Sen. Murphy: U.S. college experience needs to change to cuts costs [New Haven Register, Conn. :: ]
(New Haven Register (CT) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) July 15--NEW HAVEN -- Rock climbing and other amenities in that home-away-from-home sojourn that is the four-year college experience could be old school under revisions U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy is contemplating as he looks to cut the cost of education.
Murphy has introduced a bill with three other senators aimed at reducing the cost of tuition in order for colleges to qualify for some of the $140 billion the federal government now awards in the form of financial aid whether they graduate students in a timely manner or whether they are qualified for a job.
Beyond that, Murphy said the country needs a new model to deliver education after high school.
"We have to blow up the way that we award degrees. We award degrees on a paradigm that is 100 years old -- sit in a classroom seat for four years and regardless of whether you have learned something or not, we will give you a piece of paper," Murphy said in an interview with the New Haven Register editorial board.
The senator, who graduated from Williams College and then the University of Connecticut Law School, said he is part of the demographic that is still paying off college debt 15 years later as he and his wife rear two children and try to save for the future.
"My wife and I make plenty of money, but when my kids go to college, the cost of my alma mater will be $100,000 a year and even with the amount of money I make, there is no way I can save for that expense," Murphy said.
The senator said he got to have that traditional rite of passage experience that every 18- and 19-year-old gets when they live away at college, getting a great education and enjoying it in the "beautiful bucolic setting" in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
"My beer pong skills have atrophied over the years, but the question is should the American taxpayer continue to subsidize that experience?" he asked.
He said he supported dropping the interest rates from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent on student loans, but the answer can't be to just reduce the cost of borrowing.
Murphy said the financial aid goes to good schools and terrible schools, as well as those who control tuition and those that don't and those where there is a 30 percent default rate on student loans "because they have a worthless piece of paper when they graduate."
The proposed legislation would disallow the aid to institutions who boost tuition rates "way outside the Consumer Price Index" or those who graduate students who can't get jobs.
The four-year model would still work for places like Yale and Wesleyan, "but for a lot of other kids, they should get a degree once they have shown the competencies necessary to become a productive member of the workforce," he said.
Murphy thinks students should get credit for what they know when they show up and be able to finish in less time with the aid of online courses.
He used the Starwood Hotel in Stamford as an example of a business looking for workers who can help them create websites for all their locations.
Murphy said it is thinking of shipping out the department because they are having a hard time finding the design expertise they need.
He congratulated Southern Connecticut State University for offering a program in design and said there should be more match-ups between what businesses need and the college courses offered to meet that need.
He saved his harshest criticism for those for-profit institutions who "are often an absolute sham experience for kids."
Murphy said one such place offered a degree in video game design and left students with hundreds of thousands in debt, none of whom have jobs because the degree was "meaningless."
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