Add this to the long list of reasons why Senator Brian Schatz (D. HI) is awesome:


The two youngest members of the U.S. Senate are co-sponsoring a bill aimed at lowering college costs that includes withholding federal funds from schools that don't meet affordability and quality standards.

Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Brian Schatz of Hawaii are planning to introduce the legislation this week. The two are still paying off their college loans.

Murphy says higher education is out of reach for many Americans because of skyrocketing tuition. He says too many students are leaving college with heavy debt. - Hawaii News Now, 12/9/13

Here's a little more info:


In the past 30 years alone the college price tag has tripled, and something needs to be done to alleviate the burden put on  youth, says Murphy. "College administrators need to wake up every morning thinking about how they can make school cheaper, and that is not happening today." He's clearly dissatisfied with the up tick in tuition, which no longer allows higher education to be attainable by all.

While Murphy and Schatz still have a ways to go to smooth out their stance on new affordability and quality standards, what they do know for sure is that the legislation they're proposing would launch a commission made up of students, education pros and others with a vested interest in lowering the cost of college. They'll be charged with recommending a series of minimum standards colleges must meet in order to remain eligible for important things like federal funding for student aid.

The real kicker here is that Murphy wants to require colleges to pay back 10 percent of their federal funding for student aid that they received the previous year if they don't end up abiding by the standards set in place for two years. And if they still don't meet the standards for a third year, schools would be obligated to repay 20 percent of the annual federal aid funding. It's a three strikes and you're out policy, so if an institution failed to meet expectations once again for a fourth year, well they would no longer be eligible for federal funding.

And Murphy's rationale for such a drastic change from the norm? ‘‘If a school is raising tuition at 8 percent a year and 50 percent of their students are defaulting on their loans, they probably shouldn’t continue to get Stafford Loans and Pell Grants." - In The Capital, 12/9/13

Murphy and Schatz are the right guys to be pushing this legislation because they share the same struggles current college students are dealing with:


Perhaps because he is still paying off student loans himself, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., is keenly aware of the nation's accumulated student loan debt - which, he noted recently, has reached $1.1 trillion.

"Onus (should) be on colleges to lower costs, not students to cough up more cash," Murphy declared in a Twitter message last month, just days before he and Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, unveiled legislation designed to stem the growth of this mountain of debt.

Their legislation, to be formally introduced this month, comes as Congress slowly considers reauthorizing the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, the law governing federal higher education programs that expires at the end of this year.

Average loan debt for college graduates nationwide exceeded $29,000 in 2012, according to a report this month by The Institute for College Access and Success, a nonprofit research group in Oakland, Calif. The report, which takes into account data from graduates of public and private nonprofit four-year colleges, also shows that seven in 10 college seniors who graduated in 2012 had student loan debt.

Murphy and Schatz are hoping their proposal will prompt a discussion of new ideas to make post-secondary education more accessible and affordable. Their initiative comes as public colleges and universities in New England raised tuition and fees by 42 percent over the past decade, according to the College Board. For two-year colleges, the increase was 25 percent. - The Day, 12/8/13

Their age is also a factor:


The two youngest members of the U.S. Senate are co-sponsoring legislation aimed at lowering college costs by withholding federal funds from schools that fail to meet new national affordability and quality standards — a proposal likely to draw strong opposition from higher education institutions.

Murphy, 40, and Schatz, 41, say skyrocketing tuition has put higher education out of reach for many Americans, with college costs having tripled over the past 30 years. And they say too many people are leaving college with high loan debt.

“College administrators need to wake up every morning thinking about how they can make school cheaper, and that is not happening today,” Murphy said.

The average cost of tuition, fees and room and board at a four-year public college or university for in-state students is about $18,400 a year, according to the College Board, a not-for-profit membership group that promotes college access and owns the SAT exam. The same average cost at a private school is about $40,900 a year.

Meanwhile, about 60 percent of students who earned bachelor’s degrees in 2011-12 graduated with debt, borrowing an average of $26,500, the College Board reported in October. - CBS Connecticut, 12/8/13

And Schatz has been connecting with students on this issue:


Tuition prices and sustainability were top priorities for Sen. Brian Schatz when he kicked off Student Leaders at Mānoa’s “Talk Story” series on Dec. 4.

“It’s a middle-class crisis because people can’t afford to get education,” Schatz said. “I don’t just mean four-year degrees. I mean someone who wants to become a carpenter, someone who wants a certification in something, a community degree. It is very, very difficult to move up the economic chain right now by pursuing additional education.”
Schatz said higher education funding has decreased in recent years due to a reduction in general funding from state legislatures.

The federal government spends $140 billion in direct student aid every year, but not all  of it directly benefits students, according to Schatz.

He said public institutions are trying to invest in keeping the cost of college down.

“But not every institution that receives student aid is a public government institution or a not-for-profit institution,” Schatz said. “All we’re saying is for that $140 billion, let’s make it, as they say, ‘revenue neutral,’ which is to say let’s not just spend less than $140 billion. Let’s not spend more than $140 billion. Let’s just spend that money smarter.” - Kaleo, 12/6/13

If you would like more information, please contact Schatz and Murphy's offices for more details:

Schatz: (202) 224-3934


Murphy: (202) 224-4041


In other Schatz-related news, Schatz has been pushing for more gun safety measures:


The U.S. Senate today unanimously passed the House of Representative’s version of the Undetectable Firearms Act, which grants a 10-year extension of the ban on plastic, undetectable guns.

But the measure does not prevent homemade production of plastic guns using devices like 3-D printers.  

Sen. Brian Schatz is a co-sponsor with other Democrats to close loopholes in the bill, but, according to Schatz’s office, Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) objected to amending the measure. - Honolulu Civil beat, 12/9/13

Here's some more details:


The current ban is set to expire this Monday. The House of Representatives passed a ban on undetectable firearms last week on voice vote, and the Senate expects to take up the measure Monday. But the measure, introduced by Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.), is just a straight extension of existing law, originally passed in 1988 and later extended.

Schatz is a co-sponsor of the Undetectable Firearms Modernization Act, which was introduced in April. According to Schatz’s office, he and other Democrats will try to amend the House extension bill to include more safety measures. - Honolulu Civil Beat, 12/8/13

He's also been out promoting the Affordable Care Act:


U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz has announced the Affordable Care Act has helped 15,318 seniors in Hawaii save a total of $35,300,393 on their prescription drug costs so far this year.

“The Affordable Care Act is saving Hawaii’s seniors real money on their prescription drugs,” Schatz said. “The implementation of the law needs to be improved, but this is good policy that is helping seniors and we can’t go back to a time when seniors were choosing between food and prescriptions. We need to all work together to make sure the law works and keeps delivering benefits to seniors and people across Hawaii.” - Honolulu Civil Beat, 12/9/13

And he's bringing home the bacon:


U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) announced a $3.47 million grant to go towards replacing an important water pipeline near Hilo on Hawai‘i Island. The funds will go to the County of Hawai‘i and Kahuku Development Foundation, Inc. for a pipeline in Papaikou, ensuring safer, clean water and providing adequate water flow for fire protection.

“Water infrastructure requires special attention, expertise, and maintenance on our neighbor islands,” said U.S. Senator Brian Schatz. “This federal money will help communities near Hilo have clean, safe water for their children and families, and it will help them be protected in case of fire.”

As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Water and Power, Senator Schatz is working to improve Hawai‘i’s water infrastructure to ensure that all of Hawai‘i families have clean, safe water. In August 2013, Senator Schatz brought together experts and community leaders to the State Capitol auditorium in Honolulu for a productive discussion about the state of Hawai‘i’s water infrastructure and the future of its water supply. In addition, Senator Schatz is actively engaged in expanding hydropower and the important role that water plays in energy production. - Political News, 12/9/13

More and more, Schatz is proving to be a great Senator and a great progressive.  We have to make sure he wins his party's nominee.  Please do contribute and get involved with Schatz's campaign:

Originally posted to pdc on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 07:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Youth Kos 2.0 and The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.

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