From the office of U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski:
U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and member of the Senate Community College Caucus, today applauded President Obama’s plan to make community college more affordable for American families.
“I applaud the President’s proposal to make community college tuition-free for responsible students. I believe that if you work hard and play by the rules, you deserve a shot at the American Dream. College is part of that American Dream, but it shouldn’t be a financial nightmare for families. With soaring costs and outrageous interest rates, student loan debt is at its highest rate in history. I look forward to hearing more about the President’s plan to bring affordable, accessible higher education to high-achieving students.
“Community colleges are one of America’s great social inventions. As a country, we wanted to bring higher education a little closer to home, to our neighborhoods and make available day or night, for a modest cost. They’re a gateway to the future for first time students looking for an affordable college education, for mid-career students looking to get ahead in the workplace, and for nontraditional students, like working parents. With their open door admissions and focus on meeting local workforce demands, community colleges play a vital role in higher education, giving Americans the freedom to achieve.
“We know that a college degree improves job opportunities, it’s critical for moving up the economic ladder, and increases lifetime earnings. But the benefits of higher education extend not only to young men and women but to America as a whole, because a better educated nation is a greater nation.”
On Friday, President Obama unveiled his America’s College Promise proposal to make two years of community college free for responsible students, letting students earn the first half of a bachelor’s degree and earn skills needed in the workforce at no cost. This proposal will require everyone to do their part: community colleges must strengthen their programs and increase the number of students who graduate, states must invest more in higher education and training, and students must take responsibility for their education, earn good grades, and stay on track to graduate. The program would be undertaken in partnership with states and is inspired by new programs in Tennessee and Chicago. If all states participate, an estimated 9 million students could benefit. A full-time community college student could save an average of $3,800 in tuition per year. More information on the President’s proposal is available from the White House here.
As the cost of higher education continues to rise at unprecedented rates and U.S. student loan debt balloons to roughly $1 trillion – a sum larger than Americans’ total collective credit card debt – Senator Mikulski is committed to finding new ways to make college a more attainable prospect for a greater number of Maryland students. Over the past year, Senator Mikulski has embarked on a Maryland College Affordability Tour, meeting with students, administrators and teachers to discuss the many challenges students and families face in paying for higher education, along with the impact on jobs and communities.
In her roles on the HELP and Appropriations Committees, Senator Mikulski has been an advocate for access to quality higher education through programs like the federal Pell Grants program, which provides need-based grants to lower-income undergraduate students to obtain access to higher education. As Chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Mikulski worked to ensure that the fiscal year (FY) 2015 government spending bill supported a maximum Pell Grant award of $5,830. Pell Grants help nearly 8.8 million college students across the country, including more than 112,000 Maryland students access higher education and can be used to pay for tuition, fees, books and living expenses.