The AFL-CIO on Sept. 11 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 needs-based aid.
"No student should be shut out of college because it is unaffordable. 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," says AFT President Randi Weingarten. "Now, when the United States needs a highly educated workforce to remain competitive in the global market, it is imperative that we make sure that college is affordable and students aren't left with a mountain of debt."
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York has concluded that Americans now owe more on student loans than on credit cards. Outstanding student loans will exceed $1.2 trillion in 2013. Increasing numbers of students—especially low-income students and people of color—see their educational opportunities curtailed by the specter of long-term debt.
President Obama has called for an aggressive strategy to address student loan debt relief, including Public Service Loan Forgiveness, Income-Based Repayment and other loan repayment assistance programs.
At its convention, the AFL-CIO pledged to:
- Support federal legislation and policies to help reduce student loan debt by reforming bankruptcy laws to allow student debt to be discharged through bankruptcy, requiring institutions to counsel students who have not exhausted their federal financial aid and loan options before they certify private loans, introducing refinancing 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.
- Demand that private student loan lenders increase flexibility in repayment options for borrowers of private student loans, including loan forgiveness and income-based repayment options.
- Support federal and state legislation and policies that increase funding and access to need-based aid.
- Support public investment in instruction and student support services at public colleges and universities to decrease the financial burden for students and their families, rather than restructure and prolong the burden as policies such as Pay It Forward may do.
- Support federal legislation and policies that will curb and eliminate the frauds and abuses practiced by predatory lending institutions and unscrupulous for-profit colleges.
- Support expanding federal student loan forgiveness in proportional exchange for time spent working in the field of public service.
September 11, 2013