Updated 5:14 pm, Friday, September 1, 2017
Photo: Arnold Gold / Hearst Connecticut Media
NEW HAVEN >> As one of the youngest members of the U.S. Senate, Chris Murphy’s message resonated with a group of students, faculty and administrators at a roundtable discussion Friday on the cost of college at Southern Connecticut State University.
“I might be the only member of the Senate that is still paying back student loans,” Murphy, who is 44 and a graduate of the University of Connecticut Law School told his audience.
“I also have young children who I have to worry paying the cost of education for,” Murphy added.
Murphy said college education in the country is changing and so should how it’s funded.
“I am a subscriber to the idea of a free college for families of middle and lower incomes,” Murphy said.
He told the students that if Murphy had his way, and he is a supporter and cosponsor of legislation that says, “If your family earns $125,000 or less, then your college experience would be tuition and expense free.”
Murphy said he knows “that’s an expensive proposition, there’s no doubt about it.”
But he added, the amount of money the federal budget spends on education is a “pittance.”
Murphy said if you total the amount of money the federal government spends on education, science and innovation and infrastructure – “those three things are 4 percent of the federal budget.”
If the government went to the free college plan he is suggesting, it would push that 4 percent figure to about 6 percent, Murphy said, “leaving plenty of room to get cuts in other parts of the budget.”
Murphy said it is important for changes to be made in the college education funding system for the United States economy, also.
“The heart of our country’s economic salvation is our education system and the fact of the matter is we are losing a generation of workers because it is taking longer and longer for students to complete college.
“It used to be the majority of students that went to college finished by the time they were 22 or 23 years old. Now the average age of a college is pushing towards 30 and beyond,” Murphy said.
Today’s traditional student, Murphy said, is one who goes to school part-time because he or she has to work to afford to pay to go to school.