02.24.15

Murray on Higher Ed: Expand Access, Reduce Crushing Student Loan Burden, and Ensure a Safe Learning Environment

Murray: “When students are deciding where to attend, they should have the tools to find out if their college or university will give them a good return on their investment and hard work.”

Murray calls for more work to ensure a safe learning environment on campus

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered remarks at a HELP Committee hearing: Recalibrating Regulation of Colleges and Universities: A Report from the Task Force on Government Regulation of Higher Education. In her remarks, Murray warned against rolling back critical protections for students, faculty, and families, such as those designed to ensure students have a learning environment free from violence or sexual assault, hold institutions accountable for the federal tax dollars they receive, and give students and families important consumer information about colleges and universities. Murray highlighted that higher education is crucial part of helping families gain a foothold in the middle class. She also called for a bipartisan process to reauthorize the Higher Education Act to reduce the crushing burden of student debt and ensure all hardworking Americans have the opportunity that comes with a quality college education.

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks:

“Higher education and training was critical for my family to succeed and ensure we had a foothold into the middle class. And I continue to believe it is a crucial part of building an economy that works for all families, not just the wealthiest few. So in my new role as Ranking Member on this Committee, I’m going to continue to focus on making sure students have access to a college education and safe learning environments.  I’ll be looking for ways to make college more affordable. And I’ll be working to reduce the crushing burden of student debt that limits so many families across this country.”

“Of course it’s important to make sure colleges and universities can work efficiently and effectively. And I am open to ways to improve our rulemaking process. At the same time, it would be a mistake to roll back important protections for faculty, students, and families.”

“We should also be improving our current protections. Right now, families and students aren’t able to access basic – but essential – consumer information on their college or university, like useful graduation and transfer rates, average student debt, or expected earnings. When students are deciding where to attend, they should have the tools to find out if their college or university will give them a good return on their investment and hard work. They have a right to know before they go.”

“I’m very focused on making sure students have a safe learning environment, especially when it comes to preventing violence and sexual assault on campus. Both the Clery Act and Title IX work to build safer campuses and protect students. Last year, important strides were made through the Violence Against Women Act that will help prevent crimes like stalking, domestic violence, and dating violence on campus. We shouldn’t move in the wrong direction by unraveling these core protections that provide students with a safe learning environment. And in fact, we need to build on our work, because all students have the right to further their education without the fear of sexual assault.”

“Here on this Committee, I look forward to working with Chairman Alexander and our Committee members over the next several months to reauthorize the Higher Education Act in a bipartisan way, so we can make sure hard working Americans – regardless of where they live, where they went to school, where and if their parents went to college, or how much money they make – can continue to have access to the opportunities that my family did.”

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. This is our first hearing on higher education, and I’m glad to begin our conversations on this topic.

“Higher education and job training is critical to ensuring the economic strength of our middle class. I personally know this to be true because I saw it with my own family.

“When I was 15, my father was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Within a few short years, he could no longer work, and without warning my family had fallen on hard times. But because of strong federal investments, my siblings and I got a good public education. And we were able to afford college with the help of Pell Grants and other federal aid programs.

“Higher education and training was critical for my family to succeed and ensure we had a foothold into the middle class. And I continue to believe it is a crucial part of building an economy that works for all families, not just the wealthiest few.

“So in my new role as Ranking Member on this Committee, I’m going to continue to focus on making sure students have access to a college education and safe learning environments.  I’ll be looking for ways to make college more affordable. And I’ll be working to reduce the crushing burden of student debt that limits so many families across this country.

“Today, we’ll be discussing the recent report from the Task Force on Federal Regulation of Higher Education. I want to thank Senators Alexander, Burr, Mikulski, and Bennet for spearheading the creation of this Task Force. I’m also glad the two co-chairs of the Task Force could join us today to discuss their findings and recommendations.

“I’m also looking forward to our next hearing that will bring in the voices of students and more diverse types of institutions that provide postsecondary opportunities.

“At colleges and universities, we need to make sure: students and families have accurate consumer information, that students have a safe learning environment, and that the 150 billion in federal taxpayer dollars we invest in these institutions each year are well spent.

“Of course it’s important to make sure colleges and universities can work efficiently and effectively. And I am open to ways to improve our rulemaking process. At the same time, it would be a mistake to roll back important protections for faculty, students, and families.

“We should also be improving our current protections. Right now, families and students aren’t able to access basic – but essential – consumer information on their college or university, like useful graduation and transfer rates, average student debt, or expected earnings.

“When students are deciding where to attend, they should have the tools to find out if their college or university will give them a good return on their investment and hard work. They have a right to know before they go. So I was glad to see the report shine a light on the need to improve the federal data systems we have.

“Today, more and more students and families are dealing with the crushing burden of student debt. Colleges and universities should be accountable for high-quality outcomes that don’t leave students with debt they struggle to repay.

“The report highlights the need to focus our ‘rules of the road’ on risky institutions, and I welcome our witnesses’ suggestions in this area.

“Finally, as I mentioned, I’m very focused on making sure students have a safe learning environment, especially when it comes to preventing violence and sexual assault on campus. Both the Clery Act and Title IX work to build safer campuses and protect students.

“Last year, important strides were made through the Violence Against Women Act that will help prevent crimes like stalking, domestic violence, and dating violence on campus.

“We shouldn’t move in the wrong direction by unraveling these core protections that provide students with a safe learning environment. And in fact, we need to build on our work, because all students have the right to further their education without the fear of sexual assault.

“Here on this Committee, I look forward to working with Chairman Alexander and our Committee members over the next several months to reauthorize the Higher Education Act in a bipartisan way, so we can make sure hard working Americans – regardless of where they live, where they went to school, where and if their parents went to college, or how much money they make – can continue to have access to the opportunities that my family did.

“I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”

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