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Youngest U.S. senators Schatz, Murphy want to lower college costs

By Dave Collins

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 01:08 a.m. HST, Dec 09, 2013

HARTFORD, Conn. >> 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.

Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Brian Schatz of Hawaii plan to submit the legislation next week. Both are still paying off their college loans.

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 cost of college is one of the biggest middle class issues of our time — no generation escapes the issue," Schatz said in a news release. "Despite the federal government investing more money than ever before in higher education, the cost keeps going up, and in many ways, schools are not held accountable to students and taxpayers."

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.

Many specifics of the Murphy-Schatz bill still need to be worked out, including the new affordability and quality standards. The legislation would create a commission of students, education experts and others to recommend minimum standards for colleges to meet to remain eligible for federal funding for student aid, including Pell grants and Stafford loans.

Murphy wants to require colleges to pay back 10 percent of federal funding for student aid they received the previous year if they don't meet the new standards for two years. Colleges would have to repay 20 percent of the annual federal aid if they still don't meet the standards for a third year, and they would be deemed ineligible for federal student aid funding if they didn't meet the standards for a fourth year.

"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," Murphy said.

The legislation also would fund a competitive pilot program that would encourage schools to lower costs and reduce the time needed to complete degrees to soften the financial burden on students.

The bill is similar to President Barack Obama's new government rating system for colleges that would judge schools on affordability and possibly be used to allocate federal funding — a system drawing skepticism from higher education officials.

Debra Humphreys, vice president for policy at the Association of American Colleges and Universities, said college officials would have several concerns about Murphy and Schatz's bill, including how the standards would be set. The association, based in Washington, D.C., serves about 1,300 colleges and universities.

Humphreys said, for example, that if standards for loan default rates were the same for every school, colleges that serve low-income students would be at a disadvantage compared with Ivy League schools.

"You run a real risk of building into the system an incentive to only serve the easiest to educate," Humphreys said. "We have to do a better job educating poor kids. ... The last thing you want to do is to incentivize an institution to not serve those students."

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serious wrote:
Yep, two Democrats!!! Senators, this is a free enterprise system. Private schools charge more than state run schools, better education!! I see you are both up for reelection next year, coincidence to push this, not thought out program?? Sounds like an Obama thing!!!
on December 8,2013 | 06:07AM
serious wrote:
Now, if our Senator would join with his Alaskan counterpart to send legislature to eliminate the Jones Act---that would be news. But, there goes the shipping $$$$ campaign funds!!!
on December 8,2013 | 06:20AM
desmond6 wrote:
Why is Schatz, who grew up pretty privileged and attended Punahou after moving here with his family from the mainland, still riding a low interest student loan 20 years after getting his bachelor's degree from Pomona? Why haven't you paid back the Government, Schatz? What is your excuse?
on December 8,2013 | 05:36PM
Ronin006 wrote:
Schatz, at age 41, is still paying off his student loan. Let’s see. His salary as Lieutenant Governor was $114,420 for each of his two years as LG and is $174,000 for the one year he has been in the Senate. That is more than $400,000 in just three years and he is still paying off his student loan? What has he been doing with all his money? Like a true blue Democrat, he probably is spending more than he takes in.
on December 9,2013 | 08:00AM
Ewasohappy wrote:
on December 9,2013 | 08:44AM
pcman wrote:
IRT Schatz. The more the government pays for student grants, loans and subsidies, the more the colleges will raise the tuition because the colleges are the ultimate benefactors. Also the people who run colleges are more worried about saving their jobs than in managing for the benefit of the people they serve, including the students and taxpayers.
on December 8,2013 | 06:30PM
peanutgallery wrote:
These two should concentrate on lowering the cost of government
on December 9,2013 | 02:54AM
MakaniKai wrote:
Eh, but peanutgallery that would not translate into votes!
on December 9,2013 | 09:27AM
carolm wrote:
You are so right. Government should be cut 10% per year and be forced to be more efficient. The private industries have been doing this for years. That's why private industry workers can do the same work a government employee can to in half the time.
on December 9,2013 | 11:07AM
CriticalReader wrote:
Bravo, Senators. Clamp down! Perfect example of out of whack college costs and the reasons therefore is UH. Basic problem with UH? We got conned into this "Autonomy" thing, which was nothing more than an excuse to inflate salaries, and therefore require raised tuition costs and unbalanced teaching focus, facilities maintenance, and student support services. Hit 'em Senators. Unless you do, colleges have proven they will ultimately behave to the detriment of society.
on December 8,2013 | 06:29AM
serious wrote:
I am a college grad, I am also close to that 1% people complain about. I went to college at night for 12 years, worked a 40 hour week during that time--no Federal grants--I PAID MY WAY. People sit on their, you know what and complain about the system. Sure Hawaii, Paradise with 1/2 of the population on welfare and then the ones that dive into trash cans on a system that is subsidized by the Democrats. Keep 'em on welfare and they will vote for us!!! And Obama has the flags at half staff for a FOREIGNER??? I though that was reserved for American gay basketball players???
on December 8,2013 | 10:59AM
inHilo wrote:
Sounds to me like you're the one doing all the COMPLAINING. I went through college working and paying my way but that was back when you could go to a good state college for $97 a semester for tuition and fees. Maybe YOU'RE WHINING because it took you so long; 12 years? My, my. Maybe you were spending too much time watching flagpoles.
on December 9,2013 | 04:33AM
kekelaward wrote:
Or working a full time job, while trying to improve himself by going to school at night.
on December 9,2013 | 07:34AM
maafifloos wrote:
More socialism, let the government pay for everything. All these great ideas! Idealistic but not realistic.
on December 8,2013 | 06:31AM
makiki123 wrote:
Are we suppose to call him to THANK HIM for this too? Wow...wow...wee.
on December 8,2013 | 06:51AM
Sandybeach wrote:
College prepares students to enter the workforce. The beneficiaries of a good college education are the American citizens, corporations and the individuals themselves. Research and product development are also done in colleges and universities. The country is better served with college graduates. Make college cheaper, more available and keep educating those that seek to improve themselves. Paying off a college loan make purchasing a house or investing in a new small business very difficult. I vote and I am nearing 70 years of age. Schatz should get this bill passed. Having a young senator is good.
on December 8,2013 | 07:02AM
maafifloos wrote:
You are saying the end justifies the means. It doesn't work that way.
on December 8,2013 | 06:37PM
kekelaward wrote:
If we had term limits for all elected offices, we'd have more young people in office.
on December 9,2013 | 07:48AM
geralddeheer wrote:
This is a very bad idea. Holding colleges/universities hostage if they fail to comply with another set of federal regulations. A better way to lower college costs is to let the free market work. For example, Khan academy online is well on the way to providing credible, very low cost college education globally. BTW, our political system, both Democrats and Republicans missed a huge opportunity for the UH System. The bulk of the UH System should have gone online twenty years ago. University of Phoenix made a fortune. UH was better positioned to enter the profitable college market but, in essence, UH and political leaders were too elistist/ignornant to move. Where was Schatz for the last 20 years? Trying to move up in the political system...he succeeded. Unfortunately, his and others like him were blinded by political ambition to really learn how to do something for all the People. HIs job was getting elected. As a consequence, his attention to important policy details was colored. In his mind, he feels he has created a 'win/win'...the People get some benefit as he continues to garner good publicity that converts into votes for him. That behavior has directly led to his introducing bone-headed ideas like this one. And Sen Schatz, allow me to speak directly to you through your minions who monitor these postings for you (minions, and you know who you are, please relay this to your 'master') for once, drop your ambition and try to the best of your ability to find solutions. Think this through, you are really selling us...and you, short.
on December 8,2013 | 07:26AM
honokai wrote:
Almost every time "free market" is touted by the purists, they fail to recognize the huge subsidy the taxpayers must pay to many, many different private enterprises. If you want to take money from the government, then you should have limits place on you. Intellectual dishonesty and dogma from anywhere along the political spectrum is not helpful
on December 8,2013 | 08:09AM
geralddeheer wrote:
Thank you all for your posts. Seems like a nerve was touched considering the speed and vehemence involved. I will respond to all. While there is no way for me to tell, my sense is that one of you are on the Schatz Team. Please send my regards to the Senator and welcome to the first grass roots skirmish of the 2014 Senatorial Camapaign in Hawaii. honokai, I agree with your comments on subsidies. I do not want to take money from the government rather, I want the government to do a significantly better job accounting for how the spent and will spend our money. You may consider that intellectually dishonest and dogmatic, it consider full accounting for how our money is spent essential. Frankly the Schatz / Murphy Bill, an effort which has, by their admission, been fully thought out, is more public relations than reality, and they know it (and closer to an example of political dishonesty).
on December 8,2013 | 10:51AM
localguy wrote:
geralddeheer - You don't get it. USA colleges and universities got fat and lazy of decades of cheap student loans, turning their centers into palatial estates, excessive, feather bedded management bureaucracies, excessive pay, bonuses, paid sabbaticals, lifetime do nothing jobs for past presidents, expensive book deals with publishers, on and on. They fail to realize they are the reason higher education is so expensive. Feds should set standards for lowering the cost of operation and education. Fail to meet the standard and your center is banned from receiving federal student loans. This is how you get their attention, take away their money. Expect a lot of whining and hand wringing but costs have to come down. UH Manoa is one place where costs have gotten way, way out of hand. Just a tax payer money pit.
on December 8,2013 | 09:01AM
geralddeheer wrote:
Sir, maybe I don't get it. Unfortunately, I am no longer in public office so the only way that I can support change is participate here, lobby, etc. I actually agree with your comments on colleges and universities, as well as setting standards. So why haven't the Feds and State set higher, more effective standards? Is it really the right course to let the people who brought us her have even more power? Isn't a consumer driven solution is a better direction? Schatz and politicians like him missed the boat when we had the chance. Good news, we can recover from their folly and move ahead.
on December 8,2013 | 11:00AM
Nevadan wrote:
Your statement "USA colleges and universities got fat and lazy" exemplifies your total ignorance. One thing I do know: Any professor with a federal grant, or any grant, work 60 to 80 hours per week. That is the main reason why U S universities are the best in the world.
on December 9,2013 | 08:24AM
CriticalReader wrote:
"Free Market " blah, blah, blah. Everytime the word "freemarket" is used nowadays, it's usually as an excuse for a rip off of one sort or another. And, the term is always spouted "selectively", as in, let the "free market" work to leave us alone and do whatever we want, but, hey government, give us money, infrastructure, trade protections, subsidies, grants and all manner of legal protections - primarily, have laws that punish people who take out their "free market" frustrations on us. In this case, the rip off, is both as to individual tuition costs, as well as to society as a whole. In reverse order, our society is built and based upon a notion that education can create upward mobility. College costs are icing out vast sectors of our society from that education. That costs us in the long run. Then there are those institutions like UH has become. Unnatural and overinflated employee (management) costs in particular, that are not only rip-offs, but due to a very unnatural market place where the justification for higher salaries is not "competition for the best employees" (as evidenced by UH's recent employee hires), but, "eh, those other guys are doing it, so we should too." The, members of the pool of employees enjoying the benefits of this con "accredit" institutions (somehow MANDATORY), and say that if EVERYBODY does not LEAVE THESE INSTITUTIONS ALONE to, among other things, PAY WHATEVER SALARIES THEY WANT (which the member accreditors want to be HIGH - because it affects their individual pay scales - because they are and benefit from the "everybody else" argument). End result? Student costs skyrocket to keep pace with the out of control pace of salaries. "FreeMarket" effect? No. Huge con that needs to be reeled in.
on December 8,2013 | 09:27AM
geralddeheer wrote:
CriticalReader, I agree with most of what you said. I don't feel universities are engaged in a huge con. Rather, many are large institutions with large bureacracies. And, for many professors, assistant professors, lecturers, instructors, support staff throughout the country, salaries aren't high enough. What I am arguing for is a culture change in higher education, particulary our university system. UH could be a global power in higher education. For too long, UH, really didn't have it's ear to the ground; it appears the University Ohana felt more under seige than seeing the budget pressures as opportunities for constructive change. Of course, the Free Market is an idea more than a working reality. Universities and colleges must be, at the very least, free marketplaces of ideas for all of us to consider and debate. There is a better way.
on December 8,2013 | 11:14AM
localguy wrote:
geralddeheer - "UH could be a global power in higher education"? Ohhhh puhleeeze, I'm laughing so hard I have tears in my eyes. Ohh, puhleeze, stop, it hurts to laugh. UH can't even work a concert, can't maintain what it has, can't find a truly competent president, on and on and on. If you Google "Educational Irresponsibility" all the links point to UH Manoa. Ohhh puhleeze, be still my laughing body.
on December 8,2013 | 12:15PM
Nevadan wrote:
Your sense of laughter belies your ignorance. Gerald is correct. UH screwed up. Stanford went through similar issues in the early 1990s. Their administration straightened themselves out. Imagine Greenwood/Apple doing that? These two never should have been hired. You need to get an education. Start with HS.
on December 9,2013 | 08:39AM
inverse wrote:
No, localguy is accurate. And to compare UH with Stanford is like comparing UH football to Alabama (except for that one chowesque decision by Saban that cost Alabama a place in the BCS national championship game.
on December 9,2013 | 01:52PM
DowntownGreen wrote:
These colleges are receiving taxpayer $$$ through the students by way of grants, work-study, student loans, etc. That's not a "free" market, it's free money for them. They KNOW the students have to do whatever they can, including borrowing, to afford college and really have minimal incentive to make it more affordable.
on December 8,2013 | 09:35AM
geralddeheer wrote:
Downtown Green, good points. So, wouldn't Schatz / Murphy better serve us by supporting free market alternatives to tradtional, top heavy, slow moving colleges and universities that have students between a rock and a hard place? Is creating another tier of bureaucracy the exact wrong way to control a bureaucracy? The US Senate needs to address to problem of student debt especially how it effects the economy.
on December 8,2013 | 11:31AM
DowntownGreen wrote:
Waiting to hear your alternative. The "free market" not only doesn't exist (and never really has), the truncated version of it we operate under has been what got us in this pickle in the first place.
on December 8,2013 | 01:08PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
Holding them Hostage?? I don't think so. If a school has a high loan default rate or low graduation rate all the while charging above average tuition they should be cut off from federal student aid money. Taxpayer money is being wasted, that's the secret of U of Phoenix's success in the last decade. High tuition school fed by student loans that will never be paid back.
on December 8,2013 | 02:46PM
DowntownGreen wrote:
Exactly. And a degree that means virtually nothing when companies are screening applicants.
on December 8,2013 | 02:51PM
livinginhawaii wrote:
Poor Brian hasn't a clue as to the ramifications of a negative domino effect. When he was a State Representative he did not adequately represent his constituency. Now that he is a Senator at the Federal level his constituency includes both local and national interests as well. Putting a number of overpaid UH professors out of work will not go over well on the local side. He either never "gets it" or is constantly receiving bad advice...which is it?
on December 8,2013 | 07:43AM
localguy wrote:
livinginhawaii - Think again. Look at how recent news reports have reviled the waste of money at UH Manoa due to willful incompetence of bureaucrats in charge. They spend like there is no tomorrow. Holding them to a higher standard would clean out the massive deadwood in management, increase efficiency. There is no reason why certain expensive textbooks like English, world geography, math, etc, could not be used for more than one semester. They could be used for years, saving students big money. I'm all for any bureaucrat trying to save people money. Why are you against it? Your tax dollars being wasted.
on December 8,2013 | 09:07AM
DowntownGreen wrote:
Maybe because it was introduced by Democrats and that's the automatic response for many? "Democrat = Bad"... must attack instead of actual critical thinking.
on December 8,2013 | 09:37AM
Nevadan wrote:
Aloha LIH. You're right. He did nothing about UH Administrative waste while a state representative. He could have helped plenty. Now as a senator he wants to do something for the country?
on December 8,2013 | 10:16AM
Nevadan wrote:
As a state rep, he was looking the other way, while his friends/supporters were raiding the UH treasury? If not, why didn't he do something?
on December 9,2013 | 07:37AM
Anonymous wrote:
What a waste of taxpayers time and money. These 2 are out of touch with reality.
on December 8,2013 | 08:22AM
localguy wrote:
Anonymous - Really? Finally two bureaucrats who rightfully say higher education is getting way to expensive, wasting more and more tax payer's money. Put Wal Mart in charge of one of these universities and watch how fast they become efficient with lower cost education. It's your tax money. Do you really like to see money pit colleges and universities waste it?
on December 8,2013 | 09:03AM
Nevadan wrote:
Walmart running a university? Go back to high school and get an education !!!
on December 9,2013 | 08:07AM
inverse wrote:
We realize you have to defend B S but the idea that Walmart can run a university was a do ozy! Walmart's solution to running a university would be more like reducing tuition costs by firing current faculty and bringing instructors from offshore at a lower salary to teach students and run research projects.
on December 9,2013 | 02:01PM
Ronin006 wrote:
We had better read the fine print in the proposed bill. Since it is being introduced by two Democrat senators, you can bet the “affordability” will come through more taxpayer funded subsidies rather them from any reduction in tuition costs.
on December 8,2013 | 08:56AM
localguy wrote:
Now we have people who get it. USA colleges and universities got fat and lazy of decades of cheap student loans, turning their centers into palatial estates, excessive, feather bedded management bureaucracies, excessive pay, bonuses, paid sabbaticals, lifetime do nothing jobs for past presidents, expensive book deals with publishers, on and on. They fail to realize they are the reason higher education is so expensive. Feds should set standards for lowering the cost of operation and education. Fail to meet the standard and your center is banned from receiving federal student loans. This is how you get their attention, take away their money. Expect a lot of whining and hand wringing but costs have to come down. UH Manoa is one place where costs have gotten way, way out of hand. Just a tax payer money pit.
on December 8,2013 | 09:00AM
Nevadan wrote:
How would you know? You have never been there !
on December 9,2013 | 08:12AM
entrkn wrote:
Online degrees will replace more than 2/3 of what are termed as college degrees today...
on December 8,2013 | 10:16AM
samidunn wrote:
What has Schatz ever done for UH? - NOTHING
on December 8,2013 | 01:15PM
localguy wrote:
What has UH done for taxpayers? Oh right, that sucking sound as they take, take, take and waste student's and tax payer's money.
on December 8,2013 | 02:24PM
rigormortis wrote:
He and his brother are not working the system right. Their loan forgiveness should have been over by now. Work for non profits and government 10 years....
on December 8,2013 | 03:11PM
RetiredWorking wrote:
rigor, so you're saying they did not work the system and are paying their way for the past 15 years or so?
on December 8,2013 | 03:30PM
rigormortis wrote:
guess he did not make his first 120 payments
on December 8,2013 | 07:35PM
RetiredWorking wrote:
rigor, guessing.
on December 9,2013 | 05:23AM
DAGR81 wrote:
Schwatz continues to work himself out of the senate
on December 8,2013 | 06:08PM
sailfish1 wrote:
Why is college so expensive? It's obvious! It is because everybody, that is YOU and I, wants to get higher pay for their work. Even fast-food workers now want $15 an hour. Everybody, YOU and I, gets paid more money so everything costs relatively more. So, if you want lower college costs, accept less pay for your work. Who's first??
on December 8,2013 | 08:41PM
RetiredWorking wrote:
Ok, me first.
on December 9,2013 | 05:24AM
Bdpapa wrote:
This tuition situation is from sending too many unqualified students to college. Not everyone belongs in college. A lot of these people are just satisfying their parents or just getting a free ride. Start encouraging the marginal student and below to go into other venues. Technical schools, trade schools, and military offer a lot. It's like being on a tea. Go to a 4 year college , and you don't belong there, you dint play. Got to a tech or trade school, 2-3 years you play every game and you potentially have a job. This could help lower tuition.
on December 9,2013 | 05:14AM
fbg wrote:
The more support provided by grants and loans to students the more expensive college will become. Every dollar in loan money is one more dollar that goes straight to the colleges bottom line. Perhaps loan and grant money should only go to programs with the highest demand for graduates.
on December 9,2013 | 06:04AM
johndoe wrote:
How does this fix our economy, create jobs? Schatz you are becoming a do-nothing media pandering politician.
on December 9,2013 | 07:03AM
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