has called on Congress to “close legal loopholes that enable illegal immigration, to end chain migration [when a US citizen or green card holder petitions for the citizenship of a relative], and to eliminate the visa lottery program.” 

The Trump Administration has diminished the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and closed Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA). The Trump Administration opened the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) office.

President Trump signed an executive order preventing sanctuary cities, or jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with detaining immigrants for ICE, from receiving federal funding. Trump ordered the hiring of 10,000 ICE officers and 5,000 border patrol officers. ICE has made 269,419 arrests during Trump’s presidency. In fact, Trump has signed over 200 executive orders concerning immigration.

In July, Trump announced a policy that would force foreign students, who were attending their courses online due to COVID-19, to leave the country. Foreign students provide a substantial revenue to colleges and universities across the US. Just a week later, Trump’s administration abandoned the policy.

In September, Trump’s Administration proposed a new rule which would limit foreign student visas to a four year time period. For some countries, namely many countries in the Middle East and Africa, their visa would be limited to two years. This is different from the current policy which grants students visas for the “duration of status,” or for however long it takes them to finish their degree. Many students do not finish a bachelor’s degree in four years let alone a masters or doctorate. 

International students contribute nearly $41 million to the US economy. According to Dr. Sheila Edwards Lange during a Q & A session with Student Leadership in September, Seattle Central lost a sizable population of international students this fall amounting to roughly 60 million dollars in revenue.

In 2020 the US revoked more than 1000 visas “for certain Chinese graduate students and researchers with ties to China’s military fusion strategy to prevent them from stealing and otherwise appropriating sensitive research,” said Chad Wolf, acting head of the US Department of Homeland Security.


VP Biden’s platform on immigration touts the idea of “securing our values as a nation of immigrants” and claims Trump has “waged an unrelenting assault on our values and our history as a nation of immigrants.”

Biden’s platform points to research that suggests that foreign-born workers contribute 2 trillion dollars to the US economy.

Biden intends to end the national emergency for building the border wall between Mexico and the US. He would reinstate DACA, ensure that ICE comply with the law and practice their duties humanely, and implement better border screening practices that “work with Mexico and Canada as partners — not as adversaries.”

Migrant holding facilities, or detention centers, were used in both President Trump’s and President Obama’s administration. VP Biden’s platform says he will “end prolonged detention and reinvest in a case management program.”

In response to President Trump’s crackdown on immigrants during COVID-19, Biden tweeted, “They study here, innovate here, they make America who we are. Donald Trump doesn’t get that.”

VP Biden intends to reform the visa system, including expanding high skilled visas, preserve preference for diversity, create a new category that allows cities to ask for more visas to bolster their economy, and increase visas for domestic violence survivors. However, Biden has not made any direct statements on how he would handle international student visas.


220,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the United States, the highest to date of any country. 12.6 million Americans are unemployed, or 7.9%, an improvement from 14.7% in April. Marginalized communities are significantly more affected. For reference, the highest unemployment rate during The Great Recession was 10.6%.


In line with traditional federalism practices concerning public health the Trump Administration has left much of the responsibility of a COVID-19 response with the states. This approach has led to disparate responses from states in combating COVID-19.

Since January, the President has said the pandemic is “under control,” that we “shut it down coming from China,” and as of August 5th, “It’s going away. Like things go away. No question in my mind that it will go away, hopefully sooner rather than later.”

The President has passed four bills for emergency relief funding measuring in the trillions of dollars. In March he passed an executive order to prioritize production of necessary pandemic equipment such as personal protective equipment and ventilators. Trump’s Administration has launched Operation Warp Speed to expedite the development and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine.

For the future, the President’s second term agenda stipulates that he wishes to “develop a vaccine by the end of 2020, return to normal in 2021, make all critical medicines and supplies for healthcare workers in the United States,” and “refill stockpiles and prepare for future pandemics.”


VP Biden participated in a number of effective outbreak responses while serving in President Obama’s administration, including the 2009 H1N1 outbreak, 2014 Ebola outbreak, and the 2016 Zika outbreak. None of them were sizable outbreaks in the US.

The Obama Administration established the Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense to monitor potential health threats to the United States and coordinate responses to them, including disease outbreaks. The Directorate was dissolved by President Trump in 2018. VP Biden proposes to restore the Directorate if elected.

The Biden Plan to Combat Coronavirus says Biden will rely on the expertise of scientists for COVID response, make testing free and accessible, eliminate cost barriers to healthcare, develop a vaccine, and “full deployment and operation of necessary supplies, personnel, and facilities.”

VP Biden intends to address the economic impact of COVID with “an immediate set of ambitious and progressive economic measures.“ This includes establishing mandatory Paid Sick Leave of 12 weeks and expanded Emergency Unemployment Compensation.


For information on President Trump’s and Vice President Biden’s varied views on racial equity, taxes, sustainability, food stamps, Planned Parenthood, health care and more, a good place to start is their respective campaign websites:

Their twitter accounts are also great sources of info on how they think and feel about various issues:

The final debate between President Trump and Vice President Biden will occur on October 22nd, 6:00 PM PDT. Plus, The Commission on Presidential Debates said that they will mute the opponent’s mic for the first two minutes of each 15 minute section to give candidates uninterrupted time to have their say. You can stream the debate live from Youtube.

The General Election is on November 3rd. For more information go here.

No matter who you like better don’t forget to cast your vote. Your vote matters. Make it count!


Harlow Poffenberger

Harlow Poffenberger is a Visual Media student at Seattle Central College where she works as an editor at The Seattle Collegian and curates the weekly ART SPACE column. Harlow also likes thru-hiking, traveling, and other adventurous pursuits, and once lived in a house with a bear.

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