*This page is a transcription of one section of the 2019-20 SUNY Student Assembly Advocacy Agenda. For a full directory, and more information on our advocacy, please be directed to the Advocacy page.*
The 2019-20 Advocacy Agenda
Creating a National Impact on Higher Education
Work Study Reform
Work Study is a key financial aid program that is utilized by thousands of SUNY students. Unfortunately, not all eligible students are matched with Work Study opportunities due to restrictions on the type of employment Work Study dollars can be used to support. We urge the state to reduce restrictions on private sector Work Study employment, so more students can find employment opportunities off-campus. This action would also allow more students to pursue positions related to their field of study and career goals.
According to the Federal Student Aid office, Federal Work-Study (FWS) provides “part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need, allowing them to earn money to help pay education expenses.” There are hundreds of thousands of students who receive FWS every year, but students are severely limited in where they can use FWS dollars. Because of the restrictions on FWS, a paper published in the National Bureau of Economic Research found that FWS “...provides disproportionate support to students at elite private institutions…” This fact is unsurprising as wealthy universities are able to admit students who require more aid to attend school and also afford to create more jobs to take advantage of taxpayer dollars. However, FWS is an incredibly important program, and we believe that there are multiple solutions to issues with current allocation methods and restrictions.
One solution to the problems that FWS is facing would be to expand work-study dollars to be applicable in private-sector opportunities. There are a number of reasons to do this, but the primary reason is that it would empower low-income students to work jobs that are directly related to their careers. For example, instead of working a typical FWS job like serving food in the university-run cafeteria, a student would be able to work off-campus at a firm related to their major. This would help create an American workforce ready to tackle a changing global economy as 700,000 Americans receive work-study, but many find themselves working administrative jobs unrelated to their field. Several pieces of legislation exist that would unleash the full power of Federal Work-Study dollars.
The best way to ensure that students receive the most out of FWS is through a comprehensive reauthorization of the Higher Education Act that includes FWS reform. However, outside of the Higher Education Act, one example of a bill that appropriately reforms Federal Work-Study is a bipartisan bill sponsored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA). S.830 - Classroom to Careers Act of 2019 expands FWS dollars fully to the private sector and stipulates that work cannot be longer than a 6-month period and that the work must be related to your career of choice.
Expanding and Revising the “90/10” Rule
Prospective students should be incentivized to choose low cost and high quality public institutions like those in the SUNY system. Unfortunately, many prospective students fall prey to exploitative recruitment tactics by for-profit institutions. We support protecting students and legitimate universities by strengthening the “90/10 rule” to require at least 15% of tuition costs not come from federal grants or loans. Furthermore, veterans must be shielded from exploitation by for-profit colleges by the same “90/10” rule that effectively protects other students.
The “90/10” rule was established initially as an “85/15” rule by a series of reforms in 1992 to protect students and taxpayers from abuse by for-profit universities, and re-reformed to the 90/10 rule in 1998. The rule establishes a maximum of 90% of a for-profit institution’s revenues coming from federal financial aid from the Higher Education Act (HEA). For example, a for-profit institution with $1,000,000 in revenue would only be able to receive $900,000 in aid provided by the HEA. The 90/10 rule was established to protect students from predatory for-profit institutions that take advantage of students.
One report published in the National Bureau of Economic Research found that students who went to for-profit institutions perform worse in the labor market than those with just a high school degree. As written in the Harvard Law Review, for-profit schools systematically target low-income and minority students, and burden students with expensive and useless credentials. In fact, the Brookings Institute found that 13% of for-profit schools would have to close down operations if the 90/10 rule were to be readjusted to the standard set in 1992. One notable exception to the 90/10 rule is the GI Bill. The 90/10 rule only protects federal financial aid in the Higher Education Act. As a result of this loophole, for-profit institutions have an incentive to target student-veterans for their GI Bill benefits. Because of the industry's predatory and abusive practices, we believe that the 85/15 rule should be reinstated.
One way to support reinstating the 85/15 rule is by supporting the College Affordability Act (CAA). The CAA is a comprehensive reauthorization of the Higher Education Act that closes the 90/10 loophole for student-veterans, and also brings back the protective standard of 85/15.
Increasing Pell Grant Award Sizes and Maintaining the Pell Grant Surplus
The Pell Grant program offers millions of college students around the nation aid they depend on to afford college. We firmly oppose any attempts to steal surplus funds that are lawfully appropriated for Pell Grants. Towards this end, we support increasing the mandatory appropriation of Pell Grant funds from 17% to 60%. Pell Grants currently have the lowest purchasing power in the history of the program, down to 28% from 92% of a student’s educational expenses. The Student Assembly also supports increasing both the maximum award and the awards at each income threshold, to help minimize student debt.
Pell Grants are a form of federal financial aid for students whose total family income is $50,000 a year or less. The majority of the Pell Grant budget goes to students whose family income is less than $20,000 a year. Pell Grants are provided by the Higher Education Act (HEA) and are one of the most important programs from the HEA. Pell Grants offer millions of college students around the nation aid that they depend on to afford college. Pell Grants currently have the lowest purchasing power in the history of the program, down to 28% from 92% of a student’s educational expenses. Pell Grants need to be expanded to both increase access to the program and the award amount.
The best way to support Pell Grants is to support the College Affordability Act (CAA). Compared to most higher education Pell Grant proposals, the CAA establishes the boldest vision for the program. The CAA would increase the maximum Pell Grant award to by $625 to $6,820 in 2021. It would then automatically increase to $8,460 over the next decade.
Protecting Title IX
The Student Assembly opposes the 2018 changes to federal rulemaking on Title IX announced by the Department of Education. We particularly oppose removing the ability of student survivors of sexual violence to seek a campus judicial proceeding for incidents that occur off-campus. An act of sexual violence committed by one student against another off-campus is no less traumatizing, and requires no less campus intervention, than one committed on-campus. Additionally, we oppose mediation as a means to adjudicate cases involving accusations of sexual or interpersonal violence.
According to the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), Title IX “protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance.” Title IX is a key component in protecting students from sexual violence. However, recent changes to Title IX have decreased the effectiveness of Title IX offices.
Secretary Betsy Devos has made several changes to Title IX, and we take issue with many of her decisions. Firstly, we oppose removing the ability of student survivors of sexual violence to seek a campus judicial proceeding for incidents that occur off-campus. The ability for student survivors to seek a campus judicial proceeding for incidents off-campus is incredibly important as the violence can still be committed by a student. Additionally, we oppose mediation as a means to adjudicate cases involving accusations of sexual or interpersonal violence. Mediation forces survivors to relive trauma as they are forced to meet with the person that committed violence against them.
The best way to support our Title IX reforms is to support the College Affordability Act (CAA). In the CAA, the bill stipulates that Secretary Devos abandon efforts to weaken Title IX enforcement. Specifically, the CAA forces Sectreary Devos to stop “enforcing the sex discrimination rules proposed in November 2018.”
Protecting Undocumented, Immigrant and International Students
The Student Assembly strongly opposes President Trump's announced intention to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Dreamers are integral members of the SUNY family, and they must feel welcome and protected. We urge Congress to guarantee legal status to DACA recipients through legislative action, eliminating the unnecessary uncertainty and fear felt by thousands of SUNY students. Additionally, we believe that changes announced by the Trump Administration to the F1 Visa application process should be reversed. This would decrease application fees and administrative hassle for international students. The Federal Government must make it clear to international students that they are welcome by decreasing restrictions on Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT).
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a program introduced in 2012 by President Obama that stops children brought to the US illegally from deportation. According to the American Council on Education, There are approximately 1.9 million DACA eligible people, and 800,000 DACA recipients. 45%of DACA recipients are currently enrolled in school or college, and 72% of those enrolled in school are pursuing bachelor’s degrees. Further, 91% of all DACA recipients are currently employed and create billions of dollars in economic benefits in the United States annually.
There have also been a number of changes to F1 Visas that we disapprove of. An F1 Visa is a “nonimmigrant visa for those wishing to study in the U.S.” The Trump Administration has actively made it more difficult to secure this type of visa, and this contributes to a hostile climate for immigrant students. Lastly, we believe that the Federal Government must make it clear to international students that they are welcome by decreasing restrictions on Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT).