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. We face tough challenges from those who oppose student aid for higher education. I believe that an investment in you is an investment in America’s future. Now, more than ever, we need educated leaders like you who can lead our community forward with skill and moral clarity.

As the next generation of leaders, your commitment to civic involvement is critical. I developed a love of public service as UT student body president. Now, from Washington, I am working to ensure other students have the same opportunity by serving students and making higher education more affordable.

WORKING FOR YOU: UT, which attracts students from across the globe, also prepares students to compete globally. As Longhorns, we know that “What starts here changes the world.” But we will not see this progress if education becomes unaffordable to most. As the cost of college continues to skyrocket, we should increase student financial assistance. The Pell Grant, which supports students with the highest financial need, only covers 29 percent of the average cost of attendance at a public four-year university. Yet the President has proposed a $3.8 billion cut to education spending, slashing Federal student aid by $203 billion over 10 years. That move would limit the federal government’s ability to reduce interest on student loans, adding thousands to student debt. I will persist and resist budget cuts to critical funding for education from Pre-K to post-grad.

Every Longhorn relies on an open internet, but there is no guarantee that it will stay that way. With a complete disregard for public opinion, Trump’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman led the repeal of net neutrality rules, allowing the creation of fast lanes for some customers while competitors are forced to use the internet equivalent of a dirt road. As a longtime advocate for an open net for all, I am sponsoring a congressional resolution to override the FCC’s decision. With the support of three Republicans joining all Democrats, the U.S. Senate has already passed this resolution, but Republican leadership continues to block a vote in the House.

MAKING PROGRESS: To make college more affordable, I have supported legislation limiting interest rates on federal loans and to provide more student Pell Grants. I also authored provisions in the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), allowing a tax cut of up to $10,000 on education expenses such as tuition, textbooks and fees. I authored the Equitable Student Aid Access Act to offer the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) available earlier, make more students eligible for the full Pell Grant amount and enable qualifying students to answer fewer questions in completing this overly complex form.

SUPPORTING DREAMERS: Some Longhorns are “Dreamers” — they got to Texas as fast as their parents brought them. They have cleared a criminal background check, paid a fee and are pursuing their studies in the only country most have ever known. As a longtime sponsor of the DREAM Act, I believe that their future must be nonnegotiable. We must reject Trump and his Congressional enablers, who would expose them to deportation to countries they barely know. 

GET INVOLVED: Throughout your time at UT, I encourage you to remain engaged on campus and in the community. Make your voice heard. If there were ever a time for Longhorns to unite and participate in government, it is now! Our very democracy is in peril. We must act together to restore some genuine checks and balances. I hope you each choose to join in making a difference by registering to vote — where you now live, here in Austin — prior to the deadline, Tuesday, Oct. 9. One way to register is by visiting www.Register2Vote.org, which provides a simple registration process. 

I welcome 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, met my wife on campus and was originally elected to represent all University neighborhoods, I am working to serve you.

Congressman Doggett represents Texas’s 35th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.