Every day, 297 people are shot by guns in America and 89 die from their injuries. By one count, there have been at least 352 mass shootings in America so far this year – more than one per day. America’s schools have seen more than 50 shootings this year.
These numbers are horrifying.
This cannot simply be accepted as normal.
Yesterday, I met with representatives from Americans for Responsible Solutions to discuss legislation I’ve cosponsored to crack down on gun trafficking. Founded by former Representative Gabby Giffords and her husband, NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, Americans for Responsible Solutions works to prevent gun violence and encourage responsible gun ownership.
To combat the scourge of gun violence in our communities, I’ve joined several of my colleagues in introducing common sense legislation to prevent gun violence and save lives.
Denying Firearms and Explosives to Suspected Terrorists
Last week, I joined some of my colleagues in urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan to quickly schedule votes on legislation that would close an egregious loophole and prevent individuals on the Federal Terrorist Watchlist from being able to purchase firearms and explosives. Suspected terrorists who we consider too dangerous to board airplanes should not be able to walk into any gun store in the United States and purchase a firearm or an explosive for the purpose of carrying out a terrorist act.
Tracing Crime Guns
To help crack down on gun violence and gun trafficking, earlier this year I introduced the Crime Gun Tracing Act , legislation that encourages law enforcement agencies to take full advantage of crime gun tracing resources offered by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Increasing the use of crime gun tracing can help generate leads in criminal investigations and reveal how guns are trafficked into criminals’ hands.
A recent New York Times article found over 50,000 guns fall into the hands of criminals across state lines each year, with many more likely crossing state lines undetected. Despite being one of the key drivers of gun violence in Illinois, currently there is no federal law specifically prohibiting gun trafficking. To crack down on the daily flow of illegal guns, I joined Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Mark Kirk in introducing a bill that would make gun trafficking a federal crime and provide tools to law enforcement to get illegal guns off the streets.
Enough is enough. It’s time to summon the political will and act on gun violence.
On Sunday, news stations around the country aired a report about the predatory, high pressure tactics used by the for-profit college industry to aggressively recruit veterans and servicemembers who, even after exhausting their education benefits with these schools are often left without the quality education they deserve.
Reporter Sharyl Attkisson of Full Measure profiled U.S. Marine, Bryan Babcock, who fought on the front lines in Iraq including the Second Battle of Fallujah in 2004. He used his GI Bill money to pursue a criminal justice degree at the for-profit college ITT Tech – which has campuses in Springfield and Chicago, Illinois, and is currently facing investigations by the Justice Department and 18 Attorney’s General – only to find out that his $70,000 degree did not qualify him for a position in a police department.
Federal oversight agencies can barely keep pace with an industry whose primary focus seems to be finding new ways of exploiting federal education programs to access taxpayer dollars. Given the evidence that even unaccredited institutions have found a loophole allowing them to fleece taxpayers while taking advantage of America’s veterans and servicemembers, it’s time for Congress to wake up and put an end to the deceptive practices of for-profit colleges.
Today at 3:00 pm Central Time, I’ll be joining several of my colleagues on the U.S. Senate Floor to call on Congress to put an end to the deceptive practices of for-profit colleges. Be sure to tune in and watch our speech on C-SPAN 2.
In the ongoing nationwide debate about the rising cost of college, one of the most basic and direct costs to students is often overlooked: textbooks. The College Board found that during the 2014-2015 academic year, an average student budget for college books was $1,225. Over the last decade, the cost of college textbooks has risen by 82%, or three times the rate of inflation.
Later today, Senators Al Franken, Angus King, and I will introduce the Affordable College Textbook Act, legislation which would help students manage costs by making high quality textbooks available for free.
Our bill would create a grant program that schools could apply for to create new open textbooks, textbooks that are available under an open license, and expand their use. This will help pressure the traditional college textbook market to come up with cheaper alternatives and innovations.
Open textbooks have already proven to be a success here in Illinois. In 2012, faculty at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign created an open textbook using federal funds. That book – Sustainability: A Comprehensive Foundation – was published electronically for free and open use. A traditional introductory text on sustainability can cost more than $150.
At least a dozen schools throughout the country have contacted the University of Illinois about the text or are using it today. The book was also used in a Massive Open Online Course on Coursera that has been sampled by at least 60,000 students.
I hope my colleagues in Congress will come to recognize what college students all over the country already know – college textbooks cost too much – and support this bill to do something about it.
I want to hear how the high cost of education has affected you. Click below to share your story.
This week, I joined with nearly two dozen of my colleagues – including Senators Carper and Blumenthal – to help put an end to the for-profit college industry’s predatory marketing campaigns and aggressive recruiting of veterans, servicemembers and their families.
In 2013, for-profit colleges brought in $25 billion in taxpayer funding making them essentially the ninth largest federal agency. But the results are questionable at best and disastrous at worst with students buried in debt they’ll never pay off.
Consider this: 44% of all student loan defaults come from for-profit colleges even though they enroll only 10% of all college students. That’s compared to 12.9% of all student loan defaults coming from public colleges which enroll roughly 75% of all students.
Closing the “90/10 Rule” Loophole
Only a weak and flawed federal law, known as the “90/10 Rule”, provides any official check on the industry’s reliance on taxpayer dollars – restricting the amount they can receive from Title IV funding to a staggering 90% of revenue.
Not included in that 90% is the billions of dollars in funding the industry, including the University of Phoenix, takes in from Department of Defense military education assistance and Veterans Administration G.I. Bill benefits.
This has led to well-documented cases of predatory recruitment of servicemembers and veterans by for-profit colleges. I have held multiple hearings to investigate these practices and in my role as the highest ranking Democrat on the Defense Appropriations Committee, I have worked with the Department of Defense to increase protections for servicemembers and bring transparency to this industry.
Yesterday, my colleagues and I introduced the Military and Veterans Education Protection Act to eliminate the “90/10 Rule” loophole that allows these publicly-traded for-profit colleges to receive more than 90% of their revenue from the federal government. Last year, $2 billion in Department of Veterans Affairs Post-9/11 GI Bill funding and the $250 million in Department of Defense Tuition Assistance dollars went virtually unaccounted for because of this loophole.
I have good news to report! Today, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in favor of the Affordable Care Act in the King v. Burwell case. Their decision protects the health insurance of 240,000 Illinoisans and 6.5 million Americans nationwide.
Last week, I asked for your experiences with the Affordable Care Act. The response was overwhelming and your message was clear: the Affordable Care Act is working for the majority of Illinoisans. I want to thank those who wrote in to me and gave me permission to share their stories with my colleagues on the Senate floor.
United States Senator
NEWS & EVENTS from the Schaumburg Township District Library
With a new school year around the corner, now is the perfect time for students to start thinking about the next step. The library has lots of resources to get you and your kids ready for school:
Get acquainted with live online tutors on Brainfuse HelpNow for homework and writing help every day 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.
And, for high school seniors: get a jump start on the college admissions process with College Application Boot Camp next Wednesday, August 5 at 7 p.m. Registration is required. Sign up online or call (847) 923-3347.
Recommended Articles by the NWSOFA College Outreach Team
For current federal student loan borrowers: Before you contact your loan servicer to discuss repayment plans, you can use the calculator below to get an early look at which plans you may be eligible for and see estimates for how much you would pay monthly and overall. The President’s recently announced expansion of PAYE to all Direct Loan student borrowers will be added to this calculator once it has been implemented.
If you would like to view estimates based on your actual federal student loan information, please use the Repayment Estimator on studentloans.gov and click the link to sign in.
Making College Affordable
“We will provide the support necessary for you to complete college and meet a new goal: by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.”
– President Obama, 2009
Higher education is the single-most important investment that Americans can make in their futures, increasing their future potential earnings and lowering their risk of unemployment. Despite these benefits, the cost of attaining this education has skyrocketed over the past few decades, putting college out of reach for too many low- and middle-income families.
Over the past three decades, the average tuition at a public four-year college has more than a tripled, while a typical family’s income has barely budged.
As a result, more students than ever before are relying on student loans to pay for their college education. Today, 71 percent of students earning a bachelor’s degree graduate with debt, which averages $29,400. While most students are able to repay their loans, many feel burdened by debt, especially as they seek to start a family, buy a home, launch a business, or save for retirement.
The President and his administration have a long track record of taking steps to make college more affordable and accessible for families. And as part of his year of action to expand opportunity for all Americans, the President is committed to building on these efforts by using his pen and his phone to make student debt more affordable and manageable to repay.
On June 9, 2014, President signed a new Presidential Memorandum directing the Secretary of Education to propose regulations that would allow an additional nearly 5 million federal direct student loan borrowers the opportunity to cap their student loan payments at 10 percent of their income. The memorandum also outlines a series of new executive actions aimed to support federal student loan borrowers, especially vulnerable borrowers who may be at greater risk of defaulting on their loans.
The President has raised the maximum Pell Grant award to $5,730 for the 2014-15 award year — a nearly $1,000 increase since 2008. Under the President’s leadership, the number of Pell Grant recipients has expanded by 50 percent over that same time, providing college access to millions of additional low-income and middle-class students across the country. The Obama Administration’s landmark investment in the Pell Grant was enacted in the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, which ended student loan subsidies for private financial institutions and banks and shifted over $60 billion in savings back to students.
Expanding Education Tax Credits
President Obama established the American Opportunity Tax Credit in 2009 to assist families with the costs of college, providing up to $10,000 for four years of college tuition for families earning up to $180,000. 11.5 million families are expected to now benefit from the American Opportunity Tax Credit.
Keeping Student Loan Interest Rates Low
In his 2012 State of the Union address, the President called on Congress to keep interest rates low for the 7.4 million borrowers who take out subsidized Federal student loans for this school year. With President Obama’s leadership, rates on new subsidized Stafford loans remained at 3.4 percent — instead of doubling to 6.8 percent — this past summer. This bold action saved students an average of $1,000 on the life of their loans, and President Obama has committed to keeping interest rates low for student loans moving forward.
In August, President Obama signed a bill that takes an important step in fulfilling our nation’s obligations to students. The bipartisan legislation cuts rates on all new loans this year and save a typical undergraduate student $1,500 over the life of those loans.
The President has placed a strong emphasis on making America’s community colleges stronger, ensuring that they are gateways to economic prosperity and educational opportunities for millions of Americans each year. Each year, over 1,100 community colleges provide students and workers with critical skills. To help reach the President’s college attainment goal, the Obama Administration has called for a new partnership with states to ensure that the first two years of community college are free for responsible students, whether they are completing the first half of a bachelor’s degree or earning skills to go directly into the workforce.
In 2010, the President convened the first White House Summit on Community Colleges to focus on the important role these institutions play in our effort to increase the number of college graduates and prepare those graduates to lead the 21st century workforce. The President has demonstrated his commitment to deepening and expanding that work:
America’s College Promise
Nearly a century ago, a movement that made high school widely available helped lead to rapid growth in the education and skills training of Americans, driving decades of economic growth and prosperity. Now, President Obama has called for the first two years of community college to be free for responsible students, helping students earn the first half of a bachelor’s degree and earn skills needed in the workforce at no cost.
The America’s College Promise proposal would create a new partnership with states to help them waive tuition in high-quality programs for responsible students, while promoting key reforms to help more students complete at least two years of college. If all states participate, an estimated 9 million students could benefit. A full-time community college student could save an average of $3,800 in tuition per year.
Technical Training for Middle Class Jobs
In January 2015, the President proposed the American Technical Training Fund to award programs that have strong employer partnerships and include work-based learning opportunities, provide accelerated training, and are scheduled to accommodate part-time work. This discretionary budget proposal would fund 100 centers to help high-potential, low-wage workers gain the skills to work into growing fields with significant numbers of middle-class jobs that local employers are trying to fill, such as energy, IT, and advanced manufacturing.
Job-Driven Training Grants
Through the Trade Adjustment Community College and Career Training program more than 1,000 institutions have received $2 billion in federal funding to design education and training programs, working closely with employers and industry that prepare workers for jobs in-demand in their regional economies, such as health care, information technology and energy. These programs have shown early success — through the end of FY2013, among the nearly 164,000 individuals who had enrolled in these programs 88 percent either completed a program or continued the program into a second year.
Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Research
In August 2014, the Department of Education launched a new Institute for Education Sciences-funded Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness (CAPR) that is working to strengthen the research, evaluation, and support of college readiness efforts across the nation. CAPR is documenting current practices in developmental English and math education to identify innovative instructional practices that improve student success.
Keeping Costs Down
The President is calling on Congress to advance new reforms to give more hard working students a fair shot at pursuing higher education, because education is not a luxury: it is an economic imperative that every hard working and responsible student should be able to afford. President Obama has emphasized that the federal government, states, colleges, and universities all have a role to play in making higher education more affordable, by reining in college costs, providing value for American families, and preparing students with a solid education to succeed in their careers.
In his State of the Union address, President Obama emphasized this shared responsibility of states and higher education institutions — working with the federal government — to promote access, affordability and attainment in higher education by reining in college costs, providing value for American families, and preparing students with a high quality education to succeed in their careers. It is not enough to increase federal student aid alone — state policymakers and individual colleges and universities bear a shared responsibility to take action against rising college tuition and costs.
Providing greater pathways for students to enter into and succeed in higher education is in the interest of all Americans, and is critical to developing a highly educated, highly skilled economy and workforce that will attract business and lead to lower unemployment. The Administration has taken several steps and advanced several proposals to put higher education greater within reach for more Americans:
Reforming student aid to promote affordability and value
To keep tuition from spiraling too high and drive greater value, the President has proposed reforms to federal campus-based aid programs to shift aid away from colleges that fail to keep net tuition down, and toward those colleges and universities that do their fair share to keep tuition affordable, provide good value, and serve needy students well. These changes in federal aid to campuses will leverage $10 billion annually to help keep tuition down.
Creating a Race to the Top for college affordability and completion
The President has proposed incentives for states to maintain their commitments to higher education through a new $1 billion investment. The Race to the Top: College Affordability and Completion challenge aims to increase the number of college graduates and contain the cost of tuition by rewarding states that are willing to systematically change their higher education policies and practices.
Kicking off a First in the World competition
The President is proposing an investment of $55 million in a new First in the World competition, to support public and private colleges and non-profit organizations as they work to develop and test the next breakthrough strategy that will boost higher education attainment and student outcome, while leading to reduced costs.
Improving Transparency and Accountability
President Obama has consistently strived to lead the most open, efficient and accountable government in history. Over the last two years, new initiatives have increased public participation in government, opened up new information to Americans on a variety of topics, and improved citizens’ everyday lives. In the vein of transparency and accountability, the President tasked his Administration with giving students and families new tools and relevant information that will help them make sound financial decisions in pursuing their higher education goals.
Creating a Financial Aid Shopping Sheet
The Department of Education and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have launched the “Know Before You Owe” campaign to create a model financial aid disclosure form — the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet — to help students better understand the type and amount of aid they qualify for and easily compare aid packages offered by different colleges and universities. The Financial Aid Shopping Sheet is an individualized standard financial aid award letter that will help students and families understand the costs of college before making the final decision on where to enroll. The Shopping Sheet is being voluntarily adopted by colleges and universities across the country for the 2013-14 academic year to provide students and families with critical information about their financial decision to attend college in a clear, concise, and standardized format that facilitates easy comparisons across institutions.
Launching the College Scorecard
As part of the President’s commitment to holding colleges accountable for cost, value and quality, the Administration has launched a College Scorecard to help empower students and families with more transparent information about college costs and outcomes, so that they can choose a school that is affordable, best-suited to meet their needs, and consistent with their educational and career goals. The Scorecard provides clear, concise information on cost, graduation rate, loan default rate, amount borrowed, and employment for every degree-granting institution in the country. By making these key pieces of information available in an interactive and easy-to-read format, the College Scorecard enables students and families to compare colleges and make the best decision for their future.
Protecting Our Veterans, Military Spouses, and their Families
President Obama’s Executive Order Establishing Principles of Excellence for Educational Institutions Serving Service Members, Veterans, Spouses, and Other Family Members provides new protections for our nation’s military, veterans, and their families to help ensure they have the information they need to succeed in higher education. The Principles of Excellence — which will apply to a variety of military and veteran education benefits, including the GI Bill, Tuition Assistance Program, and Military Spouse Career Advancement Account Program (MyCAA) — cracks down on improper online recruiting practices, improve support service, provide better data on educational institutions, and strengthen enforcement of student protections. The President believes we must do all we can administratively to protect veterans from these deceptive practices by improving the quality of information and services that these schools must provide, and these steps will help ensure that Federal military and veteran education dollars are well spent.