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For Immediate Release
December 20, 2019

Statement from Frederick E. Kowal, Ph.D., president, United University Professions, on discussion of free college and student debt forgiveness in the Dec. 19, 2019, Democratic debate by presidential candidates

“It is good to see that the cost of college and the burden of student debt were addressed in Thursday night’s Democratic presidential debate.”

“United University Professions supports programs that increase access to college for high-needs, low-income students. This union also has already helped hundreds of its members navigate the complex student loan repayment process through its student debt workshops.”

“The cost of college, and student debt hit two groups in this country especially hard: low-income, underserved students; and students from middle-class families, which often earn just enough to disqualify them for adequate financial aid, but who find it difficult to cover the cost of college on their own. UUP believes that any plan to make two-year and four-year public colleges and universities free should focus on these two groups of students..”

“UUP also believes that any such plan must also have a clear way to help colleges cover the costs of this access. ‘Free college’ cannot work unless the funding to make it happen is in place. To achieve this, the U.S. Department of Education and individual public higher education systems in participating states would need to cooperate. Much of the money needed to make this happen is already available. Redirecting this money into a program that requires states to adequately fund the hiring of faculty and the development of academic services, in exchange for participating in a national program for free college, is the best place to start.”

“The federal government’s support of for-profit colleges sends millions of federal dollars for financial aid to these institutions, which have a poor track record of college completion and job placement, which target the most vulnerable low-income students, and which offer courses that cannot always be transferred to accredited nonprofit colleges. We would rather see these students served through our excellent existing nonprofit public higher education systems, such as the State University of New York. ”

“UUP stands ready to participate in this important discussion as it moves forward.”

UUP is the nation's largest higher education union, with more than 42,000 academic and professional faculty and retirees. UUP members work at 29 New York state-operated campuses, including SUNY’s public teaching hospitals and health science centers in Brooklyn, Long Island and Syracuse. It is an affiliate of NYSUT, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and the AFL-CIO.


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