Today, America is facing the reality of the crisis of costly post-secondary education, multiple generations of people overburdened with debt, and the lack of skilled workers for a new 21st century economy. We can — and must — mend this broken system so that all Americans, regardless of race or class, can be better prepared for future opportunities in the job market and be able to prosper.
Thirty years ago, most high school graduates could move into the workforce and make a decent living without the need for higher education. But the world has changed since then, and America must prepare our students to be a part of a 21st century workforce. I support extending our traditional K-12 education system to include not only universal pre-K but also the first two years of post-secondary education. This post-secondary education would include the first two years of a bachelor’s degree, an associate degree, or a technical education certificate.The American economy performs better when our workers are educated and trained, no matter if it’s a STEM or liberal arts education, or manifests by way of a technical certificate or a four-year degree. We must support the next generation so they can support us.
As our economy transitions to meet the needs of tomorrow, new industries — such as clean energy — are leading the way for new employment opportunities. The number of Americans working in the clean energy industry outnumbers those with jobs in the fossil fuel industry by 3 to 1 — and that number is only growing larger. That is why I support job training programs and funding technical degree programs that prepare our high school graduates for these new 21st century jobs. While we recalibrate the labor behind our economy, we must remember these industries’ long and important union history. As these industries develop further we must support an increase of organized labor across the country which benefits American workers – even those not in unions – with higher wages and better benefits such as paid leave.
While higher education ultimately helps our economy prosper, we must take action to ease the financial burden for students. We must support low-income students — many of whom are the first in their family to attend college — as well as middle class students so that neither are left behind in our increasingly advanced economy. I support lowering the income restrictions on Pell Grants and also increasing the maximum amount of a Pell Grant award so that students are able to focus more on their education rather than working to afford one. We also must address the student loan crisis. I support Vice President Joe Biden’s plan to forgive federal student loan debt for public two and four year institutions as well as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other private institutions that work to combat decades of inequity by serving students of color. We also must stop punishing students with debt by making it nearly impossible to declare bankruptcy. I support changing the tax code to allow residents to discharge student loan debt just as any other form of consumer debt. It is vital that we address this crisis for the good of our younger generations and for our country’s prosperity. We must strive to do more when it comes to giving our young people the ability to access institutions of higher learning without the burden of debt. That is why I am committed to supporting legislation that tackles the issue of affordability head on.