The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) have launched a campaign calling for more funding and reforms in public colleges and universities. The two organizations took part in this campaign because a crisis in higher education means a crisis in democracy.
Faculty and staff must be treated with dignity and respect
"After decades of counterproductive austerity measures, we are on the brink of a new era in higher education," emphasized Randi Weingarten, AFT President and Board Member of Education International. “We know from experience that we cannot create a system that works for everyone if we don't allow everyone to access it. We know we cannot have meaningful job security and voice if faculty and staff are not treated with dignity and respect. That is why we need a New Deal for higher education. "
For AAUP President Irene Mulvey, citing the recovery of the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to do better: “A band-aid approach will only bring us back – to precariousness and unsustainability, and to a weakened education sector. It's time to make it big. It's time for this new deal. "
Student debt must go
In her video message, Democratic Party Senator Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts insisted that student debt, one of the greatest obstacles to a fair and accessible higher education system, must be addressed.
Senator Warren passed a resolution in the Senate calling on President Biden to cancel student debt of $ 50,000 for borrowers – as did Massachusetts Representative Ayanna Pressley in the House of Representatives. "Once we look at the student debt that weighs on a generation, we need to make sure we never have another student debt crisis," said Warren. "We can do this by recognizing that a public college education is like a K-12 public education, a public commodity that should be available to everyone, with free tuition and zero debt upon graduation."
The kick-off event ended with a group of AFT and AAUP members setting out what a New Deal for higher education would mean to them.
Achieve the values of higher education
In addition to addressing tuition fees, institutional funding and debt relief for students, the campaign calls for continued reforms regarding racial injustices and inequalities, labor practices, academic freedom and governance, federal research funding, technical and professional education. Particular attention is also paid to inequality and access for black, indigenous and Latin American students.
The campaign website details how the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the longstanding crisis in public higher education. The decline in state support, the erosion of tenure and shared governance, the increased use of contingent appointments, and the loss of the faculty's voice threaten the core mission of higher education in society.
The campaign also reaffirms the four key values of higher education:
- Build wealth from the bottom up
- Promote social, racial and economic justice
- Strengthening democracy and civil society
- Promote knowledge and innovation
The political plan
The New Deal for Higher Education aims to re-approve the Higher Education Act and create other federal policies that establish dedicated public funding flows and hold administrations accountable for the use of those funds.
The campaign will advocate for:
- Prioritizing teaching, research, and supporting student success
- Provide access to higher education for all students regardless of their solvency
- Ensure job security, decent pay, professional voice and sustainable careers for all faculties and staff
- Create an academic environment free of racism, sexism and other bigotries that prevent learning, interfere with research and perpetuate inequality
- Eliminate student debt for borrowers who wrongly took on the burden of funding higher education for the past 40 years
Watch the E-Event Launching A New Deal for Higher Education: