As we continue to adjust to life after the COVID-19 pandemic, the mission of Believe in Students to help college students meet basic living expenses while working to obtain their degrees remains more relevant and urgent than ever. We all continue to feel the impact of the pandemic; however, the students of our most vulnerable communities have yet to recover.
And while pandemic-related funding is coming to an end, the struggles
students face to provide food, housing, transportation, and other critical living expenses for themselves and their families remains high, making it more difficult for students to stay on the path toward higher education. Now more than ever, we must stand firmly behind students by not only helping them meet those basic needs now but engaging these students and their faculty and staff supporters to advocate for change for the future.
In August, we were thrilled to hear about the student loan forgiveness plan from President Biden. The program will help alleviate a portion of student loan debt by forgiving $10,000 in federal loans for those who earn less than $125,000 a year and $20,000 to students who received the Pell Grant. Programs like this help us take one step in the right direction to provide equity and financial relief to those who need it most. However, there is still much work to be done, including addressing the ongoing affordability crisis that today’s #RealCollege students face.
We are tackling immediate needs and calls for change with our FAST Fund programs, which is why I am happy to announce that we are expanding our programming to more colleges and universities across the nation. We have expanded our partnership with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the nation’s largest higher education union. At their summer convention, AFT members passed a resolution for AFT to “fully and formally support” the development and expansion of the FAST Fund. This is a huge development for our ability to expand the impact of our FAST Fund efforts – and for me, as a former teacher, it is inspiring to see so many faculty members engaged in addressing student needs. And with this support, our 2022 FAST Fund cohort is underway! Interest in starting up FAST Funds was higher this year than ever before, and we were thrilled to add union-led FAST Funds at Portland State University, Southern Utah University, Kent State University, Hostos (CUNY) Community College, and Rutgers University to our network.
Our efforts don’t stop there. Last week, we joined AFT President Randi Weingarten and FAST Fund leaders representing six campuses to celebrate the announcement of AFT’s $150K investment in the newly formed Great Lakes FAST Fund consortium. This pioneering program represents a major step forward in building the full spirit of “Faculty And Students Together,” helping us create education and advocacy support for both faculty and students on these campuses. We look forward to seeing how this ambitious initiative improves the lives and livelihoods of future college graduates and continuing our partnership together to help create campuses better equipped to serve today’s #RealCollege students.
All of this is a critical response to the need we see from students on our campuses. In a recent call with an experienced FAST Fund leader, she told me, “I am seeing more need among our students than I can remember in over 30 years of teaching.” The work we are doing couldn’t be more urgent or more important. Thank you so much for supporting our mission, students, and community.