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MA Education Advocates Urge Legislators to Increase Higher-Ed Funding

The average student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is graduating with more than $30,000 in student debt. (elle.noelle/Creative Commons)
The average student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is graduating with more than $30,000 in student debt. (elle.noelle/Creative Commons)
February 4, 2020

BOSTON -- Massachusetts has the fastest growing public college costs in the country, according to the New England Board of Higher Education. Today, education advocates from the Fund Our Future campaign will call on state legislators to reinvest in the Bay State's public higher education system.

Specifically, they are asking legislators to increase higher ed funding in the upcoming budget, which is being developed now. Zac Bears is executive director of the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts. Bears said the public college-affordability crisis in the Commonwealth leaves the average graduate with more than $25,000 in student debt.

"The average public college graduate from a four-year public university is leaving with about the same average student debt as a student from a four-year private college here in Massachusetts," Bears said.

Currently, the CHERISH Act is looking to add more than $500 million in funding for public higher education over five years, but it has stalled in the higher education committee. So, education advocates are urging legislators to include the first year's funding from the plan in the upcoming budget.

Recently, the Massachusetts Legislature passed the Student Opportunity Act, which dramatically increased funding toward K-12 public education without raising taxes. When asked why he thinks the CHERISH Act has stalled in committee, Bears had this to say:

"The Legislature is unwilling to raise taxes on the very rich people who live in Massachusetts to provide these services for all of the residents of Massachusetts," he said. "I think that's the biggest issue."

So, even though the Bay State is wealthier than most, Bears said Massachusetts has the 48th worst funded public college system, relative to the size of its economy. Education advocates will meet at the Massachusetts State House at 12:30 p.m. today.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem, Public News Service - MA