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Supporting the Build Back Better Act

By Kaitlyn Vitez

Since launching the New Deal for Higher Education campaign in February with the American Federation of Teachers and other partners, the AAUP has worked through its government relations program to advocate for changes on the national level. Building on the local campus activism that has am­plified the faculty voice at colleges and universities, the program aims to advance federal action on higher education that serves the interests of faculty, staff, and students.

As Congress considers a major infrastructure package proposed by the Biden administration, the AAUP is supporting the Build Back Better Act, which as of this writing would authorize a historic $111 billion investment in higher education through spending on new and expanded programs to improve college affordability, access, and completion. AAUP president Irene Mulvey calls it “a meaningful down payment on the kind of big, bold programs that we need to achieve a New Deal for Higher Education.” The bill includes funding for a free com­munity college program, based on federal-state partnerships, to reverse the decades-long trend of state disinvestment; increases to maximum Pell Grant awards for students; tuition subsidies to cover two years at any public or private historically black college or univer­sity, minority-serving institution, or tribal college; and state “retention and completion” grants to fund programs at public institutions providing comprehensive advising, academic, and financial support to students. Although collaborative efforts by AAUP staff and activists to secure provisions in the bill to address the contingency crisis have not been successful, the AAUP is calling on the US Department of Education to issue guidance to states after the bill’s pas­sage that would push public institutions to offer better pay and longer-term contracts to faculty in contin­gent positions and to prioritize their retention and promotion.

The AAUP continues to engage with members of Congress in the fight to pass this bill, and to keep funding related to higher education intact, while also laying a founda­tion for stronger legislation in the future. Members can participate by contacting their senators and representatives to express support for the bill and to help secure a New Deal for Higher Education. You can join our call to action and read more about the Build Back Better Act at https://newdealforhighered.org/action-alert/.

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