Senator Murphy visits to discuss the cost of higher education

Josh LaBellaNews Writer

Connecticut Senator Christopher Murphy visited campus last Friday to discuss the cost of higher education.

The Sept. 1 meeting took place in the Engleman Hall administration wing and had about two dozen students along with some faculty members and press attend.

“I want to hear people’s stories,” said Murphy. “I want to hear people’s stories about trying to afford school.”

Murphy said he is trying to set the goal high for how the United States can make the college experience more affordable so that it does not bankrupt students or the country.

“If you think about the future of Connecticut’s economy and the future of the country’s economy, it is not built on a future of low cost labor,” said Murphy. “The heart of our country’s economic salvation is our educational system and the fact of the matter is that we are losing a generation of students because it is taking longer and longer to graduate.”

Murphy said the length of time it takes to graduate is dictated in large part by the cost of college, which has gone up 300 percent since 1980. According to Murphy, the country is spending less money on education at the moment when it needs to be investing more. For that reason, the Senator said he is a subscriber to the idea of free college for low and middle income families.

“Senator [Bernie] Sanders put in a piece of legislation,” said Murphy.  “I am one of his original cosponsors of it, that effectively says that for families making under $125,000 a year, that college tuition would be free.”

The amount of money the federal government spends on education is a pittance to the overall budget, he said, and it would only take slight increase to make that bill feasible.

Senator Murphy spent much of the time during the meeting listening to students talk about their experiences paying for college. Southern President Joe Bertolino said he felt Southern is cognizant of where their students are coming from.

“From my perspective we are a working class university,” said Bertolino. “Eighty-five percent of our students are working part or full time jobs.”

Bertolino said his administration tries to expedite the process of graduating by creating a roadmap when the student first starts at Southern that they can follow to graduate on time.

Murphy said the higher education and student loan systems are both confusing and arbitrary.

“Why not just make a simpler system? Why not just say that for anybody who comes from a family that makes less than $125,000 a year gets a free education,” said Murphy.

After the meeting was over Brianna Savage, a junior earth science major, said her takeaway from the event was that paying for education is a large burden on the government and on students.

 During the event she talked about the work study program and its importance to her education plan. She also said she wanted to represent the students who could not be at the meeting.

“My intention today was not to come with ideas,” said Savage, “but to come speaking out for students working hard on their education.”

Photo Credit: Palmer Piana – Photo Editor

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