WASHINGTON—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten issued the following statement in response to the introduction of today’s bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act:
“The College Affordability Act is a big step toward making higher education a realistic possibility for everyone who aspires to a college education. House Democrats have stepped up with a proposal that meets the needs of the struggling and the striving by creating a genuine pathway to college affordability, revamping loan forgiveness so it is there for people who need it, and increasing the investment in colleges and universities—institutions that have long suffered terrible disinvestment. Together, this set of reforms will bring many families closer to the dream of a college degree without the associated crushing debt.
“Today, 41 states spend less on higher education than they did before the recession, making degrees more expensive than ever. Add to that the $1.7 trillion of student loan debt, and you have a generation of strivers who have taken the entire burden of college education on their shoulders. Meanwhile, the secretary of education has made it worse by betraying the interests of the very students she’s meant to protect—so much so, she’s facing multiple lawsuits from attorneys general, educators, borrowers and the AFT, which is suing on behalf of our member borrowers. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' misconduct in this regard is so extreme that another court is considering fines and a contempt finding based on the sheer scale of her mismanagement of the student loan crisis.
“Importantly, this House bill takes a comprehensive approach to offer best-practice grant programs that actually work to support students, providing emergency student aid to get them immediate relief. The bill also creates critical protections for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program to make sure graduates who get jobs in public service can access the loan forgiveness they’ve earned.
“Through this legislation, Congress can play a role in making college more affordable so more people can succeed, in addition to enabling the critical investments in higher education that are necessary to fund our nation’s future. We look forward to working with Congress as the bill moves forward on these and other important issues like gainful employment.”