Uniting Teachers Unions … Plus Extending the Pause on Student Loans?

By The New England Council

DC Shuttle …

Teachers Unions Unite. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) announced their plans to expand their partnership through a tentative affiliation agreement. This agreement includes combining union organizing activities between the two organizations, as well as the AFT’s contribution to the AAUP’s “nonunion advocacy efforts regarding academic freedom and tenure.” Irene Mulvey, president of the AAUP and professor of mathematics at Fairfield University, stated that the agreement would allow these organizations to “enhance [their] capacity to organize” and “do more work at the federal and state legislative levels.” With this expanded partnership, all higher education union chapters affiliated with the AFT or the AAUP would be affiliated with both groups, increasing the number of faculty members represented by the AFT and the AAUP to about 300,000. Randi Weingarten, AFT president, said this expanded relationship is a “game changer for higher education.” Read more about this tentative agreement here.

U.S. Ed Dept Announces Nearly 100,000 People Eligible for Public Student Loan Forgiveness. The U.S. Department of Education announced that nearly 100,000 people are eligible for student loan debt cancelation due to the changes made to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. In October 2021, the Biden administration temporarily expanded eligibility for the PSLF through Oct. 31, 2022, allowing the program to include borrowers who had loans that didn’t originally qualify for loan cancellations. The cancellations resulting from this temporary waiver would amount to an estimated $6.2 billion in student debt relief, according to CNN. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona spoke highly of this announcement, stating that this waiver “means more of our dedicated teachers, nurses, first responders, service members and many other public service workers will get meaningful relief.” According to CNN, many borrowers “don’t have to take any action,” for the Education Department to review and update the number of their qualifying payments. Those with older Federal Family Education Loans or who already have Direct Loans but have not submitted employment certification forms, however, have until Oct. 31, 2022 to make the necessary changes and qualify for forgiveness under the temporary waiver. Read more from CNN on this announcement.

Biden Administration to Consider Extending the Freeze on Federal Student Loan Payments and Interest. White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain detailed the actions President Joe Biden may take regarding the possible extension of the student loan freeze. In a podcast interview, Klain stated that the Biden administration will “look at what [they] should do on student debt before the pause expires and consider “extend[ing] the pause.” Biden must decide whether to take executive action to extend the freeze before the payments are scheduled to resume in May. Monthly payments and interest have been paused on most federal student loans since March 2020, and the Education Department reports that borrowers have avoided an estimated $5 billion in foregone interest each month due to the freeze. The outright cancellation of student debt is also up for debate, with the Biden administration failing to release legal memos that describe whether the Education Department has the authority to cancel a portion of the $1.7 trillion of outstanding student loan debt.

Congress Passes Appropriations Package. Both chambers of Congress passed fiscal year 2022 appropriations legislation, setting spending levels for government agencies. The agreement provides a total of $213.6 billion in discretionary funding for programs and activities of the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS) and Education and for related agencies. The total is $15.3 billion (7.7%) more than comparable fiscal 2021 funding, according to appropriators. The measure provides $76.4 billion in discretionary funding for the Education Department, $2.9 billion (4%) more than fiscal 2021. Within that, $42.6 billion is for K-12 education (5% more than fiscal 2021), including $17.5 billion for Title I grants to local educational agencies (6% more than fiscal 2021). It provides $2.1 billion for Career and Technical Education State Grants and $24.6 billion for federal student aid programs. The bill increases the maximum Pell Grant award by $400 to $6,895 and provides $3 billion for higher education programs (18% more than fiscal 2021). It includes $9.8 billion for programs and activities of the Employment and Training Administration (an increase of 4%), including $235 million for Registered Apprenticeships (27% more than fiscal 2021). The bill delays implementation of the FAFSA Simplification Act by a year and makes other technical and clarifying changes.

We publish the DC Shuttle each week Congress is in session featuring higher ed news from Washington collected by the New England Council, of which NEBHE is a member. This edition is drawn from the Higher Education Update in the Council’s Weekly Washington Report of March 14, 2022. For more information, please visit: www.newenglandcouncil.com.

Image courtesy of John Gress Media Inc./Shutterstock.


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