RECLAIMING THE PROMISE OF QUALITY HIGHER EDUCATION
An accessible, affordable and high-quality system of public higher education is critical to the health of the nation—both to ensure that students reach their fullest potential, and to enable the United States to continue to develop as a just society, a vibrant democracy and an engine of economic opportunity.
Every day, in colleges across the country, students—with the support of faculty and staff—strive to reach their postsecondary education goals, whether they are pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree, a training certificate in a technical field, or continuing education. Our nation must provide a rich college learning experience that sets high expectations for our students, faculty and staff, and calls for the supports necessary to meet those expectations.
However, the promise of higher education is under attack by those who demand and pursue austerity, stratification, privatization and deprofessionalization. The strength of our higher education system has been undermined by systematic public disinvestment over the last four decades and by policy priorities that do not focus on helping our students succeed. This pattern of disinvestment and increasing costs jeopardizes the future well-being of individual students and creates an inequitable system of higher education that narrows the opportunities for all but the wealthiest.
We are at a critical moment when we must reclaim the promise of higher education by engaging all stakeholders to demand public reinvestment in higher education.
Reclaiming the promise is about ensuring rigorous instruction that is student-centered and faculty-driven, while supporting independent and innovative research. Reclaiming the promise is about making college affordable and accessible to all and relieving the burdens of those costs that have been shifted onto students and families. Reclaiming the promise is about fostering diverse institutions that provide a richer educational environment for all students. Reclaiming the promise is about ensuring students are taught and mentored by faculty and staff who are well-prepared, professionally supported and have a voice in academic decisions.
By uniting our voices—students, parents, faculty and staff—around this vision, and by collaborating to develop solutions that are best suited for our communities, we will ensure that everyone has access to high-quality and affordable higher education. By strengthening the higher education system in this country, we will promote the fundamental principle that the doors of higher education must be open to every American, regardless of his or her background or when he or she become a student, and we will help students reach their academic and career goals:
RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers will:
- Proactively press forward this vision to reclaim the promise of higher education by assisting state federations and local affiliates to mobilize members and unite with the community and students to fight against austerity policies and other attacks and advocate for our vision of equal access to higher education for all who seek it; and
- Engage our members, students and community groups to fight for federal, state and local legislation, policies, funding and collective bargaining agreements to ensure that all have the opportunities they need and deserve.
This is a living document that must be continuously informed by the collective wisdom of our members, our affiliates and our community partners.