Tell President Biden: Cancel student debt

After months of delays, it’s official. The federal government plans to resume loan repayment for federal student borrowers at the beginning of May—though the current pause on repayment is likely one of the reasons we’re seeing any economic recovery at all. Over the past two years of the pandemic, salary freezes, furloughs, and contract nonrenewals have hurt the faculty and staff who make our colleges run. With the latest wave of COVID-19 cases, it’s clear that further action is needed to protect higher ed workers and the broader economy.

Tell President Biden: We need action on the student debt crisis.

The mammoth Build Back Better Act’s investments in social programs appears to be on ice indefinitely, threatening President Biden’s ability to fulfill the vision he laid out on the campaign trail. But Biden still can deliver on the promises that he made to struggling student loan borrowers, not just by further delaying payments, but by canceling all student debt.

The Department of Education has delivered important reforms this year to help struggling borrowers, in particular those defrauded by for-profit colleges and those with permanent disabilities. Of particular note, the department unveiled a special waiver period to address problems with the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (we’ll be sharing more resources for AAUP members soon).

But the president hasn’t acted on his power to cancel or reduce federal student loan balances. Not only is the power of forgiveness confirmed by lawyers at the Department of Education and external legal organizations, but his predecessor already used it to pause student loan repayment.

There’s no reason to wait any longer. Given the ongoing impacts of the pandemic, borrowers deserve certainty on the question of debt cancellation.Can you tell President Biden to cancel student debt?

Thank you for taking action.

In solidarity,
Kaitlyn Vitez, AAUP Government Relations

Next steps to secure a New Deal

New Deal for Higher Ed.

In the coming days, the US House of Representatives plans to vote on a pared-down version of the Build Back Better Act, which carries a host of critically needed investments in universal preschool, infrastructure, and climate resiliency—but at the last minute in negotiations, despite the efforts and input of so many of our members, most of the new investments in higher education have been cut from the legislation.

It goes without saying that we are disappointed in these developments. The Build Back Better Act funds essential financial aid programs, but fails to deliver on the reforms we need. The provisions in the original Build Back Better Act would have been a fundamental and transformative reset to how public higher education is funded. For decades, and particularly during the Great Recession, we’ve watched as states slashed funding to colleges and universities. Administrators doubled down on austerity plans, chased corporate sponsorship and Wall Street financing, and relied ever more on underpaid contingent workers to keep campuses running. Meanwhile, federal student aid failed to keep pace with rising tuition costs. All these trends are unsustainable, and the pandemic only served to accelerate them. We launched the effort to secure a New Deal for Higher Education to ensure stable and sustainable investment in our institutions and their workers, and to serve the public good.

We were enthusiastic and supportive of the original plan for a federal-state partnership, intended to reverse the trends of disinvestment. In this new version of the Build Back Better Act, we’re pleased to see a significant increase in Pell Grants, new investments at minority-serving institutions, and a new competitive grant program to improve student retention and completion rates, but we also know that these programs will send more money into a broken financial aid system in desperate need of reform. We will be working toward getting Congress to move a reformed funding model forward in some fashion in the coming years. If you took action on this critical bill, by sending a letter to your member of Congress, calling them, or even meeting with their staff, thank you for your activism.

Right now, with the 2022 elections on the horizon, we know what we need to do: build consensus among current and future lawmakers on the need for reforms to promote shared governance and address the contingency crisis, in addition to more funding for our institutions and students. We need to keep organizing and bringing our colleagues into this movement to fundamentally change higher education.  

This is just the beginning and we will continue fighting as hard as we can for a New Deal for Higher Education. Now is the time to join us for the next stages of this ambitious campaign, including putting pressure on President Biden to offer debt relief to student loan borrowers. Sign up for our New Deal list now to be in the loop on next steps.

In solidarity,
Irene Mulvey, AAUP President