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Carving up the Classroom

The latest round of right-wing attacks on working people is putting the dream of higher education further away than ever
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By Pete Levine ·

A college degree can open doors. For many public service workers, higher education is a path to getting ahead at work and helping our kids start life on the right foot. But the cost of a college degree and the burden of student loans has already put these opportunities out of reach for too many working families.

And now, Congress is threatening to make things worse.

The latest round of harmful cuts that House leaders are pursuing would weaken or eliminate a raft of higher-education programs.

H.R. 4508, the House bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA), seeks to get rid of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. PSLF encourages people to pursue careers in public service in exchange for loan forgiveness. Eliminating PSLF, which was created in 2007 under former President George W. Bush, would do away with an important incentive for people to pursue professions in fields such as education, social services, public-interest law and even medicine.

The proposal to cut PSLF coincides with other harmful changes that right-wing lawmakers want to make to higher education, including scaling back loan and repayment programs and reducing oversight of schools exploited at-risk students, AFSCME said in a letter to House members.

“This bill rolls back decades of progress to increase access to higher education and improve affordability and quality in exchange for favoring corporations that abuse the federal financial aid system,” AFSCME wrote.  

H.R. 4508 and anti-higher-education provisions in the right-wing tax bill that House and Senate leaders are finalizing will “harm our nation’s students, undermine our nation’s competitiveness, and hold back economic growth,” AFSCME warned.

If you’re one of the many AFSCME members who works at a college or university and enjoys a tuition waiver, either for yourself or a family member, you’ll be in for a shock if the provisions in the House version of the bill becomes law as written.

Tuition waivers, sometimes the only way many AFSCME members are able to send their kids to college given skyrocketing college costs, would be taxed as income. The same holds true for graduate students, whose tuition is also often waived during their studies.

Other cuts include the elimination of the student loan interest deduction, which helps working people manage the burden of student loan debt, as well as a dramatic reduction in the number of tax credits available to college students.

Many have expressed worry over these troubling changes, including the president of the American Council on Education (ACE), Ted Mitchell. He said in a statement about the HEA reauthorization that ACE is “deeply concerned that the proposal would undermine decades of federal policy aimed at helping students at the undergraduate and graduate levels afford a high-quality higher education.”

Taken as a whole, these changes to the higher education landscape represent a larger attack by right-wing lawmakers on working families and their ability to get ahead and thrive.

Free College

AFSCME understands just how difficult pursuing college can be, which is why we’ve partnered with Eastern Gateway Community College to offer the AFSCME Free College Benefit to AFSCME members and their families.


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