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WCUPA APSCUF Calls for Student Loan Debt Cancellation

The following statement was approved by unanimous consent of the WCUPA APSCUF Executive Committee, March 29, 2022

APSCUF WCU Student Debt Cancellation Statement

We, the West Chester University chapter of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and Universities Faculties (APSCUF), call on President Joe Biden to cancel all federally held student loan debt.

Student debt is a crisis. Student debt has reached nearly $1.75 Trillion, approximately 92% of which is federally held (US Department of Education, Office of Federal Student Aid). This Trillion dollar burden is shared by over 43 Million borrowers in the United States. The average federal student loan debt balance is $37,113 and the average public university student borrows $30,030 to attain a bachelor’s degree (Education Data Initiative). Student loan debt is preventing people from owning homes (Million Acres, 2021), getting married (Lendkey, 2020), and having children (Student Loan Planner, 2021).

Student debt is an educator crisis. Nearly half of all educators today are forced to take out loans to pay for college. The average educator from K-higher education now carries on average $58,700 in debt. Those with advanced and terminal degrees (such as faculty members) have loan debts far above that average, as 1 in 7 educators owe over $105,000 (NEA, 2021). In higher education, this burden disproportionately impacts adjunct faculty, who are routinely paid less, receive fewer benefits, are often excluded from eligibility for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, and have less stable employment at their institutions.

Student debt is a Pennsylvania crisis.  Pennsylvania graduates carry some of the highest student loan debt in the country. The average student loan debt for the graduating class of 2020 rose to $39, 375, third highest in the nation. A full 64 percent of Pennsylvania college graduates had student loan debt in 2020, (Institute for College Access & Success, 2021). Due to decades of defunding the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education as well as the Commonwealth’s community colleges, Pennsylvania students have borne the burden of these cuts via their student loans.

Student debt is a social justice crisis. Student debt cancellation is a gender equity issue, with 58% of all student loan debt belonging to women. Similarly this crisis greatly affects Black and Latinx college students who are the most likely to use federal loans to pay for school. A full 49.4% of Black students borrow to pay for school with 66% of them expressing regret at having taken out education loans that now seem “unpayable” and “not worth it.” Latinx borrowers report an average of more than $40,000 in student debt. Meanwhile, a third of Latinx students who took on debt didn’t graduate, compared to a fourth of white borrowers, leaving them with more debt and fewer means to pay it off.

With a massive teacher shortage in the Commonwealth, the burden of student loan debt also disproportionately impacts educators of color, who carry far more than their white colleagues. Over half of Black educators, for example, took out an average of $68,300 in loans and a full 1 in 5 owe more than $105,000 (NEA, 2021). Thus, student loan debt is an often-overlooked barrier to diversifying the U.S. teaching workforce in kindergarten through higher education.

Student debt cancellation is possible. President Joe Biden has full executive authority to cancel all federal student debt using his powers of executive order. Canceling student debt is a policy that has broad political and public support, especially here at West Chester University. It is a first, but necessary, step towards remedying the failures in public higher education funding of the past several decades.

In Pennsylvania, and here at West Chester University, canceling student loan debt would provide a huge benefit to the many WCU Alums with student debt, as a full 75% of 2020 WCU Graduates left with an average debt of $37,100 (TICAS). Cancellation would be an enormous economic opportunity for these former students to increase spending in our local communities and be freed of the limitations this debt places on their lives.

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Solidarity with Sheraton Great Valley Housekeepers

Flyer with an image of Unite Here members marching. Text of flyer reads:
Union Picket @ The Sheraton Great Valley!
Workers at the Sheraton Great Valley Hotel Deserve $15 an hour
Saturday, October 30 at 5:15-6pm
Sheraton Great Valley Hotel, Frazier PA

Posted on behalf of Dave Backer

Keeping with our chapter’s commitment to labor struggles in our region, we stand in solidarity with housekeepers at the Sheraton-Great Valley who are fighting for a $15 an hour wage (a $2 increase) with their union UNITE HERE.

The WCUPA APSCUF External Solidarity Committee asks that you join housekeepers this Saturday at 5pm at the hotel to picket for this important demand! Details as follows:

Union Picket at The Sheraton Great Valley Hotel, Frazier, PA
Saturday, October 30 from 5:15pm-6:00pm

For More Information, email kcristiani

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APSCUF Responds to COVID: Status Update 9/7/2021

The WCU Chapter of APSCUF is continuing to work to improve the safety of our members and our community during the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic. Our current actions focus on working with management to improve communications about COVID related issues, and encouraging students, faculty and staff to get vaccinated.

COVID Vaccination Numbers and Dashboard

Updated vaccination numbers, the number of surveillance screening tests of unvaccinated students performed, and the number of these tests that were positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 will be distributed to faculty via email by the end of this week.

Starting next week, ongoing updates about vaccination numbers and other vital statistics about COVID on campus should be available via a campus COVID dashboard. We’ll have further updates about this dashboard soon.

Improving COVID communications at WCU

APSCUF continues to work with the administration to improve how crucial information about the pandemic and pandemic related policy are communicated with the community. We’re working with management to clarify the COVID policies published on the “Rams Return” website. Later this week, we’ll launch a survey to gather more information about your satisfaction with current COVID policy.

Scholarship Opportunities for Vaccinated Students

The APSCUF Executive Committee has approved two new $2,000 scholarships to encourage student vaccinations. These scholarships are in addition to the scholarships already announced by WCU. Students who are receive a COVID-19 vaccination via the forthcoming on-campus vaccine clinic will be entered into a drawing to win one of these two scholarships. More details about the vaccine clinic will be available shortly.


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Some ways we can help alleviate the parking problems on campus

As a result of the difficult parking situations around campus the first week of class, some APSCUF members and leaders have been compiling some options to help alleviate the the problem should it continue further into the semester. Kudos to WCU leadership for starting two new programs: a ride-sharing/carpooling app; and the Uptown Loop with a route that circulates around much of downtown West Chester.

Please understand that we’re not telling people we think you shouldn’t drive to campus. We’re offering alternatives for people who have some flexibility to help reduce parking pressure for other people who don’t.

We’re continuing to explore options and will publicize them as we can, but for starters:

WCU Ride-Sharing Info: This link takes you to a page where you can search for drivers or passengers in your area who you might carpool with; it can also quickly get you to information about mass trans options and more.

WCU Uptown Loop: The link takes you the page that lists all the shuttles; click “Uptown/East Campus Loop” to get to PDFs of the route and the schedule. Click HERE for a version of the route map with notes appended to it about available parking. If you don’t see big yellow text boxes, click the icons that look like this:

Screen Shot 2018-09-02 at 10.43.03 AM.png

Information about spaces will pop up. Keep in mind that almost all of those parking areas are in residential neighborhoods, so please respect that–don’t get too close to driveways; don’t pack in too much; simple etiquette.

As you make use of these alternatives, if you feel comfortable, take a selfie of your and your group. We’d like to collect images of faculty using these alternatives! Send them to Seth at; or post them to social media, tagging APSCUF if you like.

Thanks to everybody who already contributed info/ideas on social media and by email. Let us know if you have other ideas or know other parking possibilities we can add to the list. You can add ideas or other information in the comments below. In hopes we don’t need them, it’s still better to have them.

Here’s to a happy and productive new semester!

Dave Backer, APSCUF-WCU External Organizing Committee Chair

Seth Kahn, APSCUF-WCU Mobilization Committee Co-Chair


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“How can I help?”

As we come back from the break that (I hope) allowed us to recover after last semester’s intensity, I think it’s important for us as a union to reconnect to that feeling we had in mid-October–especially the Friday the strike ended. Those last couple of hours, when we knew, we could feel in our bones that it was almost over, were as powerful as anything I’ve ever been part of.

Among many important realizations I’ve come to as I’ve been able to think carefully about the strike, here’s the one I want to highlight the most given the turbulent political scene we’re walking back into–

During the strike, I heard virtually nobody say, “The union needs to _____.” Instead, I heard dozens of people ask, “How can I help?”

If you think the union should be doing something we aren’t, then let’s talk about how to make it happen. The likelihood of success, as we learned in October, goes up exponentially when we do the work together.

So next time you feel yourself starting to tell “the union” what “they” should do, take just a second before you do and ask, “How can I help do that?” Your odds of seeing positive results go up. The sense that we’re all working together gets maintained. The number of people participating in the daily practices of being a union goes up.

Remember what it felt like when we won? We can’t feel exactly like that all the time, but we can be in solidarity, feel the trust and care we showed on the lines, all the time. Ask what you can do to help. Then do it.


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Filed under APSCUF, Collective Bargaining, Strike, strike preparations, Uncategorized, Unions

Reflecting on the Strike

Spent much of today reading and writing about strike experiences with APSCUF siblings on Facebook. This piece was in an email, and it’s said so beautifully that I wanted to share it with everybody who reads the blog. What the writer doesn’t tell you is how willingly she gave hour after hour after hour doing any and everything that I or anyone else asked, and knowing what needed doing even when nobody else did.

With permission from Tina Chiarelli-Helminiak:

Over the past week, I had the great opportunity to witness amazing union solidarity, in addition to superb community organizing.  I am in awe of the support from our students, their parents, and so many others. 
I also had a unique vantage point as I may be the only person who visited every picket site on the West Chester campus as well as the Philadelphia campus location.  Each picket site had its own personality!  From the street party in Philly to the athletic training on South campus, to the few but strong on Carter Drive, to the festival in front of Philips to the jokesters on New St (how many PhDs does it take to set up an EZ-Up?!?).  I am so very fortunate to have served as witness to these scenes.
The preparations leading up to and the three days on strike provided us, as educators, with the opportunity to model for our students what it looks like to advocate for social and economic justice and workers’ rights.  We put into practice some of the very skills we attempt to teach in the classroom.  We also modeled the importance for advocating for ourselves.  Yet, this opportunity was more than anything that I, personally, could have taught my students inside the classroom.
During our 3 days on strike I missed classes, office hours, meetings, and a whole lot of sleep.  But during our 67 hours on strike I gained so much more!  I have never been more proud to be an alumnus and faculty member of the PA state system.  I am even more committed to my union. 
So, in sum, thank you for being a part of this process.  I am forever your colleagues, your fan, your friend, and your union sister.
🙂 Tina Chiarelli-Helminiak, MSW, PhD
 Assistant Professor
 Graduate Social Work Department
Proud product of public education from HeadStart to PhD

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Dear Chancellor Brogan

Chancellor Brogan:

Given the fact that I’ve been urging faculty and students to contact you for about two months, it’s ironic that I’m only now writing to you myself. However, as I was prepping a session for my “Literature of the Enlightenment” class on the Declaration of Independence, I was struck by its characterization of oppressed people trying to free themselves from an unjust government. Even more, I was struck by how it was a last effort by a group of people to get an authority figure, George III of England, to come to a fair agreement with them.

Though I don’t want to push the analogy between the colonists and our current contract negotiations too far (analogies are always tricky), I think parts of it are apt here. The colonists considered themselves on the same team as King George: they thought of themselves as British. We hope that the PASSHE Chancellor and the PASSHE faculty have the same goals: success for our students. Colonists had tried to work out their differences with the government in Britain, such as asking for representation in Parliament and resenting oppressive measures from afar, but each attempt was met with inaction and disdain: “Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated Injury.” Further, King George had stalled the colonists, “for the sole Purpose of fatiguing them into Compliance with his Measures.” Sadly, faculty feel similarly.

They began to set deadlines, which the King ignored. Your state faculty find themselves in the same position: our contract provides deadlines, and you have ignored them, as faculty have been ready to negotiate at least a year before our contract expired. Faculty tell students they must meet deadlines all the time. Our institutions kick students out if they miss certain or too many deadlines. So the other irony of our current situation is that you are insisting that students do something that you have not done yourself. Students are suffering because those who should know better are not meeting basic professional responsibilities.

Tomorrow, a huge deadline approaches. You have the fate of our state system “nation” in your hands. Will you negotiate fairly? Will you provide a reasonable, fair contract that does not take away governance from faculty and treats them all equally, with dignity and respect?

The faculty’s declaration is clear: we are standing up for our students, our colleagues, and the future of the state system of higher education. We hope that you will do the same.

Cheryl Wanko

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Staying Focused

Like many of you, I saw late yesterday (or early this morning, depending on how avidly you follow your email/social media) the news that APSCUF and the State System have agreed to a news embargo. I want very much to find that a hopeful sign.

On the other hand, the reality is that in terms of the likelihood of a Wednesday strike declaration, we don’t know anything we didn’t know yesterday, or the day before that, or the day before that.

We can hope that the sides are making progress quickly enough to avoid a strike declaration, but we cannot let that hope make us lose our resolve to be on the lines Wednesday morning if that’s what our leadership decides.

Stay focused, y’all, and trust the process.

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From a supportive WCU-APSCUF member:

“If we strike, I will be on the line partly for my own interests, of course, but mostly on behalf of my colleagues. My dual-income household means that I am in the incredibly fortunate position of being able to weather a strike financially, and that makes it even more important for me to take part in the strike.  I have a buffer. I can be visible and loud and persistent and not worry about how we’ll pay our bills. It’s my OBLIGATION to myself, my colleagues both at WCU and across PASSHE, and my students to show up on the picket line and fight for fairness and respect.    I know how worried my colleagues are — especially junior colleagues and adjuncts, but associate & full professors too. I know how much some of them will struggle  without a paycheck. I am prouder than I can say that they were among the first to sign up to picket, that local folks are scheduling parking shifts in their driveways, and that we are taking note of thinly scheduled shifts and offering to cover those times.    What I’m getting at is this: can we somehow highlight positive testimonies about why we’re supporting the strike? Do you think that it would help? I’d be glad to sign my name to my words, but we could offer an anonymous option too…  I’m trying to listen to my better angels here rather than encourage exposure of faculty who are threatening their peers if they strike. I still can’t wrap my head around that.     If it’s useful, you may share this email. I don’t know if my idea has merit, but I’d like to think that we could counter these rumors — and perhaps convert some undecided colleagues — with a show of unity and positivity.   Thank you for all of your work!


Gabrielle Halko

Yes, Gabrielle, what a great idea!  Faculty, please send your positive testimonies about the strike to and I will post them on the blog as they come in.  Please indicate whether you want your name printed or if you wish to remain anonymous.  

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Good News from Chicago

In my inbox this morning–

Screen Shot 2016-10-11 at 8.21.59 AM.png

Congratulations to CTU for reaching a tentative agreement with a School Board that has been under the control of a career politician whose ideas about education are dangerously misinformed (foreshadowing, anyone?).

As we head into our last week of preparations for the looming strike set to begin October 19, the CTU settlement offers two important lessons for us.

  1. We’re fighting for quality, not for our personal enrichment or greed. The 2012 CTU strike provided the model by which teacher unions at all levels win strikes–by being clear about what’s at stake. Yes, our compensation matters to us, and we have to fight back against the “greedy teacher” trope, but the heart of the matter is our ability to work as professionals without having to fight off the wrong-headed (if not more insidiously dishonest) proposals of educational deformers who don’t have a clue what they’re talking about–and who don’t have to live the consequences of their bad thinking. In Chicago, those proposals were for increased class sizes, reduced funding for arts and even physical education, and a wide array of union-busting moves designed to de-professionalize teaching including evaluation regimens that are so meaningless it’s hard even to explain why the math is wrong and tons of similar examples.
  2. It’s possible to face down politicos whose agenda is anti-public-education if we stand strong against them. In Chicago, it’s Rahm Emanuel, a quasi-liberal education deform advocate who was elected Mayor in 2011. His (anti-) education agenda is well-documented. Obviously, in PA it’s Chancellor Brogan, who (and this may be the nicest thing I ever say about him) at least has a couple of years of classroom (sure, it’s fifth-grade, not college, but still) experience on his resumé. But his ideas about how to “reform” the state system are equally reckless and dangerous, and like Emanuel, he has no real stake in the outcome except how the narrative serves his political ambitions.

And that’s why, as we approach October 19, we must remember these two simple points.

We know more about what our students and our system needs to succeed than somebody who has never done our job or even thought much about it.

We’re a lot more committed to the success and well-being of our students and our system than the person who’s letting tax payers give him $345,000/year to do nothing that discernibly helps anyone in the system learn or teach more successfully. 

Just being right isn’t enough. Neither is being convinced that we’re right. We have to stand together, on picket lines if that’s what it comes to–and send the message loud and clear that we’re not greedy or lazy, and we’re not “teaching machines”; we’re hard-working people who know what we’re doing, and what the Chancellor wants is wrong for everyone who can’t jump ship whenever he feels like it. We have to push back against a politician who knows almost nothing about higher education so he doesn’t get to sell out 100,000 students, 6000 faculty/coaches, and thousands more staff and workers, for his personal political ambitions.



Filed under APSCUF, Collective Bargaining, Office of the Chancellor, PASSHE, Privatization, strike preparations, Teacher unions, Uncategorized