AFT Stance on Issues in Higher Education

At its meeting earlier in October, the AFT executive council took up and passed four noteworthy higher-education policy resolutions recommended by committees at the AFT convention in July.

The resolution on “Supporting Increased Federal Investment in College and University Instruction” recognizes important investments in higher education made by the current administration and Congress in the last two years. It calls on AFT to advocate:

  • significantly increasing Pell Grant awards and making the Pell Grant program a true entitlement;
  • enactment of federal programs that would provide direct assistance to institutions to serve students effectively, both at community colleges and in higher education as a whole;
  • the broadest interpretation possible of the current law on student-loan forgiveness to cover faculty, including part-time faculty who are relying on teaching as their primary occupation; and
  • cooperative efforts at all levels of government, and among foundations, unions and other stakeholders, to establish a secure funding base for public higher education going forward, one built on affordability and quality, and in particular, stronger support for instruction and academic staffing.

The work to improve the staffing situation at our colleges and universities not only requires more outside support, but also more work to build internal solidarity. To that end, the executive council passed the resolution charging AFT’s Higher Education division with “Developing and Disseminating a ‘Stronger Together’ Model for Higher Education Affiliates with Multiple Constituencies.”

The executive council also recommitted AFT to work on “Strengthening Accountability for For-Profit Institutions of Higher Education,” including regulations that safeguard students’ educational and financial interests.

Another resolution, “Restore Funds for College Education for the Incarcerated,” calls on Congress to restore Pell Grant eligibility to prisoners—an eligibility that was part of the original federal financial-aid program. College-in-prison and re-entry programs for prisoners reduce the rate of repeat offenses in a population that typically was educationally underserved in the first place.