Congress’ spring break is underway, with lawmakers away from Capitol Hill through the end of next week, and Roll Call reports that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is using the opportunity to take the Dems’ message to college campuses.
House Democrats will launch a series of attacks on Republicans over college affordability over the next two weeks, when members of Congress will fan out across the country for the Easter recess.The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will hit 15 Republicans via advertisements in student newspapers at colleges and universities in their districts, according to a release provided first to CQ Roll Call. The ads attack these Republicans for not supporting Pell Grants – which provide funding for low-income students working toward undergraduate degrees.
Among the campuses the DCCC is focusing on is the University of Arizona in Tucson, pictured above. It’s represented by freshman Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.).
For many young people and their families, this is clearly a potent issue – the House GOP budget, approved last week, would impose a 10-year freeze on maximum Pell Grant awards. The Senate Republicans’ plan would “no longer guarantee funding” for Pell Grants going forward.
But stepping back, there’s an even larger trend underway, with GOP policymakers at the state level dramatically scaling back investment in higher education.
In Wisconsin, for example, Gov. Scott Walker (R) has proposed slashing public university budgets. As Rachel noted on the show in February, “To put it in perspective, the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin at Madison … says that if she just outright eliminates the school of nursing, and the law school, and the business school, and the pharmacy school, and the school of veterinary medicine, if she outright eliminates all of those schools from the Madison campus, that still would not be enough to make up for what Scott Walker wants to make up from that campus.”
There was also this report out of Louisiana this week: “Under what leaders are calling a ‘doomsday scenario,’ Louisiana’s public universities and colleges would get about $123 million in state funding to split among their campuses next year – about an 82 percent cut from their current funding level.”
And it’s not just funding. The New Yorker recently published an alarming piece about developments for higher education in North Carolina (thanks to my colleague Cory Gnazzo for the heads-up).
For several years, there have been indications that the state’s new [Republican] leaders want to change the mission of public higher education in North Carolina. In 2013, the Republican governor, Pat McCrory, told William Bennett, a conservative talk-show host and former Secretary of Education, that the state shouldn’t “subsidize” courses in gender studies or Swahili (that is, offer them at public universities). […]On February 27th, the board, which had conducted a five-month-long review of all two hundred and forty centers and institutes at U.N.C., voted to eliminate three of them. Although the board has legal authority to govern U.N.C. as it sees fit, university policy and tradition had reserved this sort of decision for the schools. One of the closed centers was dedicated to the environment, another to voter engagement. The third, which many faculty members describe as the real target, was the Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity, run by Gene Nichol, a law professor and a vituperative critic of the Republican legislature. In one of a series of opinion pieces criticizing spending cuts, published in Raleigh’s News & Observer, he had referred to the legislature’s “unforgivable war on poor people.” Nichol has no doubt that the closing of the center was intended as punishment. On several occasions, “my dean was compelled to call me into his office and relate threats received from Republican leaders of the General Assembly if I didn’t stop writing articles for the News & Observer,” he wrote in an e-mail.
Is it any wonder Democrats are eager to take their message to colleges and universities?