Jan. 18, 2015

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CFHE backs UUP’s student loan refinancing plan

uupdate 1-18-15

Supporters of the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education called on 10 states, including New York and California, to approve a student loan refinancing program that mirrors the plan proposed by United University Professions.

More than 120 participants at the final day of CFHE’s three-day symposium, Jan. 16-18 in Manhattan Beach, Calif., applauded loudly as the proposal was introduced.

“By 2016, we’re hopeful that 10 states can adopt the UUP student loan refinancing program and loan forgiveness proposal for adjunct faculty,” said Jeffrey Kolnick, a professor at Southern Minnesota University and a longtime CFHE participant. “This is an idea we can take action on and work to achieve in the next couple of years.”

UUP Secretary Eileen Landy, CFHE’s coordinator, supported the idea and offered UUP’s support to those interested in pushing the plan in their states.

“In this political climate, there’s little chance of getting these ideas approved on a federal level,” said Landy. “It’s up to the states.”

SUNY graduates with state or federal student loans incurred as of Jan. 1, 2008 could refinance their loans under UUP’s SUNY Student Loan Refinancing Program. They must earn an associate or bachelor’s degree from a state-operated SUNY school and wait a year after graduating to take part in the program.

UUP’s plan, proposed in December, also includes the Adjuncts Loan Forgiveness Program, which would provide eligible SUNY adjuncts with a waiver for up to $29,400 in loans.

The CFHE measure comes as Gov. Andrew Cuomo is set to propose legislation in his Jan. 21 State of the State address to cover two years of loan payments for New York state college graduates who earn less than $50,000 per year. To be eligible, students must also sign up for the federal Pay as You Earn program— which caps monthly loan payments at 10 percent of a borrower’s disposable income and forgives the balance after 20 years of payments.

UUP has a number of questions and concerns about the governor’s proposal.

The student loan proposal was the last action in a powerful three-day conference that focused on the privatization of higher education—from streamlining curriculum and performance-based funding schemes to the impact on students—and ways CFHE participants can create alliances with each other, organized labor and community to fight back.

The CFHE, a national organization dedicated to affordable and accessible higher education, drew faculty members, unionists, student activists and community organizers from as far away as Quebec, Pennsylvania, Florida, Hawaii and Washington.

VP for Professionals Philippe Abraham, above, and more than a half-dozen UUP members joined Landy at the gathering, which featured panel disucssions on “Privatization and the Part-timing of the Workforce” and “What does Privatization Mean for Students? How Are They Fighting Back?”

“The issues around privatization cross the country,” said Landy. “They exist from pre-K to graduate school. We are all in the same boat, we face the same rhetoric, the same so-called reforms.”

UUP members at the conference agreed.

“We who do the educating need to band together so we have a voice too,” said UUP Executive Board member Beth Wilson, a New Paltz Chapter member. “We can no longer take our agenda from the outside.”

Other UUPers at the seminar were Executive Board member Anne Wiegard, Cortland; Pat Ghee, Buffalo State; Julie Gorlewski, New Paltz; Steve Rosow, Oswego; and Barry Trachtenberg, Albany.

Kolnick offered two other proposals, for 10 states to promote and protect ethnic studies and contingent faculty, and for collective bargaining units in those states to put similar language in their contracts.

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