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Murray continues to make WA state voices heard as she fights to bring down the cost of college and reduce the crushing burden of student debt 

Murray: “We can’t turn our backs on the millions of families, just like mine, who need a path forward to afford college and pay back their student debt.” 

*Video here* 

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, delivered remarks on the Senate floor about the urgent need to make college more affordable. In her speech, Murray shared the story of a college student from Gonzaga University who is struggling to afford college and pay off her student loans. Murray urged her Senate colleagues to pass the In The Red Act, major reform legislation that would allow student loan borrowers to refinance outstanding debt at lower rates, increase Pell Grants to keep pace with rising costs, and enable students to attend community college tuition free, among other provisions.

Earlier this year, Senator Murray launched a tool on her website to hear from students and families on the importance of making college more affordable. Hundreds of people from Washington state and across the country have contacted Senator Murray to share their personal stories about the high cost of college and student debt.

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks:

“Katie always knew that attending college was going to be financially difficult—though it never occurred to her to let that stand in her way. Because her parents were not in a position to help out financially, and because she couldn’t afford to make regular tuition payments, she’s had to take on a large amount of student loans. And, she wasn’t able to live with her parents, so she’s also had to plan to pay for room and board for all four years. Here’s a typical work week for Katie. Katie works 12 hours a week as part of the Gonzaga Student Body Association. At least 2 nights a week, and usually on weekends too, she makes hundreds of calls on behalf of the Gonzaga Telefund. On most weekend nights, she’s not out with friends or family. She is instead babysitting for some extra cash to put toward textbooks. Let me clear: Katie’s glad to be investing in herself and her future. She knows its tough work—and she appreciates that. She—like millions of other students—is just looking for a little relief.”

“Across the country, 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. And to afford those skyrocketing price tags, people are turning to student loans to cover the cost. So today, Americans across the country hold a total of $1.3 trillion in outstanding student loan debt. In Washington state, the average college student owes more than $24,000 in student debt. Think about what that debt means for students. These students are doing everything right. They’re investing in their futures. Many of them are the first in their families to go to college. But when it’s time to look for that first job, just starting out, they’re already “in the red.” I’ve been so glad to work with other Senate Democrats on legislation called “In the Red” that would help students like Katie. Our bill would give students the chance to attend community college, tuition free. It would make sure the amount of Pell Grants keeps up with the rising costs of college. And it would let borrowers refinance their student debt to today’s lower rates. And, our bill is fully paid for by closing corporate tax loopholes that only serve to benefit the biggest corporations and the wealthiest few.”

“For me, this is 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. Thankfully, my brothers and sisters and I went to college with help from what is now known as 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. Even through those hard times, we never lost hope that with a good education, we would be able to find our footing and earn our way to a stable middle class life. 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 afford college and pay back their student debt.”

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks: 

“M. President, I come to the Senate floor today to talk about the urgent need to help make college more affordable for American families. 

 

“Earlier this year, I launched a comment form on my website, encouraging people to share their struggles to afford college, and how their student debt is affecting them.

 

“Since then, I’ve heard from so many students and families from my home state of Washington and across the country.

 

“By sharing these stories with my colleagues, I hope we can come together to work on ways to bring down college costs, and make sure students can graduate college without the crushing burden of student debt.

 

“I recently heard from a young woman named Katie.

 

“She’s a junior, studying psychology at Gonzaga University, in Spokane, Washington.

 

“Katie always knew that attending college was going to be financially difficult—though it never occurred to her to let that stand in her way.

 

“Because her parents were not in a position to help out financially, and because she couldn’t afford to make regular tuition payments, she’s had to take on a large amount of student loans.

 

“And, she wasn’t able to live with her parents, so she’s also had to plan to pay for room and board for all four years.

 

“Here’s a typical work week for Katie.

 

“Katie works 12 hours a week as part of the Gonzaga Student Body Association.

 

“At least 2 nights a week, and usually on weekends too, she makes hundreds of calls on behalf of the Gonzaga Telefund.

 

“On most weekend nights, she’s not out with friends or family.

 

“She is instead babysitting for some extra cash to put toward textbooks.   

 

“On top of all that, she’s also a math tutor, which, until recently, was a paid position before the department’s budget was cut.

 

“She keeps tutoring anyway as her way to give back—that’s just who she is.

 

“Let me clear: Katie’s glad to be investing in herself and her future.

 

“She knows its tough work—and she appreciates that.

 

“She—like millions of other students—is just looking for a little relief.

 

“In her own words, she admits, “it’s a constant stressor thinking of how to pay for life while at college, and how I’m going to pay for all of this after I graduate.”

 

“Students like Katie are not alone.

   

“Across the country, 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.

 

“And to afford those skyrocketing price tags, people are turning to student loans to cover the cost.

 

“So today, Americans across the country hold a total of $1.3 trillion in outstanding student loan debt.

 

“In Washington state, the average college student owes more than $24,000 in student debt.

 

“Think about what that debt means for students.

 

“These students are doing everything right.

 

“They’re investing in their futures.

 

“Many of them are the first in their families to go to college. 

 

“But when it’s time to look for that first job, just starting out, they’re already “in the red.”

  

“I’ve been so glad to work with other Senate Democrats on legislation called “In the Red” that would help students like Katie.

 

“Our bill would give students the chance to attend community college, tuition free.

 

“It would make sure the amount of Pell Grants keeps up with the rising costs of college.

 

“And it would let borrowers refinance their student debt to today’s lower rates.

 

“And, our bill is fully paid for by closing corporate tax loopholes that only serve to benefit the biggest corporations and the wealthiest few.

 

“For me, this is 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.

 

“Thankfully, my brothers and sisters and I went to college with help from what is now known as 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.

 

“Even through those hard times, we never lost hope that with a good education, we would be able to find our footing and earn our way to a stable middle class life.

 

“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 afford college and pay back their student debt.

  

“Let’s pass our bill and pave the way for lower college costs and less student debt.

 

“Let’s work together to give these students and families some much-needed relief.

 

“And let’s make sure they know that we won’t ever let up—and that we’ll always have their backs.

 

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

 

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