WASHINGTON— The American Federation of Teachers and the American Association of University Professors launched a joint national campaign Wednesday, “A New Deal for Higher Education,” calling for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act and massive federal investment in colleges and universities.
Activists joined AFT President Randi Weingarten, AAUP President Irene Mulvey, Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and the Roosevelt Institute’s Suzanne Kahn to lay out a vision of higher education as a public good and discuss a reimagined federal role for the sector under the Biden-Harris administration.
The campaign’s website details how the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the long-standing crisis in public higher education. Declining state support, the erosion of tenure and shared governance, the increased use of contingent appointments, and the loss of the faculty voice are threatening the core mission of higher education in our society. Now is the time to stand up for a just, inclusive system—one that can help transform our society.
The AAUP and the AFT propose an ambitious agenda centered on four main values:
1. Building prosperity from the bottom up;
2. Advancing social, racial and economic justice;
3. Strengthening democracy and civil society; and
4. Fostering knowledge and innovation.
The New Deal for Higher Education platform will seek to re-center our public colleges and universities as a common good. In addition to addressing tuition costs, institutional funding and student debt relief, it spotlights reforms related to racial injustice and inequities, labor practices, academic freedom and governance, federal research funding, technical and vocational education, and a host of other challenges that have diminished our national capacity to educate our communities.
The AAUP’s Mulvey said: “Any attempt to simply address the problems brought on by the pandemic will be unsuccessful. A Band-Aid approach will only lead us back—to precarity and unsustainability, and a weakened educational sector. It’s time to go big. It’s time for this New Deal. And it’s essential that an initiative as ambitious as the New Deal for Higher Ed be guided by educators—the people in the trenches delivering higher education to today’s students. We’re creative thinkers; we’re problem-solvers; we envision a system of higher education on solid sustainable financial footing in order to prioritize teaching, student success, research and knowledge.”
The AFT’s Weingarten said: “After decades of counterproductive austerity, we stand at the precipice of a new era for higher education. We know from experience that we can’t create a system that works for all if we don’t allow everyone to access it. We know we can’t have meaningful job security and voice if faculty and staff aren’t treated with dignity and respect. That’s why we need a New Deal for Higher Education. We’re fortunate that we now have a president and Congress that understand the need to massively invest in the American people and the institutions that support us. With an urgency born of crisis, we have a unique opportunity for our schools, colleges and students to thrive—and we need to seize it.”
The New Deal for Higher Education campaign website and supporting documents are available here.