Education: Senator Murray Works to Improve College Access and Affordability

Jun 20 2007

Murray's Committee Passes Bill to Increase Pell Grants, Help Military Service Members, and Assist Homeless and Foster Students

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) helped move forward comprehensive legislation to make college more accessible and affordable for students.  Murray helped draft the Higher Education Access Act of 2007 as a member of the Senate's Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.  The bill passed the committee today with Murray's support, and next heads to the Senate floor for consideration.

"With the cost of college rising, this bill will put higher education in the hands of more students, especially those who face the greatest barriers to a college education," Murray said.  "The only way I was able to attend college was through Pell Grants and students loans, and I've heard from many students across Washington state facing the same challenges. That's why I'm pleased that we're raising Pell Grants by 25 percent and ensuring that loan payments don't become an overwhelming burden to graduates."
The comprehensive bill addresses a wide range of issues.  It raises the maximum Pell Grant by 25 percent over four years to $5,400 per student. It helps ensure that borrowers will not have to pay more than 15 percent of their monthly income in student loan payments.  It encourages public service by providing loan forgiveness for graduates who pursue public service.  The bill helps promote high quality and effective teacher preparation programs for new and prospective teachers and helps high-need schools recruit and retain high quality teachers.  Further, the bill reforms the student loan process so it puts students first, and it improves transparency on college costs and student loans

Help for Military Service Members

Murray successfully worked to help military service members serving in combat or national emergencies defer their student loan payments during their deployments and as they transition out of service.  Currently, the law limits how long service members can defer their payments to just three years.  Murray's proposal lifts this three-year limit and makes more service members eligible.  

Help for Homeless and Foster Students

Murray also worked to improve college access for homeless and foster students. Specifically, Murray helped simplify the student aid application process and made homeless and foster eligible for higher levels of assistance.