On March 1, President Joe Biden delivered his first State of the Union address in a joint session of Congress. His speech was impassioned and, for many, provided desperately needed reassurance in a time of intense turmoil.
The president’s yearly address serves as a nationwide update on how the country is faring on multiple fronts. This makes it a perfect opportunity to check in on how much progress the president has made on fulfilling their campaign promises.
According to PolitiFact’s Biden Promise Tracker, after a little over a year in office, Biden has kept 17% of the promises he made during his campaign. The most recent one of these was the nomination of a Black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court. Ketanji Brown Jackson was nominated by Biden to succeed retired Justice Stephen Breyer and will likely serve as a liberal Justice.
While it is too early in Biden’s presidency to confirm how many campaign pledges he has broken, PolitiFact also reports 24% of them have stalled. Unfortunately, many of these stalled plans are pertinent to college students.
One of the most promising and important pledges Biden made to the country was to eliminate all tuition-related student debt from two- and four-year universities for anyone earning up to $125,000 a year. Since he took office, he has extended an existing pause on all student loan payments through May 1, 2022, but has not taken any steps toward forgiving the trillions of dollars owed by Americans.
Another student-oriented component of Biden’s American Families Plan didn’t live to see a Senate vote. Two free years of community college is enough time to get a professional certification or degree that could change someone’s life, which seems like the least the country with the highest rates of student debt in the world could do. Instead, it was deemed an expensive roadblock and was stripped from the Build Back Better plan, the revised version of the legislature.
Yet another provision for tuition-free public universities, as well as private historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and minority-serving institutions (MSIs) for families making less than $125,000 annually, didn’t even make it into the American Families Plan.
This is disheartening, given how the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has made affording college even harder for millions of students and families. With higher education almost completely inaccessible to so many people, relieving that burden should have been a priority for the Biden administration.
To be clear, Biden came into office at one of the most stressful times in recent history, and he hasn’t gotten much of a break since. If the financial and emotional destruction left in the wake of COVID-19 wasn’t enough, the recent attacks on Ukraine by Russian President Vladimir Putin rocked the world just over a year into Biden’s presidency.
President Biden’s poignant opening remarks on the plight of the Ukrainian people were met with thunderous applause. It was invigorating to hear him rebuke Putin and allude to the heavy economic sanctions placed on Russia.
But it’s hard to determine how much of the positive response was genuine versus how much stemmed from hearing a State of the Union address that didn’t come from Donald Trump’s mouth. And as nice as it was to have a much-needed moment of unity and support on behalf of Ukraine, Biden still needs to be held accountable for what he has yet to do. He knew what he was getting into when he ran for office, and he made promises to young Americans that are too important to break.
At the beginning of Biden’s presidency, people were diligent in reminding their peers to keep the new leader on track through petitions, protests and letters to their representatives. This needs to continue throughout Biden’s stay in office if any real change is going to be made.
With a little less than three years to go, Biden still has time to keep the promises he made to the next generation of Americans. After all, the fate of this nation rests in their hands.