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The American Graduation Initiative

Congress gets ready to debate a plan that could save the nation $87 billion in subsidies to banks and use the money for higher education.

Pending in Congress this fall, right behind the historic health care reform bill, is another piece of legislation critically important to higher education. President Obama’s American Graduation Initiative (AGI) focuses on increasing access to and completion of postsecondary education, mainly at community colleges, but also aims to improve transfers from community colleges to four-year institutions.

Critical to funding the initiative is a significant change in the federal student loan program that will convert existing federal student loan programs to direct student loans, cutting banks out of the disbursement process and saving some $87 billion.

The House has already passed a bill to accomplish this, the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009, but in the Senate, lobbyists for the banks are attempting to scuttle the bill and retain lucrative federal subsidies for the banking industry. Senate staff recently told NEA that a drumbeat needs to be heard from NEA members, letting their senators know the importance of this initiative to our members and their students.

The Senate has yet to introduce a bill, but has been extremely receptive to the NEA’s input on the legislation, principally in the role of faculty and staff in the community college initiative and the need to be able to use funds for staffing. Visit for more infor-mation and to lobby your senator.

The 2009 issue of Thought & Action, the NEA Higher Education Journal, will be hitting mailboxes this month. This year’s offering features articles by James K. Galbraith on the unheralded economists who weren’t blinded by the main-stream’s love affair with unbridled capitalism, Troy Duster on the long road to the nation’s diverse academy, and a host of think pieces on issues important to the world of higher education. Thought & Action is also looking for members to serve on the Thought & Action editorial board as “first readers” of articles submitted to the journal. Email if you’re interested.

The historic Palace Hotel San Francisco will house NEA’s 28th annual higher education conference, March 26-28, 2010. The conference, “Advancing Higher Education in Unpredictable Times,” is being held jointly with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Online registration forms and hotel reservations are available now at The program will be posted on the Web site as it is finalized.

Leadership Day is March 25 and is open to NEA and AFT members and affiliate staff from both organizations. Pre-conference activities also include the annual membership meeting of the NEA higher ed caucus, the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE), on Thursday evening, March 25, and Friday morning, March 26.

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