Higher Education

Access to Higher Education

Workers who receive at least some education after high school are that much more competitive in the job market.  And throughout Senator Murray’s career in the Senate, she has fought to increase access to higher education for all students, and to support colleges and universities. 

Her guiding principle is that federal dollars should go where they are most needed – to students.  As a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, Senator Murray has helped draft and pass several higher education bills to help students, including the Higher Education Opportunity Act (reauthorization of the Higher Education Act), the Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act, and the College Cost Reduction and Access Act.


Higher Education Opportunity Act

In August of 2008, Congress reauthorized the Higher Education Act – also called the Higher Education Opportunity Act – which will help ensure that colleges and universities are accessible, affordable, and accountable.  As a result of the bill and the provisions Senator Murray fought for, the maximum Pell grant was raised, it is now easier to apply for a student loan, and the GEAR UP and TRIO programs have been improved.  Both programs provide a variety of services, including financial support, to help disadvantaged students graduate from high school and earn a postsecondary education.  The new law makes those programs more responsive to the needs of homeless and foster care students.

She was also able to include her University Sustainability Program legislation in the final Higher Education Opportunity Act.  Originally called the Higher Education Sustainability Act, it will help campuses invest in climate-friendly buildings and practices, and help students learn about environmental and clean-energy concepts across all fields of study for a greener future workforce.  


College Cost Reduction and Access Act

Growing up, Senator Murray’s family didn’t have a lot, and it was thanks to Pell Grants and loans that she was able to graduate from Washington State University.  So she knows how important and difficult it can be for a family or student to finance higher education.  She has worked as a member of the Senate HELP Committee to write and pass legislation to help ensure students will have the financial support they need to reach their full academic potential.

The Senator was a strong supporter of provisions within the College Cost Reduction and Access Act that increased funding for Pell Grants, cut Federal student loan interest rates in half, and protected graduates from spending more than 15 percent of their income on loan payments each month.


Preventing Student Loan Discrimination Act

As our economic situation worsened in 2008, several lenders in the Federal Family Education Loan Program began denying access to federally guaranteed loans for students at some technical and community colleges and four-year colleges.  Like many students, college presidents, and student aid officials, Senator Murray is concerned about any trend that limits access to federal student loans.  To help address these concerns, she introduced the Preventing Student Loan Discrimination Act. The bill would ensure that FFELP lenders don’t discriminate against students based on the school they attend, the length of their college program, or their income level, if they are otherwise eligible for federal student loans.