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2022 Legislative Agenda

The AAUP legislative agenda lists priorities for advocacy at the national and state level on issues that affect the academic profession and campus community members more broadly, in pursuit of a New Deal for Higher Education. Annually, the legislative agenda will be revised to focus on issues that the US Congress and state legislatures will likely act on in the year ahead. The AAUP supports this agenda because ensuring higher education serves the common good requires first increasing student access, and from there tying in provisions that support faculty. Reversing the austerity funding model is the first step in the fight to ensure more full-time faculty lines.

Federal Legislation 

1. Increased Annual Appropriations

  1. Doubled Pell Grants
    The purchasing power of America’s signature need-based aid program has fallen to less than a third of the annual cost of tuition at the average public four-year institution. More than a thousand organizations have called on Congress to increase Pell Grant funding dramatically, and that call seems more urgent than ever given increased student need during the pandemic. The FY22 budget process will increase the maximum Pell Grant by $950 ($400 in the budget and $550 in the Build Back Better reconciliation package), but these historic increases do not go far enough.
  1. Title IV Funding
    Programs for minority-serving institutions ought to see more generous funding to help close equity gaps between non-traditional students and their peers, and to begin to address historic underfunding that minority-serving institutions have faced; the increased funding proposed by the Build Back Better Act would make meaningful progress to this goal. Furthermore, Congress should increase funding for student success programs that support students of color, non-traditional students, and low-income students. This can be done through comprehensive programs like the proposed College Retention and  Completion Fund, or existing funding streams such as TRIO, SEOG, work study, and CCAMPIS.
  1. Federal Research Funding
    Federal grants and institutional partnerships with federal agencies are an important source of funding for graduate students and faculty. The cutting-edge academic and scientific discoveries made by researchers at American institutions makes our higher education system one of the most respected in the world. And, the scientific breakthroughs of the past year make a clear case for increased funding for broad and exploratory research.

2. College for All Act
Funded by a tax on Wall Street, this proposal would make college free. Tuition would be eliminated at all  four-year public institutions through a federal-state partnership designed to reverse the historic trend of disinvestment. The original version of the bill would also greatly increase funding for public and private institutions as a tuition subsidy. On top of this framework to change the funding model for student aid, the bill includes additional provisions to promote shared governance and restrict the use of funds for capital projects and administrative incentives. Crucially, the latest version of the bill would require institutions to have 75 percent of courses taught by tenure-track faculty within five years and would create a pipeline to tenure-track or longer-term appointments for adjunct faculty.

3. Adjunct Faculty Loan Fairness Act
PSLF is designed to encourage graduates to pursue a career in public service by offering loan forgiveness after ten years of full-time work in government or the nonprofit sector.  Under current law, a public service job is defined as full-time work, or a minimum weekly average of 30 hours per week as verified by the public service employer.  It may be difficult or even impossible for contingent faculty (who work at multiple institutions) to meet the 30-hour minimum requirement, especially in states that under-report hours worked to avoid providing benefits.  As such, these instructors, despite often working more than 30 hours, are effectively barred from participating in this program. Even if the Department of Education resolves some loan servicing issues (such as counting hours across employers correctly) that have hurt contingent faculty, the barrier of the 30-hour threshold remains in statute. The proposed bill would explicitly include part-time faculty in the loan forgiveness program, regardless of their reported hours worked.

4. PRO Act
For millions of workers, outdated state and federal labor laws can be an obstacle standing in the way of the fundamental right to join together and negotiate for better wages, benefits and working conditions. The proposal would go a long way toward restoring workers’ right to organize and bargain collectively by streamlining the process for forming a union, ensuring that new unions are able to negotiate a first collective bargaining agreement, and holding employers accountable when they violate workers’ rights.

5. Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act
The current structure of the Pell Grant program, funded mostly through discretionary spending in the unpredictable annual budget process, makes it difficult for it to keep pace with rising tuition costs and stay on strong financial footing. This proposal would double the Pell Grant award, index the award to inflation, and make other changes to expand the award for working students and families. The bill also makes the Pell Grant funding fully mandatory to protect it from funding shortfalls, expands the program to include DREAMers, and restores lifetime eligibility for the program to 18 semesters, among other changes that will reform the program to function as an entitlement like Social Security.

Federal Executive and Regulatory Actions

1. Student Debt Cancellation
Disinvestment in our institutions has led students to unjustly shoulder the burden of high tuition costs. The outstanding $1.8 trillion in student debt holds borrowers back from fully participating in our society; nearly a third of it is in default and is considered uncollectible. The pandemic-induced freeze on federal repayment will expire on January 31st, and many borrowers are unprepared to resume payments in a sluggish economy. Hand in hand with college affordability legislation and efforts to reform student loan servicing, President Biden can and should cancel all student debt through executive action.

2. Student Lending Reform

  1. As a step short of the above-proposed full debt cancellation, the Department of Education should audit the entire federally-backed student loan portfolio to identify borrowers who are eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), yet through servicer error or faulty Departmental oversight have not yet received relief. They should ensure that borrower payments are being counted towards forgiveness, regardless of payment plan, and immediately cancel the balances of those who have made 10 faithful years of payments. The ongoing special waiver period is welcome, but out to be expanded to capture all qualifying public servants as new regulations are issued.
  2. As part of its final rule issued from the negotiated rulemaking session on student lending topics, the Department should create a generous credit-hour-to-work-hour framework to ensure that most non-tenure track faculty are able to access PSLF, within the existing statutory requirement for borrowers to work 30 hours a week in qualifying public service employment. Such a framework will become moot if the Adjunct Faculty Loan Fairness Act eventually passes.

State Legislation

1. Education Gag Orders

  1. State Legislation
    These and other legislatures should acknowledge that politicians have no business dictating or censoring higher ed curricula. State legislatures should either vote these measures down, or the measures should be withdrawn by the authors/sponsors. State legislatures, rather than actively working to censor teachers, should actively work to protect them by introducing and passing legislation that supports, affirms, and protects the first amendment right of teachers to teach the truth about race and racism in America’s past and present.
  1. Alabama, Kentucky, and Florida have all pre-filed censorship/anti-CRT bills for 2022.
  2. Iowa, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wisconsin are all carry-over states in which “anti-CRT” bill that were introduced in 2021 will automatically be active in 2022.
  1. State Agency Regulatory Action
    Alabama and Florida Departments of Education are considering proposed rules that mirror “anti-CRT” legislative language. Like state lawmakers, state Depts of Education should withdraw these proposed rules and resist using state regulation to censor faculty.

2. Increased Annual Appropriations

  1. Proper Funding of HBCUs
    Recent investigations into the way states allocate funding reveals a sharp disparity between HBCUs and non-HBCUs. States should undertake full reviews of how education funding is allocated, and take note of such disparities. Where disparities exist, state legislatures and departments of education should make immediate corrections to any formulae or policies that undergird this disparity.
  1. State Funding of Institutions
    As colleges and universities continue trying to recover from COVID-related funding shortfalls and budget cuts, it is imperative that states commit to fully and properly funding these institutions. State Departments of Education should thoroughly review college and university funding needs, and strongly advocate that those needs be fully met. Additionally, state legislatures should not withhold, or threaten to withhold, funding for institutions that have or institute COVID-related safety measures, or that use or develop curricula that includes teaching the truth about race and racism in America’s past and/or present.