A Renewal of Higher Education
We demand an end to college tuition and the abolition of student loan debt, and we commit to the establishment of public trade schools throughout the country that will create a school-to-union pipeline, building the workforce necessary to rebuild America’s infrastructure with a Green New Deal.
The purpose of higher education is to allow us as individuals to contribute our skills and abilities to society as effectively as possible. In this sense, college and vocational schools are crucial to the collective welfare of everyone in the United States and should be treated as a public good.
Beyond tuition, the American university system is rife with challenges. From pervasive sexual harassment and assault on campuses to rampant underpayment of student and adjunct university staff, the institutions of higher learning in this country are in dire need of structural change. We commit to not just making college and trade schools accessible to all, but to making them safe, inclusive, and run by workers who are respected and well-paid.
Free Tuition, Abolish Student Debt
We support the College for All Act which will eliminate tuition and fees at four-year public colleges and universities, tribal colleges, community colleges, trade schools, and apprenticeship programs. We also support cancelling every dollar of student loan debt. We will pay for both of these proposals with a Wall Street speculation tax.
In addition, because many historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) will continue to have fees and tuition after the passage of the College for All Act, we will work to find alternative ways to lower costs at these schools with additional federal funding. We commit to ensuring that HBCUs continue to play the crucial role of carrying Black students to graduation day.
A School-to-Union Pipeline
College should not be the only path to a decent life. Many young people are made to feel inadequate for falling short of a university career, but in reality we need workers to do a variety of jobs for society to function, and all of those jobs should be dignified and respected. We want to invest in pathways outside the college context for people to find and prepare for work, both to strengthen the American workforce and to mobilize the workers that will be needed to repair our country’s crumbling infrastructure with a Green New Deal.
To do this, we want to create stronger networks between unions with apprenticeship programs, vocational and trade schools, and high schools, establishing a pipeline sending students into union jobs with high pay and safe working conditions. This will increase union density and better prepare our nation’s youth for life after high school without leaving behind young people who do not want to go to college.
Demanding Safety for Students
Colleges and universities take great pride in bringing diverse groups of students together, but too often our institutions fail these students by bringing them into campus environments that are hostile to their identities. We demand all colleges establish an Office of Inclusion and Diversity which will seek to improve the experiences of students by building bridges between students of different communities. We demand all colleges provide free on-campus counseling in addition to other healthcare services as part of Medicare for All. We will fight against “free speech” policies that permit violent hate speech to be tacitly endorsed by and spread on college campuses, as free speech does not include speech that promotes violence.
Fighting Sexual Harassment on Campus
Even after expansion under the Obama administration, Title IX has been ineffective in giving survivors of campus assaults the tools they need to seek and achieve justice. As we have seen in District 25, perpetrators of sexual harassment may be found guilty of misconduct and still retain teaching positions at universities as occurred at the University of Texas. We know too that colleges and universities are deliberately undercounting the number of campus rapes, as recently took place at Texas State University just outside our district.
We pledge to fight for federally-mandated processes that consistently handle campus rapes so that survivors are treated with dignity. We demand independent investigations conducted by experienced professionals, immediate access to a hospital advocate for survivors, and mandated counseling for those accused of misconduct. With Medicare for All we will win free access to healthcare including counseling and rape kits for survivors of assault. We will also create federal standards for who may be permitted to teach at public colleges barring anyone found guilty of sexual misconduct from teaching at the undergraduate or graduate level.
University Divestment from Extraction, Exploitation, and War
University endowments are money donated to universities that is invested and used to finance university programming and scholarships — and unfortunately, much of that money is invested in unethical corporations that profit from climate change and human suffering. With a Green New Deal, we will end the fossil fuel industry, but in the meantime we believe colleges and universities must move to divest from fossil fuel industries as well as for-profit prisons, military contractors, and arms manufacturers. We support student-led movements that fight for divestment, and we pledge to fight this fight in Congress by organizing behind student divestment campaigns and advocating for federal legislation barring universities and colleges from investing in extractive, exploitative, or war-oriented industries.
Rights and Wages for College Workers
Right now, adjunct and student faculty at universities across the country are being underpaid or not paid at all. If you attended a college or university, you were almost certainly taught by students who received no wages for their work instructing courses or labs, grading papers, tutoring, or performing administrative duties.
In Congress, we will fight to reverse the Trump National Labor Relations Board ruling that graduate workers at private institutions are not workers and are thus ineligible for union membership. We support the creation of unions for all workers at every institution of higher learning to bargain for higher wages and better working conditions. Our colleges cannot run on unpaid labor.
Supporting Universities that Serve Students of Color
As schools that educate a disproportionate number of first-generation college students, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), tribal colleges, and minority-serving institutions (MSIs) deserve far more investment in this country. I support Bernie Sanders’s plan to make all HBCUs, tribal colleges, and MSIs tuition-free and to cancel all HBCU student loan debt. This proposal includes more funding for medical, dental, and teacher training programs at HBCUs as well as for HBCU infrastructure. We must decrease the funding gap between these schools that serve students of color and predominantly white institutions.
Renewing Student Government
Student governments exist at universities across the country. The current systems frequently fall short of the promise of institutions intended to prepare young leaders for civic engagement in democracy, instead often mirroring the dysfunctions of American democracy. We want to reinvigorate student government by demanding elected student leaders have a place on the boards of universities to give them real decision-making input. We want to give elected student leaders a framework and training to organize the student body, preparing them to think of politics in terms of organizing a base around demands. We also want to establish more mentorship programs within student government to address the lack of continuity arising from transient student bodies, programs which would be tasked with addressing discrepancies between the student body and the representation of that body in student government.