05.06.15

Murray Outlines Principles for Higher Ed, Calls for Better Information on College Options for Students

Murray calls for clear and consistent information to help students navigate college options

Murray: “Expanding access to higher education couldn’t be more important for students who want to gain a foothold into the middle class.”

(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 on Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: The Role of Consumer Information in College Choice. In her opening statement, Murray highlighted how a lack of clear and consistent consumer data makes it difficult for students to navigate college options, and explained that the current system to collect this data should be improved as Congress works to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA).

Murray also outlined her principles for reauthorizing HEA, including making college more affordable, strengthening protections so students have access to a safe learning environment, ensuring all students have clear pathways into and through higher education, and reducing the crushing burden of student debt.

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks:

“Access to quality and affordable higher education is important for students. And it is also a crucial part of building an economy that works for all families, not just the wealthiest few.  And a highly educated workforce is good for our country. It strengthens the middle class, and it strengthens the workforce we’ll need to compete in the 21st century global economy. I believe we should be working on ways to help more students earn their degree and gain a foothold into the middle class.”

“There are a few broad themes that I’m going to be fighting for throughout our work to reauthorize HEA.  For one, we need to reduce the crushing burden of student debt. Making college more affordable will be a central part of what I focus on throughout any discussion on higher education.”

“I believe all students should have access to a safe learning environment. So, strengthening protections for students and preventing sexual violence, assault, and bullying on campus is a priority.”

“We need our education system to work seamlessly for students from the cradle through to their career. And more students – from all walks of life – should have strong, clear pathways into and through higher education.”

“The lack of clear and consistent consumer data can make it difficult for students and families to navigate college options.  It can be especially difficult if you’re a first generation student or a student from a low-income background, where your pathway to higher education isn’t as well-worn.”

“In reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, we have the opportunity to improve and streamline the current system, so instead of the illusion of choice – students will have meaningful information to help them make an informed decision. And that’s something I will be pushing for.”

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks:

“Thank you all for being here. And I want to thank our witnesses, as well.

“I believe it is important to give students a strong voice at the table as we create federal policy.

“I’m so glad Taleah Mitchell could join us today from Washington state. Taleah, I’m looking forward to your testimony on your experience of going back to school and navigating the options of furthering your education.

“Over the past several months, this Committee has primarily been focused on fixing the badly broken No Child Left Behind law.  We were able to break through the partisan gridlock, work together, and reach a bipartisan compromise. And I was proud that we passed our bill out of committee with unanimous support.

“We still have work to do on that piece of legislation. But now that we have cleared the committee process, we’ll be able to focus more of our attention on reauthorizing the Higher Education Act. 

“Access to quality and affordable higher education is important for students. And it is also a crucial part of building an economy that works for all families, not just the wealthiest few.

“And a highly educated workforce is good for our country. It strengthens the middle class, and it strengthens the workforce we’ll need to compete in the 21st century global economy. I believe we should be working on ways to help more students earn their degree and gain a foothold into the middle class. 

“There are a few broad themes that I’m going to be fighting for throughout our work to reauthorize HEA.

“For one, we need to reduce the crushing burden of student debt. Making college more affordable will be a central part of what I focus on throughout any discussion on higher education. 

“I believe all students should have access to a safe learning environment. So, strengthening protections for students and preventing sexual violence, assault, and bullying on campus is a priority.

“We need our education system to work seamlessly for students from the cradle through to their career. And more students – from all walks of life – should have strong, clear pathways into and through higher education.  That’s at the heart of what we’ll be discussing today.

“We’ll be discussing the role of consumer information in choosing between college options. But postsecondary options are only truly valuable if students and families have access to the information that helps them make the best decision for them, their careers, and their future.

“The lack of clear and consistent consumer data can make it difficult for students and families to navigate college options.  It can be especially difficult if you’re a first generation student or a student from a low-income background, where your pathway to higher education isn’t as well-worn.

“And let’s remember, the profile of a typical college student today is quite different than 10 years ago. So-called non-traditional students have become the new norm.  They are more likely to be the first in their family to go to college.  And before they enroll, they often already have a good idea of how they want to advance their careers.

“But right now, families and students aren’t able to access basic – but essential – consumer information on their program, college, or university. And in some cases, colleges have even put out false information, misleading students about their job placement prospects.

“When students are deciding where to attend, they should be able to easily see accurate information on: how much they will pay and borrow, the amount they’ll earn if they complete their degree, and their chances of succeeding.

“Recently, I received a letter from a diverse group of organizations – from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to Young Invincibles and New America – focusing on how we can improve this consumer information.  They pointed out that the current restrictions on student data are unnecessary and outdated.

“And they all agree that the federal government has an important role to play in collecting and reporting clear and consistent data about postsecondary education to promote student success.

“In reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, we have the opportunity to improve and streamline the current system, so instead of the illusion of choice – students will have meaningful information to help them make an informed decision. And that’s something I will be pushing for.

“I’m looking forward to hearing from our panel today on how to strengthen students’ pathways to higher education, so they complete their degrees and how to ensure our system can work seamlessly for all students. Because expanding access to higher education couldn’t be more important for students who want to gain a foothold into the middle class.

“I want to once again thank our witnesses for being here. And I look forward to your testimony.”

###