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Congressman DeFazio has long believed that it is incumbent upon the federal government to invest in our students and schools as states struggle to provide adequate K-12 funding and affordable higher education opportunities. Quality education creates sound building blocks for future generations, yet recent trends indicate American students are falling behind their foreign counterparts in nearly all subjects.

Major Accomplishments

DeFazio Scholarships

DeFazio understands the importance of higher education and he could not have attended college without the assistance of financial aid. This is why he established a scholarship fund for dislocated workers at five community colleges in southwest Oregon. In order to fund these scholarships, DeFazio has consistently refused congressional pay increases and, instead, used them to benefit Oregonians. As of the end of 2019, DeFazio contributed $380,421 of after-tax salary toward 278 scholarships and debt reduction. He counts these scholarships among his proudest accomplishments.

In addition to his scholarships, Congressman DeFazio has been a consistent supporter of federal higher education programs such as Pell grants, federal work study, and student loan forgiveness, which helps make college more affordable.

Higher Education

DeFazio understands the need for the federal government to ensure students have affordable access to a higher education, whether that be a certificate or trade program, community college, or a four-year university. 

Rep. DeFazio strongly supports efforts that would allow tens of millions of Americans to refinance their student loans, and supports lowering student loan interest rates to the same low interest rates that big Wall Street banks get. The federal government should be investing in students, not making a profit off of them. DeFazio also supported the Income-based Repayment program, which gives graduates a flexible repayment system to avoid default. Each Congress, DeFazio introduces his own package of higher education legislation, the Helping Individuals Get a Higher Education while Reducing Education Debt (HIGHER ED) Act and the Achieving Independence through Degrees (AID) Act.

The HIGHER ED Act would provide much-needed relief to student loan borrowers overwhelmed by student debt. For example, the HIGHER ED Act would allow borrowers more time to focus on their futures, their families, their trades, and their careers by raising the minimum salary requirements for borrowers to begin making payments on their loans. It would also allow student borrowers to refinance at lower rates, cap monthly payments at 10 percent of one’s discretionary income, and forgive any remaining debt after 20 years. 

DeFazio is also a strong supporter of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF), which allows public servants such as military members, teachers, firefighters, police officers, postal workers, and more the opportunity to have the remaining balance of their federal student loans forgiven after 10 years of service. His HIGHER ED Act would improve the PSLF program and allow borrowers to have 50 percent of their debt forgiven after five years of service and all debt after 10. It would also simplify the application and certification process and correct flaws and loopholes that have prevented approximately ninety-nine percent of all public servants who have applied from receiving the loan forgiveness they have earned and been promised. 

In addition, DeFazio’s AID Act would reduce barriers to higher education by improving college affordability and accessibility. It would strengthen and improve access to Pell grants, including increasing the maximum Pell Grant award to reflect the average cost of in-state tuition, and it would prevent the Pell Grant from losing its purchasing power over time by indexing it to inflation. It would also expand Pell Grants to cover short-term workforce training programs of at least 150 hours or eight weeks at accredited institutions, in order to create new job opportunities for Oregonians looking to strengthen their position in the labor market. The AID Act would also expand Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility for students, simplify the process for applying for federal student aid, and increase funding for and reform the Federal Work-Study and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant programs to ensure that more funds go to students with the most need. 

Career and Technical Education

DeFazio is a staunch supporter of workforce readiness, vocational, and career and technical education (CTE) programs. He believes that robust funding and support for CTE is critical for ensuring that Oregon students are prepared for high-skill, high-wage, high-demand jobs in the 21st century.

DeFazio has strongly supported reauthorization of and improvements to the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Actthe primary federal funding source for high schools and colleges to provide career training and occupational skills development programs for students. DeFazio has consistently fought for CTE funding through Perkins grants and other avenues that benefit Oregon students, and every year he joins his colleagues in urging robust funding for Perkins grants.

DeFazio has also proposed legislation to expand Pell Grants to cover short-term workforce training programs of at least 150 hours or eight weeks at accredited institutions, in order to create new job opportunities for Oregonians looking to strengthen their position in the labor market.

Early Childhood Development

Congressman DeFazio has been a strong supporter of increasing federal funding levels and federal resources to Pre-K programs, such as Head Start. Early childhood education, nutrition, health care and family support services are critical for our nation's youth. Often these programs are not just about schooling, they are about meeting the needs of young children and their families. 

Moreover, it is clear to DeFazio that wages have remained flat while the cost of childcare has skyrocketed. There is a clear lack of access to affordable, high-quality childcare. That’s why DeFazio has cosponsored legislation to ensure universal, affordable access to childcare for working families across the nation. 

K-12 and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

DeFazio has always supported funding for our schools and continues to fight for increased investment in public education. He believes public school decisions should be left to local schools because they know more about the individual needs of their students than the federal government. 

DeFazio has long advocated fixing the Elementary and Secondary Education Reauthorization Act, commonly referred to as No Child Left Behind. When the federal government imposes mandates on local schools, then the federal government should follow through on promised funding to fulfill those mandates. That’s why DeFazio voted for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which returned power over standardized testing and education plans back to the states, and replaced counterproductive accountability systems with commonsense standards. The ESSA also protected funding for low-income schools and ensured that minority and disadvantaged students were accounted for in measuring student success. 

DeFazio has also championed federal funding for school construction and modernization. He is a champion of the Rebuild America’s Schools Act – legislation that would provide robust investment to rebuild and modernize our nation’s crumbling school infrastructure. He supports the inclusion of these funds as part of job creation legislation. 

In addition, DeFazio has long advocated for providing robust funding for Title I and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) programs to support Oregon’s highest-need schools and students, including expanding access to special education in public schools. Over the years the federal government has deeply underfunded Title I, and it has never met the promise it made in IDEA to fund 40 percent of the average per pupil expenditure for special education. 

DeFazio believes the continued lack of full federal funding for Title I and IDEA is unacceptable and unfair to our public schools, who are already straining from severe budget cuts. Fulfilling the federal government’s funding pledges would go a long way toward freeing up our schools’ budgets so they are able to tackle other important needs, such as enhancing teacher recruitment and pay, reducing class sizes, supporting music and arts classes, and much more. That’s why DeFazio supports legislation to establish a glidepath for Congress to fulfill its promise of fully funding these programs. 

More on Education

Sep 23, 2021 Press Release

Today, Congressman Peter DeFazio and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo announced that the Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is awarding a $2.75 million grant to Southwestern Oregon Community College, Coos Bay, Oregon, to support the renovation and modernization of existing instructional space. This EDA project, to be matched with $2.75 million in local funds, is expected to create 127 jobs, retain 314 jobs, and generate $160,000 in private investment.

Aug 27, 2021 Press Release

Congressman DeFazio (OR-04) yesterday toured the new Umpqua Hall Health and Science Building at Southwestern Oregon Community College.

May 8, 2020 Press Release

Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR-04) today called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to provide long-term financial relief for students by including student debt cancellation in the next coronavirus relief package.

Feb 4, 2020 Press Release

Rep. Peter DeFazio today released the following statement in response to President Trump’s State of the Union address:

Jun 5, 2019 Press Release

Congressman Peter DeFazio today introduced the HIGHER ED and AID Acts, two pieces of legislation aimed at making it easier for students to attend and pay for higher education.

Apr 18, 2018 Press Release

Congressman Peter DeFazio today introduced the HIGHER ED and AID Acts, two pieces of legislation aimed at making it easier for students to attend and pay for higher education.

Sep 29, 2016 Press Release

This week Rep. Peter DeFazio introduced the Helping Improve Grants for Higher Education & Repayment of Expensive Debt (HIGHER ED) Act, a bill that will make college more affordable for students nationwide.

The major feature of the bill would help borrowers repay their student loans by raising the minimum annual salary required before they have to begin to pay back their loans under income-driven repayment plans.

Sep 23, 2016 Press Release

Rep. Peter DeFazio today led a bipartisan letter to House Leadership with fifty-one other Representatives urging Congress to reauthorize full funding for the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) Program for FY2016.

The Secure Rural Schools program was created to help timber-dependent counties after changes in federal timber policy dramatically reduced timber receipts to rural communities across the United States. Today, the SRS program provides financial support for municipal services such as law enforcement, infrastructure and education.

May 1, 2015 Press Release

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) will be in Eugene Monday, May 4, leading a rally to oppose fast track trade authority for President Obama and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.  Later he will lead a discussion with University of Oregon students about the student debt crisis. Event details follow:


WHAT:          Rally to Stop Fast Track

WHEN:          12:00 Noon to 12:30 PM, Monday, May 4, 2015

WHERE:       Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza