NYSUT and the union's higher education affiliates can be justly proud of the role they play in advocating for affordable higher education, a campaign that undoubtedly helped lead to President Obama's proposal for free community college education, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said.
"We've made student debt front and center," said Weingarten at a recent meeting of the Higher Education Policy Council, which acts as an advisory body to NYSUT.
Her remarks came a day after the president proposed a national plan to provide up to two years of the cost of tuition and fees at community colleges.
The AFT, NYSUT and its higher education affiliates — United University Professions, Professional Staff Congress/CUNY and their community colleges, have already embraced the concept of free public higher education as part of a growing national movement to address the staggering cost of a college degree, and their advocacy has caught the attention of members of Congress and federal education officials.
"I'm grateful that the president has listened to us on this," Weingarten said. "Because at the end of the day, it's meaningless to say that college matters, without providing the means to support it."
UUP and PSC are both part of the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education, a national coalition of labor and student groups that advocates for both free public higher education and a solution to the student debt crisis. The meeting was led by newly appointed council chair Roberta Elins, president of the United College Employees of FIT.