News Releases

Murray: “It’s time to make college more affordable and make sure students can graduate without the crushing burden of student debt.”
 
Alex from Covington, WA: “I don’t know if I’ll ever overcome the crippling college debt.”
 
Sen. Murray encourages more WA students and families to share their stories on new tool launched last week
 
 

 

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, spoke on the Senate floor, calling on her colleagues to work to find solutions on college affordability and the student debt crisis. After launching a new tool last week to gather stories from students and families struggling with student debt in Washington state and across the country, she has heard from hundreds of individuals and families whose lives are affected by crushing student debt.   

 

“With skyrocketing college costs, we’re sending the message that college is reserved for the wealthiest few – not for middle-class families and those who want to get there. And that’s unacceptable.” Senator Murray said. “It’s time to make college more affordable and make sure students can graduate without the crushing burden of student debt.”

 

More than 41 million Americans owe a total of $1.3 trillion in outstanding student loan debt, more than credit cards or auto loans. In Washington state, the average college graduate owes $24,804, up from $17,415 ten years ago, according to the Institute for College Access & Success.

 

Senator Murray’s full remarks as prepared are below:

 

“Thank you, M. President. Last week, I asked students and families to share with me their experiences with student loans and college affordability. And I want to start by sharing one of those stories. It’s from a young woman named Rebeckah from Washington state.

 

“When she was 18, Rebeckah signed up for student loans so she could go to college. And her parents took out what are called PLUS loans to help their daughter afford it. Rebeckah worked hard in college and graduated with her degree. But now, she’s facing a mountain of student debt. And that’s preventing her and her partner from buying a house and starting a family.

 

“Not only that, Rebeckah found out that her parents have been taking money out of their retirement savings to pay off their PLUS loans. And they’ve even resorted to taking a lien out on their home to pay down the debt. Rebeckah said when she enrolled in college, she was sure that getting a good education would pay off. But now, with all of the overwhelming student debt, it feels like she signed her family up for financial ruin.

 

“I hear stories like Rebeckah’s, and it is so clear that college costs and student debt are holding families back. I consider it to be one of my most important jobs as a Senator to make sure Washington state families have a seat at the table and a voice in our nation’s capital. And, on an issue as important as this, I’m going to make sure their voices are heard loud and clear in Congress.

 

“I am going to continue to work with my fellow Democrats on ways to make college more affordable. And I am going to keep fighting to reduce the crushing burden of student debt for families in Washington state and across the country.

 

“M. President, today, the yearly costs of tuition, room, and board at a public, four-year institution is five and a half times what it was in the early 80s. There are many reasons why college has gotten more and more expensive. But the result has been the same.

 

“It has strained the budgets of middle-class families across the country. In some cases, it prevents some students from applying. And it forces many others to drop out before they earn their degree.  

 

“With skyrocketing college costs, we’re sending the message that college is reserved for the wealthiest few – not for middle-class families and those who want to get there. And that’s unacceptable. And on student debt, we’ve all heard the numbers.

 

“Overall, Americans hold more than $1.3 trillion in student loan debt. That’s a huge number. It’s actually a little hard to wrap your head around. So let’s try this: Every second that goes by, student debt in our country grows by nearly $3,000. That’s every second.

 

“And behind those numbers are people who invested in themselves by furthering their education, but are now saddled with debt, preventing them from buying a home or starting a small business.

 

“A young man from Washington state named Alex told me his income barely covers his monthly expenses – let alone paying down his student loans. He said he feels financially stagnant because, “I don’t know if I’ll ever overcome the crippling college debt.”

 

“I’m glad that Democrats have a plan to help students and families who are in the red. When more students are able to further their education, it doesn’t just help them. A highly educated workforce helps our economy grow from the middle out, not the top down. And it strengthens the workforce we’ll need to compete and lead the world in the 21st century economy.

 

“That’s why Democrats want to give students the chance to attend community college, tuition free. Of course, many students and families take out student loans to help them finance higher education. But some are locked in with a high interest rate.

 

“Today, you can find offers to refinance your mortgage at 3.5 percent. You can refinance your car loan for around 3.2 percent. But I’ve heard from so many borrowers who are paying an interest rate that’s twice that – and some are paying much more.

 

“So, Democrats want to make sure borrowers can refinance their student loans to today’s lower rates. We also want to hold institutions of higher education accountable for providing a high-quality degree, so students have confidence that the education they receive will help them get ahead.

 

“And Democrats want to increase investments in need-based aid, like Pell Grants, so they keep up with the rising cost of college. It’s been just one week since I began asking student and families to submit their stories online.  And I want to hear from many, many more.

 

“Because I knew there are so many people out there who are struggling. But I must admit, I was taken aback by the constant theme that showed up in so many of their experiences. In story after story, people said that they feel hopeless. That they feel buried under their student debt. And that they see no end in sight. It shouldn’t have to be this way. Democrats are offering solutions. And I sincerely hope Republicans will join us.

 

“For me, this isn’t just another issue. It’s personal. When I was young, 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. My brothers and sisters and I were able to afford college with the help of Pell Grants. And my mom was able to get the skills she needed to get a better paying job through a worker training program at Lake Washington Vocational School.

 

“This country never turned its back on us. And today, we can’t turn our backs on the millions of families, just like mine, who need a path forward to pay back their student debt. Who want to stay in school to finish their degree, even as the cost keeps going up. Who want to one day be able to save up, so their kids can afford pursue their dreams.

 

“It’s time to make college more affordable and make sure students can graduate without the crushing burden of student debt. It’s time for Democrats and Republicans to work on solutions. It’s time to reaffirm that, in our country, earning your degree will pay off for you, your future and the future of our country. 

 

“Thank you, M. President. I yield the floor.”