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Affordable Higher Education

The Big Picture

Rising student loan debt, student loan payment default rates, and unemployment rates for college, graduate school, and professional school degree holders have created a crisis facing young people.

Fact Check

  • Two-thirds of college seniors graduated with loans in 2010, and they carried an average of $25,250 in debt. They also faced the highest unemployment rate for young college graduates in recent history at 9.1%.
  • New data released by the U.S. Department of Education shows a sharp increase in the rate at which student loan borrowers are defaulting. The official ‘two-year cohort default rates’ show that 8.8 percent of student loan borrowers who entered repayment in 2009 had defaulted by the end of 2010, up from 7 percent for those entering repayment in 2008.

Boost the Economy Through Student Loan Reductions

Reducing student loan debt potentially frees up hundreds of billions of dollars that can be directed into our economy in more productive and constructive ways, including consumer goods, housing purchases, retirement savings, and charitable giving.

ADA and Working Families Win in Action -- Proposed legislation in the form of the Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012 (Rep. Hansen Clarke, D-Michigan, lead sponsor) limits student loan repayment amounts to 10 percent of discretionary income, caps student loan interest rates at 3.4 percent, and allows for forgiveness of student loans for graduates in public service positions. Contact your Representative and ask him/her to support the Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012.


Education Reform

ADA has a long history of involvement in education and education policy.   We need to improve our education system in order to keep the U.S. competitive with other countries in technology, manufacturing and other industries.  High quality pre-K through affordable higher education are top priorities for ADA. 

In order to secure a strong economic future and bring back the middle class, the U.S. needs to combat educational inequality.  Many school districts, particularly those with higher-income families and high property value, provide excellent education and a broad choice of after-school programs, while many big city and rural districts, especially those with an inadequate property tax base and or particularly high social costs, suffer from substandard education and after-school opportunities.  High-income families have access to high quality college preparation and high quality pre-school education while less endowed school districts do not.


  • Enact universal public voluntary pre-school education and after-school care that offers supervised study, sports, and other extra-curricular activities.
  • Ensure universal excellent elementary and secondary education that meets the needs of all students, including those with special needs, staff development and teachers salaries consistent with their professional importance to the community. The education should prepare all children for civic participation.
  • Guarantee access to public post-secondary academic and vocational education and training for all qualified high school graduates to meet their personal needs and the needs of a high-tech economy.
  • Increase funding for the arts, humanities, and social sciences.
  • Ensure a diversified pool of students qualified for graduate education in fields where women and minorities are underrepresented, fostering diversity in the professions.
  • End the funding of schools based on the value of property of a community. Instead, finance elementary and secondary education by means of general taxes.

Latest ADAction

Representative Mazie Hirono (D-HI) has introduced H.R. 702, the Providing Resources Early for Kids Act of 2009 or the PRE-K Act.  It has 74 co-sponsors.  The bill amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to direct the Secretary of Education to award matching grants to states to enhance or improve state-funded preschool programs.

ADAction: Email your Representative and tell him or her to support H.R. 702.

ADA Policy Statements on Education

High Stakes Testing

Challenges to Quality Elementary & Secondary Education

Access to Early Childhood Education

Talk to Congress About Education

House Committee on Education and Labor, Representative George Miller, Chair

ADA Honorary Vice President Donald M. Payne (D-NJ) is on the Education and Labor Committee as well as the Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee. Phone: (202) 225-3436

ADA Honorary Vice President Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) is also on the Committee and Subcommittee of Education and Labor.  Phone: 202-225-5161

ADA/PAC supported Representative Joe Sestak (D-PA) is also on the Committee and Subcommittee of Education and Labor.  Phone: 202-225-2011