National Center For Education Statistics

It’s no secret that Fairfield County has its share of wealthy residents. U.S. Rep. James Himes, D-4th District, is occasionally referred to as Wall Street’s congressman, because of the sheer number of high-powered financial executives that live within his district. Nonetheless, according to Himes spokesperson Patrick Malone, the cost of higher education is the most common topic of conversation in the district.

“This is an issue that encompasses personal opportunity, growing the national economy, and securing our future,” Malone said. “Even in a district where there are a relatively high number of economically secure people, the most common question Congressman Himes sees at every event, town hall, or public meeting he holds is about paying for higher education.”

“It’s an issue that is absolutely at the forefront of people’s minds in the 4th District, and so it’s a priority for him,” Malone said of Himes.

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As such, Himes has partnered with Connecticut’s Sen. Christopher Murphy on a bill intended to, hopefully, keep the cost of college down.

Murphy, too, said college affordability is paramount in the minds of Connecticut residents.

“I’ve heard from students and parents all across the state, and it’s clear that the most important thing Congress can do for them is pressure schools to bring down the cost of a degree,” he said in a release.

Murphy is proposing a companion bill in the Senate: H.R. 2537, the College Affordability and Innovation Act.

According to Murphy, the bill “will incentivize schools to create new, innovative programs to reduce the cost of school while improving the quality of the degree, and will set new standards for schools that receive federal funding so that they’re more accountable to students and taxpayers.”

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the cost per year of college tuition and fees more than doubled in the 30 years between 1982 and 2012, from $8,438 to $19,339, an average that includes the costs at both public and private institutions.

“I’ve heard from students and parents all across the state, and it’s clear that the most important thing Congress can do for them is pressure schools to bring down the cost of a degree,” Murphy said.

A few days after it was introduced, the bill did not have any co-sponsors in the House, though Malone said not to read too deeply into that.

“There are no co-sponsors yet because the process has just begun,” he said. “The Congressman is happy to have the companion bill introduced in the Senate by Sen. Murphy, which is an extremely important step, and, now that the bill is out there, it’s all about building support.”

When asked if the ultimate goal was free college for all, Malone said Himes was focusing on what’s possible.

“Universal, free college, if it’s ever going to become a reality, is still probably a long time away. What Congressman Himes is focusing on today is solutions that will help students now, so that if they make that commitment to work toward and pay for an education, they won’t be facing overwhelming debt for the majority of their adult lives,” he said.

Jordan Fenster is an award-winning freelance journalist. He lives with his family in Fairfield County. He can be reached by or @JordanFenster on Twitter.

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