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Sen. Edward M. Kennedy Headshot

Do-Something Democrats Tackle College Affordability

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In recent years, the Republican House and Senate earned the title of the Do-Nothing Congress. They stayed mute as the war raged in Iraq. They refused to raise the minimum wage. They took more time off in Congress last year than in any year since 1948.

Now the Do-Something Democrats are in charge. Step by step, we're putting this country back on track.

Over the past 20 years the cost of attending college has tripled. Hundreds of thousands of students are being priced out of a college education, while many of those who do attend are hobbled by student loan debt.

Our economy should be driven by innovation and a highly qualified work force, but when higher education is out of reach, and when oppressive debt plagues much of the work force, the entire economy suffers.

It's a failure of leadership and vision that has held back America's students and workers from sharing in the benefits of economic growth. As the majority party in Congress, Republicans had an opportunity to help millions more people achieve the American dream through higher education - but they did nothing. They abandoned the principle that no qualified student should be denied education because of cost.

Instead of fixing the broken system, Republicans focused on cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans. They bestowed record tax breaks on large corporations and the wealthy. They spent hundreds of billions of dollars on an unnecessary and irresponsible war in Iraq. They lined the pockets of the student loan industry with the precious dollars of hard working families.

What happened to America's real priorities?

We're introducing new legislation to dramatically reform our education financing system.

I've introduced the Student Debt Relief Act, which will cut interest rates on student loans in half and raise the maximum Pell Grant to $5100. Another key provision will save $13 billion in excessive subsidies for lenders, and use the savings to increase legitimate aid to students.

We have an excellent opportunity to make a real difference for students in the years ahead, but we need help to make it happen. You can find out more about the Student Debt Relief Act at, and you can sign our petition demanding that Congress take immediate action to make college more affordable.

Over the years, much has been made of Republicans' so-called "family values." To me, real family values include rewarding hard work and giving everyone the chance they deserve to reach the American dream.

We need to get the priorities of Congress straight, and one way to do so is to insist that a college education be a basic right for all, not just an expensive privilege for the few.