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New Poll Shows Overwhelming Public Support for Progressive Higher Education Agenda

Student Defense Launches 100 Day Docket Initiative to Help Next Department of Education Take Immediate, Decisive Action to Help Students 

WASHINGTON, DC – Student Defense, the Defend Students Action Fund, and Data for Progress released survey results from battleground states today, showing strong public support for aggressive actions to reform higher education, protect students, and hold predatory colleges accountable. The survey found overwhelming bipartisan consensus among likely voters for requiring for-profit colleges to demonstrate their graduates earn enough to pay back their loans, and for holding for-profit college executives personally liable for wrongdoing. The poll also found a tightening race for the presidency, with likely voters in swing states supporting Vice President Joe Biden over President Donald Trump 47-44, with 9 percent undecided.

“These results make clear that people recognize the urgency of fixing higher education, of ensuring that no more students are trapped in debt for worthless degrees, and that we do not condemn another generation to poverty and discrimination,” said Student Defense President Aaron Ament. “The Secretary of Education has the power to make tremendous strides in addressing these vital needs, and Student Defense is working to give the Department what it needs to take action right away.” 

The full polling memos are available here: Election (link) & Policy (link)

Survey highlights among likely voters include:

  • 78% of likely voters, and 80% of Republicans, support the Department of Education holding the owners and executives of predatory for-profit colleges personally liable for fraudulent behavior (Secretary DeVos has hired former for-profit lobbyists and executives as her aides)

  • 65% support forgiving public servants’ federal student loans after 10 years of service (an existing program that Secretary DeVos has illegally sabotaged)

  • 78% support requiring for-profit colleges to show graduating students earn enough to pay back their loans (a requirement known as the Gainful Employment rule, which Student Defense is suing to restore, after DeVos illegally repealed it in 2019). Black and Latino voters in the poll supported the policy by large margins as well, with 71 and 72 percent approving, respectively.

  • Voters are deeply skeptical of for-profit colleges. Thirty-three percent of voters think that they shouldn’t get federal funds at all. Another 26 percent think that for-profit colleges, to qualify for federal funds, should have to prove their graduates are earning enough to repay their loans.

Student Defense also announced the launch of a new initiative, the 100 Day Docket, which will help a future Department of Education take immediate, decisive action to protect students and hold predatory schools accountable. Student Defense is publishing a series of papers identifying opportunities for the Department of Education to exercise underused authorities in the Higher Education Act to promote equity and foster stronger protections and outcomes for students. Papers so far include how the Department can establish robust accountability metrics to require schools to foster equity, how to fix the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, and how to deliver overdue loan relief to over 350,000 disabled borrowers.

More information about the 100 Day Docket is available at: https://www.defendstudents.org/work/100-day-docket/

In addition to the Student Defense team, advisors to the 100 Day Docket include former administration officials with deep experience in implementing protections for students and workers: Anurima Bhargava, former Chief of the Educational Opportunities Section of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice; Saba Bireda,former Senior Counsel in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and the Office of General Counsel; Seth Galanter, former Deputy Assistant Secretary and Acting Assistant Secretary in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights; Jordan Matsudaira, former chief economist for President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers; Seema Nanda, former CEO of the Democratic National Committee, Deputy Solicitor of Labor, and Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of Labor; Raj Nayak, former Deputy Chief of Staff and Deputy Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Labor; and Jacek Pruski, former Associate General Counsel at the U.S. Department of Education, and Deputy Assistant Counsel at the White House.