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Duckworth Talks Higher Education Funding

Emily Boyer/Tri States Public Radio
Western's Budget Director Matt Bierman (left) meets with US Senator Tammy Duckworth and Western's Interim Academic Provost Kathy Neumann

During a trip to Macomb, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) called out her home state and the federal government for not making college more affordable.

Duckworth met with administrators at Western Illinois University late Friday afternoon. During a news conference, Duckworth said she wants to help bring in federal resources to Western to help offset the drastic cuts in state funding.

“Whether it is trying to find ways to get other stakeholders involved in helping fund programs, whether it's corporate interests or different agencies within government providing grant money to set up very unique programs that meet a specific need,” Duckworth said.

Duckworth introduced federal legislation last year in Congress called, In the Red Act. It would allow borrowers to refinance student loan debt at a lower interest rate. It also aims to increase the value of federal PELL grants for low income students and make the first two years of community college free for everyone.

Duckworth stressed she does not want to provide a handout to students. She said it’s about finding ways to helps students earn money to go to college.

Duckworth said that she was able to “pick up a rifle and earn 4 years of free college education under the G.I. Bill,” and she wants more young adults to have an opportunity earn a higher education.

“You should be able to pick up a hammer or a piece of chalk and be able to serve in AmeriCorps or Teach for America or Habitat for Humanity or anything like that and earn a way to go to college,” Duckworth said.

Duckworth said the U.S. cannot be a strong nation without an educated workforce.

“If you look at the other nations we are competing with on a global scale,” Duckworth said. “They are indeed working to make their colleges more affordable and we are going in the opposite direction and that is a detriment to this nation.”

Emily Boyer is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.