By Christine Prokos
The article below is an excerpt from the Gender Policy Agenda 2020 of the American Association of University Women. The AAUW’s mission is to advance gender equity for women and girls through research, education and advocacy. Generally, the AAUW mission also coincides with the needs of minorities. I like this agenda because it spells out specific ways in which we all can help. Here are the specifics in the area of education:
1. Defend and Strengthen Title IX. Since the passage of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, schools have made significant strides in providing equal access to education. But barriers still exist, particularly for women and under-represented populations. Elected officials must bolster the protections afforded by Title IX and faithfully implement and enforce this vital law.
- Federal: Pass the Hold Accountable and Lend Transparency on Campus Sexual Violence Act, the Patsy T. Mink and Louise M. Slaughter Gender Equity in Education Act, the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act, and advocate against regulatory action seeking to weaken Title IX protections and enforcement.
- State: Enact laws that align with the statutory provisions and intent of Title IX, making it clear and easy for schools to support students in accessing their education.
2. Reduce Student Debt. Women hold two-thirds of the nation’s $1.46 trillion educational debt. Policymakers should protect grant programs, champion tuition- and debt-free options and expand loan forgiveness programs.
- Federal: Protect and expand the Pell Grant Program, make loan repayment and forgiveness programs more accessible to borrowers and address the costs students face beyond tuition by supporting programs like the Child Care Access Means Parents in School program.
- State: Enact loan repayment and forgiveness programs, increase need-based grant aid, and create “promise” programs that cover tuition and non-tuition expenses so the neediest students can succeed.
3. Expand Opportunities for Women and Girls in STEM. Careers in science, technology, engineering and math are rapidly growing, but bias and discrimination inhibit women and girls from pursuing these fields. Lawmakers should help battle implicit and explicit bias by promoting programs that increase women’s participation and advancement in STEM education and careers.
- Federal: Pass the STEM Opportunities Act.
- State: Establish grants and programs that encourage women and minorities to pursue STEM education and training.
Christine Prokos is a member of the Jackson branch of the AAUW. She is grateful for the education opportunities her parents gave her but is acutely aware of, and continues to be shocked at, the inequality of education across Michigan and America. Born to a Republican family, Chris moved further to the left as she realized her values and her politics were at odds. Today she considers herself an independent who carries the flag for Democratic policies and efforts. She created written materials for the last Gretchen Driscoll campaign and has worked on phone banks and called on people door-to-door.