As a first generation immigrant who came to the United States speaking no English, education was the great equalizer, which is why this bill is of particular importance to me. Access to education is critical, but college costs are so high that individuals and families are being priced out of the opportunity.

I worked to put myself through college and law school, but I couldn’t have done it without student loans. It took me 15 years to pay those loans back—and I was glad to have them. In our state of Hawaii there are 8,725 four-year college students with subsidized student loans – who all would benefit from this bill. Once fully phased in, the bill would save the average four-year college student in Hawaii starting school in 2011 with subsidized student loans $4,580 over the life of their loans.

Tuition and fees at four-year public colleges and universities have risen 41 percent, after inflation, since 2001 – putting college out-of-reach for more and more students. Interest rates on student loans have also risen – increasing the cost of college even more. According to a recent study, if Congress does nothing, financial barriers will prevent 4.4 million high school graduates from attending a four-year public college over the next decade, and prevent another two million high school graduates from attending any college at all. Cutting interest rates on student loans is only the first step Democrats will take in making college more affordable. Later this year, Democrats will also increase the maximum Pell Grant scholarship and take other important steps to reduce the financial barriers to a college education.