As a mother of two and a proud graduate of the University of New Mexico, I understand the vital role education plays in creating a strong economy and preparing our children to compete in a competitive global market. It is so important that we make investments in our education system—especially early childhood education, support and retain effective teachers, and give parents a greater role in their children’s education. Our state’s national laboratories and premier institutions of higher learning create many opportunities, but we need the right federal policies and investments to ensure that our schools, teachers, and children have the best opportunity to succeed.
Every Student Succeeds Act
I was happy to support the Every Student Succeeds Act that was signed into law by President Obama on December 10, 2015. This law repealed No Child Left Behind and made necessary changes and improvements to K-12 education policy. The Act:
Established strong federal standards to ensure that all students, regardless of their race or socio-economic background, have access to a quality education;
Provided funding for states and school districts to support the professional development of teachers;
Expanded access to preschool;
Empowered state and local decision-makers to develop their own evidence-based strategies to improve student performance, rather than imposing cookie-cutter federal solutions as the No Child Left Behind Act did; and
Increased flexibility for states and schools to decide how to spend federal funding.
Higher education provides graduates with invaluable skills and knowledge that will translate to a more productive workforce and a more dynamic, innovate economy. However, college is becoming increasingly unaffordable. Americans owe nearly $1.3 trillion in student loan debt and the average Class of 2016 graduate has $37,172 in debt, which is up six percent from last year. The high cost of college is not only pushing higher education out of reach for too many Americans, but it is also hamstringing our economy by reducing the ability of young Americans to purchase a house, save for retirement, or start a new business.
Given the challenges young people are facing, it is unbelievable that the Government Accountability Office estimates that the federal government makes billions of dollars in profit from the administration of student loans. Congress must pass legislation to make college more affordable and accessible for the American people. I am a strong supporter of lowering student loan interest rates, fully investing in community colleges, and ensuring that Pell Grants are fully funded.
Education for Jobs Act
While there are millions of Americans still unemployed, there are millions of jobs that remain unfilled. Many Americans may want to attend school to retrain for high-skill jobs or pursue a different career, but the rising cost of education, time constraints, and other responsibilities make it difficult for these individuals to go back to school and fill those open positions.
I have introduced the Education for Jobs Act, which expands federal student loan benefits for students who are 1) enrolled in a degree or certificate program 2) are carrying at least 3 credit hours and 3) have worked on a full time basis for more than 10 years. By increasing access to federal student loans, we will make school more affordable for working professionals to obtain new skills in a changing economy.