Biden Executive Orders Preserve DACA, Extend Student Loan Deferrals, More
January 25, 2021

​​In his first days in office, President Joe Biden has focused on reversing a number of Trump administration policies, as well as introducing new measures to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. As expected, a number of these proclamations directly impact higher education, including orders to preserve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, repeal the Trump travel bans, kill the Trump order that restricted diversity training for grant recipients, and extend the moratorium on student loan payments during the pandemic. Full details below:

Preserving DACA: One of the first orders Biden signed on inauguration day would "preserve and fortify" DACA protections for undocumented residents brought to the United States as minors. It also proposed comprehensive legislation that would strengthen and improve the immigration system, including expanding the DACA program and making it permanent while also providing a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. The Trump administration sought unsuccessfully to end DACA, although that effort was thwarted by a series of court decisions culminating in last year’s ruling by the Supreme Court.

Read ACE President Ted Mitchell’s statement expressing deep appreciation for this order here, which also encourages Congress to once and for all codify DACA into law. (See more about DACA and Dreamers at

Repealing the Trump travel bans: The president also repealed the various Trump travel bans that barred or severely limited the ability of students, exchange scholars, and other visitors from a number of predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States. The Trump administration issued four travel bans in its first year in office, three of which were blocked by the courts.

The original list included Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, but Iraq was later dropped, and countries such as Nigeria were added. The Supreme Court upheld the fourth version of the ban in 2018. The Biden administration’s proclamation called the bans “a stain on our national conscience” and they  “are inconsistent with our long history of welcoming people of all faiths and no faith at all." (Read about ACE’s amicus brief opposing the third travel ban here.)

Supporting equity initiatives, including diversity training: Last fall, President Trump issued an executive order on “Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping” that imposed limitations on employee training activities by all federal contractors, including colleges and universities. The exceptionally misguided order gave the Department of Labor essentially veto power over proprietary training materials and caused enormous consternation on campuses and other workplaces. ACE and the higher education community have been advocating for its withdrawal since it was first announced.

Last week, President Biden killed the Trump order and replaced it with a new executive order that requires federal agencies to examine their activities related to equity and diversity and look for ways to do a better job. Biden’s order, “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government,” is more aspirational than detailed. The burden for now to meet it is imposed on federal agencies. This order could lead to implications for higher education down the road.

Protecting LGBTQ students: Another Biden order extends federal nondiscrimination protections to LGBTQ individuals. It directs the attention of all federal agencies to the Supreme Court’s landmark 2020 ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia that LGBTQ individuals are protected from employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The order signals that ED will interpret protections under Title IX to extend to sexual orientation and gender identity, reversing the Trump administration’s approach to civil rights.

Extending student loan payment deferrals during the pandemic: At the president’s request, the Department of Education has extended through September 2021 the moratorium on federal student loan payments imposed in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic. ACE sent a letter to congressional leaders in December asking that this important relief be extended through December 2021 or whenever the government formally declares an end to the pandemic.

Issuing COVID guidance: The president on Thursday ordered more detailed guidance for colleges and universities, including evidence-based recommendations on how and when to open, in conjunction with a 200-page administration COVID-19 response document.

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