In The News

An Investment in Education Is an Investment in Our Future

Fosters Daily Democrat//Carol Shea-Porter

As Granite State high school seniors begin submitting their college applications, many are excited about the opportunities that higher education brings but at the same time worried about how they will fund the journey that lies ahead.

In New Hampshire and across America, higher education is our crucial link to opportunity and prosperity. Tech schools, colleges and universities produce the critical workers who drive the economy and lift up their families and communities.

Unfortunately, Washington Republicans all too often oppose funding for programs designed to keep higher education within reach.

As someone who funded my own UNH education by working double shifts on factory floors and scraping plates in the university’s dining hall, I recognize the desire for learning and the sacrifices students and families make to attain it.

That’s why I was particularly disappointed when my opponent, Frank Guinta, recently said he would vote to repeal the federal Department of Education. This is the Tea Party 101 position — but it is one with real-world implications, such as dismantling vital K-12 programs and threatening student-loan programs.

Tea Party Republicans who endanger these programs in essence levy a tax on the hopes and dreams of Americans, who see higher education as the key to prosperity.

New Hampshire residents carry the second-highest student-loan debt burden in the nation, so during my three terms in Congress I have strongly supported policies that improve this stressful situation for students and families.

We need to offer solutions. That’s why this year I co-sponsored the House version of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, which would have given graduates the opportunity to refinance their student loan debt at lower rates. This measure would have provided much-needed relief for members of New Hampshire’s college class of 2012, who carry an average debt of $32,698. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans voted to stall the bill.

The nation’s student loan debt is $1.2 trillion, surpassing America’s total credit card debt. This debt burden keeps young people from buying homes and cars, starting small businesses, saving for retirement, and making purchases that strengthen our economy. Our economy is 70% consumer-driven, so we need young people to participate.

But Frank Guinta and his Tea Party allies have what amounts to a “let them eat graduation cake” position. With the system as it now exists, graduates may need to dine off the leftovers from their celebration parties for quite some time.

Another partial solution is increasing Pell grants for low- and middle-income students. They are another avenue for promoting higher learning, and I am a strong supporter. In 2007, the House passed my amendment to increase their value, and it became law. Two years later, I helped to write the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, which made the largest-ever American investment in college aid by increasing Pell Grants, making college loans more affordable, and strengthening community colleges. It also reduced the federal deficit by ending wasteful student loan subsidies to banks.

New Hampshire Community Colleges offer another solution by giving prospective students the opportunity to get a top-notch education at a more affordable price. I’ve been proud to see results from our investment in community colleges. I voted to create the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership program, which partners community colleges with Granite State high-tech businesses to train students for well-paying jobs that need skilled workers.

Of course, success in college and the rewards it brings to individuals and their communities begins long before students tackle those college applications. That’s why I was involved in the conference committee for the reauthorization of Head Start. And that’s why I am proud to have helped save the Upward Bound program, which in 2014 celebrates 50 years of helping to prepare low-income, first-generation high school students for the challenges of college. I led the fight against Bush-era policy changes that would have eliminated the program and was a leading advocate for restoring Upward Bound funding cuts in 2013. I was honored to receive the Shirley Chisholm Award from the New England Educational Opportunity Association in recognition of my efforts.

Prioritizing investment in higher education yields significant returns by strengthening the middle class. We grow our economy from the middle out. I pledge to continue advocating for America’s future by supporting the students and graduates who will do so much to keep our state, region, and nation strong.

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