I have been invited to attend a day-long meeting at the White House on September 23rd as a community leader, and while the main topic will be jobs and education, I have been asked to provide a list of important discussion points concerning my community, which I am defining as public universities. So here is a first draft of what I hope to discuss:
1. President Obama should stress that his stimulus plan saved thousands of university jobs and helped to control tuition increases, and now without the ARRA money, tuition is skyrocketing, classes are being cut, and students are taking on tremendous debt.
2. The ARRA money also helped to fund important research that is now being curtailed. While universities are the engines of economic growth and technological innovation, they are now facing reduced federal grants and decreases in graduate student funding. We hope the President will consider using TARP funds to support green technology and research at our universities.
3. When states are forced to pay for increased healthcare costs and unemployment benefits during a time of decreased state revenue (taxes), the one thing they know they can cut is higher education, and it is middle-class parents who end up paying for increased tuition costs. Federal money should be used to protect public universities from decreased state funding.
4. In order to save money, universities have moved to a system where the vast majority of the faculty are temporary and part-time with no possibility for tenure or a living wage. To reverse this situation, the President should require any university or college receiving federal funding to hire the majority of new faculty members on a full-time status.
5. Like other American institutions, universities are bearing the burden of excessive healthcare costs. The President should consider freezing health insurance premiums for the next two years.
6. The President needs to make a strong statement about the positive contributions teachers, librarians, staff, and professors make to our society. While many Republicans are demonizing teachers, public employees, and unions, we need a leader who stands up for our nation’s educators.
7. Public universities are still the main paths to the middle-class, and they must be protected and supported. To help rally his base for the next election, President Obama should produce a comprehensive plan to protect the middle class, and this plan needs to address the loss of funding for public universities. Instead of giving subsidies and tax breaks to oil companies, federal funds should be redirected towards new energy research at our public universities.
8. The President should act through executive order to monitor financial aid that goes to for-profit colleges. These schools often place students in debt without providing effective instruction.
9. Due to the reduction of state support for public universities and the resulting increases in tuition, students are taking on massive student loans, which is creating another asset bubble. The President should act to subsidize student loans and extend the payment schedules.
If you have any suggestions, please comment below.