North Star Newsletter: Helping Make College More Affordable

Senator Al Franken
2013-09-25 12:19:49
North Star Newsletter | September 2013 Helping Make College More Affordable for Minnesota Students and Families One of my top priorities since coming to the Senate has been to help make college more affordable for Minnesota students and their families. And last week, the Senate Education Committee—which I'm a member of—started holding hearings on renewing the Higher Education Act, which governs federal higher education policy, including student aid such as Pell Grants and federal student loans. We all understand that the cost of college has been skyrocketing. And despite the fact that so many of the Minnesota students I've spoken with are working 20, 30, and sometimes 40 hours per week, Minnesotans are graduating college with the third highest level of debt in the country: about $30,000. This summer, I voted to prevent an interest rate hike on student loans that would have affected over 200,000 Minnesota students. And while that will help keep costs down and make college more affordable, it's only the beginning. There are still things we can and need to do to help lessen the debt burden on our students. For example, I have a commonsense—and bipartisan—bill that would create a universal financial aid award letter so that students and families can easily compare financial packages from different schools and know exactly how much college will cost. I also authored legislation that would expand opportunities for students to get college credits while in high school, allowing them to save money and even graduate college early. But still, we need to do more. As these hearings go forward, I will continue working hard to help make college more affordable for Minnesotans. Raising Important Privacy Questions for Millions of Consumers As Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law, it's important for me to look into the privacy implications of new technologies that Minnesotans use every day. Last week I sent a letter to Apple raising questions about the inclusion of a fingerprint reader—called Touch ID—on their new iPhone 5S. The phone will likely make fingerprint technology more popular, and my letter asks Apple to explain what they are doing to prevent fingerprint data from falling into the wrong hands. I also recently sent a letter to Facebook pressing them to reconsider a proposed expansion of their facial recognition program. The expansion would capture "faceprints" of some of Facebook's least active users—those who are not tagged in any photos, but who have a public profile picture. These people would be added into Facebook's facial recognition database—which is likely the largest of its kind in the world. Safeguarding the privacy of consumers in Minnesota and across the country is a priority for me, and I look forward to hearing back from Apple and Facebook about my concerns. Working to Fill Open, High-Demand Jobs in Minnesota Last month, while the Senate was out of session, I kicked off my workforce development tour with a series of meetings around the state between businesses and community and technical colleges to talk about my efforts to promote workforce investment. Everywhere I went, business owners told me there are high-quality job openings—in health care, manufacturing, IT, and other sectors—they want to fill but they can't, because they can't find workers with the right skills. This problem is called the "skills gap." And right now, over half of manufacturers in our state say it is difficult to attract qualified candidates for their firms' open positions. Recently, I introduced legislation to help close the skills gap by bringing businesses and community and technical colleges together to train the workers they need. Funding these partnerships is a commonsense solution to a real problem and is win-win: students who graduate can get jobs, and businesses with open jobs can get the skilled workforce they need. We can't afford to have any more high-quality jobs go unfilled. I will continue to fight to promote these partnerships and help Minnesotans gain the skills to fill open, high-demand jobs. Keeping the Olympic Dream Alive for Minnesota Wrestlers Wrestling is an incredible sport loved by many Minnesotans, and it's one whose athletes deserve every opportunity to participate at the peak level of competition that the Olympic games provides. While I never quite made the Olympic Games myself, I was a member of the varsity wrestling team at my high school in Minnesota and understand its importance to our athletes and our state. That's why I was disappointed when, earlier this year, the International Olympic Committee voted to cut competitive wrestling from the 2020 games. In response, I joined a bipartisan group of my Senate colleagues on a resolution urging the IOC to reverse its decision. The message was clear: ending the dreams of hard-working athletes in the United States and across the world is simply the wrong thing to do. Fortunately, we received some great news earlier this month. After the requests of so many people—including myself—the IOC voted to reinstate competitive wrestling, ensuring that young athletes in Minnesota and around world will still get to dream about one day competing in the Olympics. To unsubscribe from these newsletters, please visit the unsubscribe page here: franken.senate.gov/

North Star Newsletter | September 2013

One of my top priorities since coming to the Senate has been to help make college more affordable for Minnesota students and their families. And last week, the Senate Education Committee—which I'm a member of—started holding hearings on renewing the Higher Education Act, which governs federal higher education policy, including student aid such as Pell Grants and federal student loans.

We all understand that the cost of college has been skyrocketing. And despite the fact that so many of the Minnesota students I've spoken with are working 20, 30, and sometimes 40 hours per week, Minnesotans are graduating college with the third highest level of debt in the country: about $30,000.

This summer, I voted to prevent an interest rate hike on student loans that would have affected over 200,000 Minnesota students. And while that will help keep costs down and make college more affordable, it's only the beginning. There are still things we can and need to do to help lessen the debt burden on our students. For example, I have a commonsense—and bipartisan—bill that would create a universal financial aid award letter so that students and families can easily compare financial packages from different schools and know exactly how much college will cost. I also authored legislation that would expand opportunities for students to get college credits while in high school, allowing them to save money and even graduate college early.

But still, we need to do more. As these hearings go forward, I will continue working hard to help make college more affordable for Minnesotans.

As Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law, it's important for me to look into the privacy implications of new technologies that Minnesotans use every day.

Last week I sent a letter to Apple raising questions about the inclusion of a fingerprint reader—called Touch ID—on their new iPhone 5S. The phone will likely make fingerprint technology more popular, and my letter asks Apple to explain what they are doing to prevent fingerprint data from falling into the wrong hands.

I also recently sent a letter to Facebook pressing them to reconsider a proposed expansion of their facial recognition program. The expansion would capture "faceprints" of some of Facebook's least active users—those who are not tagged in any photos, but who have a public profile picture. These people would be added into Facebook's facial recognition database—which is likely the largest of its kind in the world.

Safeguarding the privacy of consumers in Minnesota and across the country is a priority for me, and I look forward to hearing back from Apple and Facebook about my concerns.

Last month, while the Senate was out of session, I kicked off my workforce development tour with a series of meetings around the state between businesses and community and technical colleges to talk about my efforts to promote workforce investment.

Everywhere I went, business owners told me there are high-quality job openings—in health care, manufacturing, IT, and other sectors—they want to fill but they can't, because they can't find workers with the right skills. This problem is called the "skills gap." And right now, over half of manufacturers in our state say it is difficult to attract qualified candidates for their firms' open positions.

Recently, I introduced legislation to help close the skills gap by bringing businesses and community and technical colleges together to train the workers they need.

Funding these partnerships is a commonsense solution to a real problem and is win-win: students who graduate can get jobs, and businesses with open jobs can get the skilled workforce they need.

We can't afford to have any more high-quality jobs go unfilled. I will continue to fight to promote these partnerships and help Minnesotans gain the skills to fill open, high-demand jobs.

Wrestling is an incredible sport loved by many Minnesotans, and it's one whose athletes deserve every opportunity to participate at the peak level of competition that the Olympic games provides. While I never quite made the Olympic Games myself, I was a member of the varsity wrestling team at my high school in Minnesota and understand its importance to our athletes and our state.

That's why I was disappointed when, earlier this year, the International Olympic Committee voted to cut competitive wrestling from the 2020 games.

In response, I joined a bipartisan group of my Senate colleagues on a resolution urging the IOC to reverse its decision. The message was clear: ending the dreams of hard-working athletes in the United States and across the world is simply the wrong thing to do.

Fortunately, we received some great news earlier this month. After the requests of so many people—including myself—the IOC voted to reinstate competitive wrestling, ensuring that young athletes in Minnesota and around world will still get to dream about one day competing in the Olympics.

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