Investing in education truly makes America great

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In this August 27, 2011 file photo, U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D) addresses Austinites at a community event. Doggett will be representing a new congressional district after winning Tuesday’s election.

Photo Credit: The Texas Tribune | Daily Texan Staff

Whether you are learning your way around the 40 Acres or embracing your last year, I have always known Longhorns to work hard, tackle obstacles and give back to our community. This was no different as Hurricane Harvey struck, bringing some of the worst flooding in recent memory. Even so, it brought out what is best about Texas. Many individuals, in addition to first responders, reached out to help their neighbors.

As the next generation of leaders, your commitment to civic involvement is critical. First as UT student body president, and now from Washington, I am working to serve students and make higher education more affordable. We face tough challenges from those who do not support federal aid for public schools or student aid for higher education. I believe an investment in education is critical to truly making America great.

Resisting education cuts 

Higher education offers a high return on every dollar of investment. UT, which attracts students from across the globe, also prepares students to compete globally. As Longhorns, we also know that “What Starts Here Changes the World.” But we will not see this progress if education becomes unaffordable to most. The president has proposed a $9.2 billion dollar cut to education spending, thereby scrapping federal subsidies on student loan interest rates and adding thousands of dollars to the already exorbitant cost of college.

His budget would also harm special education students. It is estimated that school districts receive about $4 billion in Medicaid reimbursements annually — funding that helps pay for healthcare professionals who serve special education students. The Trump budget could jeopardize that funding and cut many education and social services initiatives. While we live in the Lone Star State, Trump’s budget leaves too many vulnerable Texans to go it alone. I will continue to persist and resist his agenda.

Making progress

In order to make college more affordable, I have supported legislation to limit interest rates on federal loans and to provide more Pell Grants. I also authored provisions allowing a tax cut of up to $10,000 on education expenses such as tuition, textbooks and fees. Many students are still too discouraged by the price tag of college to even apply. For many that do apply, they find the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) too complicated to complete. To remove this barrier, I introduced the Equitable Student Aid Access Act to make the FAFSA available earlier, make more students eligible for the full Pell Grant and enable qualifying students to answer fewer questions to complete the already complicated form.

Supporting Dreamers

As students, including many Longhorns, Dreamers make rich contributions to our community and Nation. While Trump wants to deport them to countries they barely know, I believe that our Dreamers’ futures are nonnegotiable. That is why I am sponsoring the DREAM Act, which would provide immediate protection to Dreamers and a pathway to American citizenship.

Get Involved

Throughout your time at UT, I encourage you to remain engaged on campus and in the community. Make your voice heard. I also encourage students to get involved as interns in my Austin, San Antonio, or D.C. offices. As a lifelong Longhorn who grew up a few blocks from campus, received my education and met my wife on campus and was originally elected to represent all University neighborhoods, I am working to serve you.

Doggett represents Texas’s 35th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives. He served as the University of Texas student body president in 1967.