Issue Position: Education
It's not enough for our economy to recover. We must position it for continued leadership as the global marketplace evolves -- and that starts in our classrooms. President Obama set a national goal for the United States to lead the world in college graduates by the year 2020. He challenged every American to commit to at least one year of college or advanced training. To achieve that goal, we must prepare Ohioans for success in postsecondary education and ensure that college is affordable. Access, affordability, and student success are key areas for improvement in higher education and a stronger economy.
As a Member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, I'm working to improve the quality of education, expand opportunities, and ensure that college or advanced training is within reach of all Ohioans.
Student Aid Reform Legislation
One of the most important steps we can take to improve college access and affordability is to reform our federal student loan programs. Today, we have two delivery systems for student loans. In one, the federal government makes the loan directly to the students through the college. In the other, the federal government pays private lenders to make the loans. By moving all federal student loans to the less costly, more efficient direct loan program, we can save $87 billion.
The money we save by eliminating wasteful subsidies can be used to make college more affordable and help more students go to school. This one change will free up resources to provide more grant aid to students, improve college completion rates, modernize schools and strengthen early childhood education. The impact of these investments will span generations.
As we reform our student loan programs, we need to help borrowers who are already struggling with unmanageable student loan debt. Today, too many of our nation's students are signing away their economic future when they sign-up for college.
That's why I introduced the Private Student Loan Debt Swap Act. Under my "Debt Swap" bill, if you have an expensive and unaffordable private student loan, you could use your remaining federal student loan eligibility to pay off or pay down that loan.
By swapping expensive private loan debt with low-cost federal student loans, borrowers could affordably repay their loans. And this legislation would not increase government spending -- in fact, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that as borrowers repay their loans, the bill would generate billions in savings that can be invested in educational opportunities for our students -- our future teachers and doctors, engineers and scientists.
I also introduced the Private Student Education Loan Ombudsman Act, which would establish a student loan ombudsman to help borrowers work with colleges and universities, lenders, and loan servicers to resolve loan disputes.
Building Student Success
From Dayton to Columbus to Cleveland, Ohio's network of community colleges is essential to training our talented workers and students for new jobs in new industries.
President Obama's American Graduation Initiative has proposed investing $12 billion in community colleges and increasing the number of community college graduates by five million over the next decade. And legislation like the Building Student Success Act, which I recently introduced, will help community colleges do an even better job helping Ohio students.
Partnership with Ohio's College Presidents
For the last two years, I've held the Ohio College Presidents' Conference which brings together the presidents of colleges and universities across Ohio, from large state schools to community colleges; from small private universities to technical colleges.
Last year, joining more than 50 Ohio college presidents were U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who each discussed issues ranging from teacher education and incentives, to access and affordability, to workforce investment. It's an honor to have education leaders in Washington, D.C. hear about our students and the great things happening on Ohio college campuses.
American Recovery and Investment Act
Recognizing that our educational system is the lynchpin to our nation's economic success, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act included a $100 billion federal commitment to education.
2008 Higher Education Act Reauthorization
In addition to reauthorizing our core higher education programs, the 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act took steps to address the rising cost of college. By requiring colleges to disclose more information on cost and increasing Pell grants, this legislation increases transparency and enables more low-income students to obtain higher education. The legislation also provides added protections for service members, cleans up the student lending industry, and simplifies the financial aid process.
I was proud to be an original cosponsor of this legislation. The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 included key provisions that I introduced after hearing from educators, families, and students from around Ohio.
Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act
The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was enacted with great fanfare nine years ago. NCLB added new accountability provisions to our education laws and required states to set timelines for improving student achievement. Unfortunately, the necessary resources were not allocated to fulfill NCLB's requirements. With funds made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, we have taken bold action to reverse the shortfall in resources.
We also need to improve the law. Since coming to the Senate, I have worked for meaningful reform of NCLB to ensure that student progress, school improvements, and teacher quality and effectiveness are measured with fairness and flexibility, and that resources are directed to where they are needed most. I will continue to fight for full funding of NCLB and for every child in America who deserves a quality education.