AFT - American Federation of Teachers

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Labor calls for action on student debt

Reclaiming the promise of affordable, high-quality education

AT A TIME WHEN Americans now owe more on student loans than on credit cards, the AFL-CIO unanimously approved a resolution sponsored by the AFT to support federal and state efforts to reduce crushing student loan debt and increase funding and access to need-based aid.

“No student should be shut out of college because it is unaffordable,” says AFT President Randi Weingarten. “If we believe that higher education is essential, then we have to stop disinvesting in it and make it affordable and accessible to every student.”

The resolution was approved at the AFL-CIO convention held in Los Angeles in September. AFT Vice President Sandra Schroeder, who is also the chair of the AFT Higher Education program and policy council, introduced the resolution, explaining why the labor movement needs to reclaim the promise of an accessible, affordable, high-quality higher education for all students.

“The truth is that there has been a massive and ongoing disinvestment in public colleges and universities that shifted the burden of college cost onto the backs of students and their families,” she said. “Tight-fisted legislatures cut college funding because they knew they could hike tuition to make up the difference and desperate students would pay any price to improve their futures. Egged on by lobbyists for corporate tax breaks and small government, they’ve created a system that busts family budgets while robbing higher ed employees.

“This is NOT what democracy looks like!”

The resolution commits labor to support federal legislation and policies to help reduce student loan debt by reforming bank-ruptcy laws, requiring institutions to better counsel students about their federal financial aid options, consolidating loan forgiveness programs into one similar to the federal Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan, and allowing borrowers to swap private loans for federal loans with more-favorable repayment conditions and options. It also demands that private lenders increase repayment options, and it calls for policies that will curb and eliminate the frauds and abuses practiced by predatory lending institutions and unscrupulous for-profit colleges.

Read the resolution at

Reprinted from the Fall 2013 issue of On Campus.