A Message from President Judd Regarding Potential Congressional Actions

Dear Members of the SLC Community,

Among my responsibilities as the president of Sarah Lawrence College is that of monitoring federal and state policy debates and resulting regulatory and legislative actions that could have substantial consequences for the College. At moments when ongoing policy conversations could potentially impact our educational community, its members, and our mission, I believe it is incumbent upon me to alert our community, to encourage you to become as informed as possible about relevant policy discussions, and to provide information that will allow you to communicate as you deem appropriate with elected officials.

Two Congressional actions currently under consideration raise significant concerns. One involves the fundamental freedoms and rights of undocumented students attending colleges in the US; the other is a bill that would renew and significantly modify the Higher Education Opportunity Act.

For nearly a year, Congress and the White House have debated the future of so-called “Dreamers”, undocumented students and college graduates who came to this country as children and who have worked to build a life in the United States, their de facto home country. The status of many Dreamers has been protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program, which the current Administration has sought to end in favor of a more permanent policy framework on issues of immigration and protection of DACA students. As a member of the Presidents' Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, I am one of 365 college and university leaders advocating for a long-term solution that protects Dreamers and that acknowledges the enormous contributions they have made and will continue to make here in the United States.

In recent days, members of the House of Representatives have advanced two proposed bills regarding immigration and DACA that do not realistically address the needs of Dreamers. These are the Securing America’s Future Act of 2018 and the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2018. While failing to adequately protect Dreamers, both proposed pieces of legislation would add new and excessive constraints on immigration—a very concerning prospect for SLC, a college that embraces diversity in all its forms and enrolls nearly 15% of our students from nations beyond US borders.

Concurrently, the House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce is advancing the PROSPER Act, a bill that would renew the Higher Education Opportunity Act while significantly modifying federal financial aid programs for college students. Numerous elements of the PROSPER Act should be of special concern to SLC students and families:

  • The phase-out and elimination of Perkins Loans and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, which generally benefit students with the highest levels of financial need.
  • Eliminating nearly all federal student loan forgiveness programs for students who engage in public service, including teaching, following graduation.
  • Encouraging colleges and universities to vary and cap student loan awards based on students’ fields of study.
  • Setting caps on federal student loan borrowing that may make it impossible for students to pursue certain graduate fields of study, particularly at private colleges and universities.
  • Eliminating the federal student loan interest subsidy.
  • Eliminating Federal Work Study eligibility for all graduate and professional students.

Many hundreds of our current and future students would likely be adversely affected by these proposals, especially those with the highest financial need; these proposals could also have a chilling impact on student choice of field of study or profession, pursuit of graduate school, and commitment to public service for students with financial need.

In light of these developments, I encourage you to use the links below to become more deeply informed about the proposed pieces of legislation. If you wish to express your position on these matters to lawmakers in the House, links are provided below for contacting your home Representatives.

For those who were unable to take part in our series on Democracy and Education this year, which addressed many issues related to this proposed legislation on immigration and educational policy, I would invite you to review the events on our website, particularly the most recent—a conversation and Q&A with Sarah Lawrence alumna and White House Correspondent Maggie Haberman.

Thank you for taking the time to weigh these issues and for bearing in mind the interests of present and future SLC students and their families.

Yours,

Cristle Collins Judd
president@sarahlawrence.edu