Government Affairs and Advocacy
July 17 Federal Update: Diversity on College Campuses after Affirmative Action
In response to the Supreme Court’s decision to scrap affirmative action in college admissions, President Joe Biden delivered searing criticism against the ruling and the court, even saying, “This is not a normal court.” He cited instances where the court has undermined or ignored precedents that have stood for decades, including last year’s ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade. Rebuking the court’s ruling, Biden said, “Discrimination still exists in America. Today’s decision does not change that. It’s a simple fact.”
In remarks that his team had prepared in anticipation of the outcome of the affirmative action case, Biden described the outline of a plan to ensure diversity and opportunity within higher education. He called on the Department of Education to explore ways to bolster diversity on college campuses by accounting for hardships that applicants had overcome in their lives. This would include prioritizing applicants from less advantaged ZIP codes, with lower financial means, and who have experienced unique personal challenges. A similar admissions model, based on a “socioeconomic diversity index,” is utilized at the School of Medicine at the University of California, Davis, which is one of the most diverse medical schools in the country. Next month, the DOE will host a national summit on diversity in college admissions.
Bidenomics: The President’s Economic Vision for America
On Wednesday, June 28, President Biden gave a speech in Chicago touting his economic accomplishments and presenting his plan for the future. He defined his administration’s key slogan for his 2024 campaign: “Bidenomics,” a term coined by the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times and embraced by the administration. Bidenomics, as defined by the White House, has three pillars:
- Making smart public investments in America
- Empowering and educating workers to grow the middle class
- Promoting competition to lower costs and help entrepreneurs and small businesses thrive
Biden criticized trickle-down economics, claiming that the philosophy failed the American middle class and contending that his plan will grow the economy from the “middle out and bottom-up.” In his speech, the president repeatedly emphasized his work with unions, calling himself “the most pro-union president in American history.” He detailed several successes of the economy under his administration, including low unemployment, high job satisfaction, declining inflation, and growing wages. He also mentioned some of his administration’s work, such as eliminating junk fees, reducing the cost of insulin, investing in education, limiting non-compete clauses, and supporting small businesses. He credited the American Rescue Plan Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law with much of the success of the American economy and praised his administration for reducing the federal deficit by $1.7 trillion.
For much of the speech, Biden looked toward the future, discussing goals to make the federal tax system fairer by placing a higher tax on billionaires while keeping his promise not to raise taxes for the middle class and continuing to invest in infrastructure and American jobs. In his conclusion, he summarized his plan, “It’s rooted in what’s always worked best in this country: investing in America, investing in Americans. Because when we invest in our people, we strengthen the middle class, we see the economy grow. That benefits all Americans. That’s the American Dream.” While “Bidenomics” is a relatively new term in the media, it is clear it will be a centerpiece in his 2024 reelection campaign and will be a key priority of the administration going forward.
New HHS Rule Would Lower Child Care Costs
The Department of Health and Human Services proposed a new rule to lower child care costs and financially support child care providers. The rule covers the Child Care and Development Fund, which subsidizes care for 1.5 million children and impacts 230,000 providers. Specifically, the rule would cap co-payments by families at 7% of income and allow states to eliminate co-payments for families at or below 150% of the federal poverty level. The rule would also cut down on bureaucracy and streamline eligibility criteria and the enrollment process for families. Finally, the rule would bring more providers into the program by offering higher payment rates and guaranteeing timely payments. In announcing the proposed rule, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said, “Our country cannot function without a strong child care system. … Child care is vital to the health and well-being of our nation’s families, businesses, and economy.” HHS encourages the public to submit comments on the proposed rule by Aug. 28.
Biden’s New Student Debt Relief Plan
On June 30, President Biden announced a new plan to provide student debt relief following the Supreme Court’s rejection of Biden’s original proposal to cancel up to $20,000 worth of federal student loans per person. Biden called upon the secretary of the Department of Education to open an alternative path for debt relief that could impact unprecedented borrowers. Moreover, the DOE finalized a new affordable payment plan to waive monthly payments for some borrowers and reduce yearly payments by at least $1,000 for others. There will also be a 12-month “on-ramp” to repayment from Oct. 1, 2023 to Sept. 30, 2024. Those who miss payments during this time will not be “considered delinquent, reported to credit bureaus, placed in default, or referred to debt collection agencies.”
LGBTQ+ Youth Suffer High Rates of Depression, Especially Youth of Color
A new study from Yale University provides scientific evidence that LGBTQ+ youth have higher rates of depression compared to their heterosexual counterparts. Those from Black and Hispanic households were 32% more likely to have symptoms of depression in states without anti-bullying legislation and conversion therapy bans. LGBTQ+ youth of color consistently experience higher rates of mental health challenges than their white peers. For example, while 12% of white youth had suicide attempts; more than 15% of Indigenous, Middle Eastern, Black, Multiracial, and Latinx youth had attempted suicide, with Middle Eastern and Indigenous ranking at 20% and 21%, respectively. Nearly 1 in 5 transgender and nonbinary youth attempted suicide, and LGBTQ youth of color reported higher rates than their white peers.
Youth of color deal with multiple sources of oppression, which leads to increased rates of depression. When LGBTQ+ youth of color are exposed to support, specifically in a school environment, there is measurable improvement socially, academically, and emotionally. There are ways to alleviate these youths’ struggles, such as establishing gay-straight alliances in schools, having staff trained in inclusivity, setting aside safe spaces, and implementing anti-harassment policies.
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