Press Conference — Student Loan Bill of Rights in Massachusetts
Lawmakers urged Massachusetts to adopt adequate protections for student borrowers at a press conference held earlier this month. Our legislators, along with student loan borrowers, shared their own student debt experiences while presenting staggering statistics showing how debt burdens our youth, their parents, and our economy. Among those present were the sponsors of the proposed bills, Senator Eric Lesser and Representative Natalie Higgins, along with other supporters such as Representative Adrian Madaro, and Representative Paul Donato. The Hildreth Institute was among a coalition of organizations — the Student Borrower Protection Center, MASSPIRG, The Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts, TISLA — that brought students and young alumni to the event. The bill is expected to be referred for a public hearing in April. Stay tuned to help HI win MA loan borrowers our own bill of rights!
Higher Ed Advocacy Day at the State House
More than 600 activists, including HI team and affiliated students, went to the State House for the annual higher ed advocacy day. There were loud chants denouncing the lack of funding for higher ed, the ballooning cost of college, and the rising student debt burden. The demands were clear, debt-free public degrees and more funding for higher ed. The Hildreth Institute made its demands clear by sending a letter to MA legislators, which was later published by WGBH.
All Tuition-Free programs are not created equal
A new report by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center gives us a good understanding of tuition-free college program variations. It demonstrates that even when tuition covered, many low-income students still carry a heavy financial burden. Tuition and fees represent less than half of the total expenses for students attending public colleges and universities in MA.
While the popularity of tuition-free programs has increased, the report shows that if not properly designed, they can end up excluding minorities, adult learners, and immigrants. For instance, part-time undergraduates in Massachusetts are much more likely to be low-income, Black/African-American and Hispanic/Latinx undergraduates. In MA, the Commonwealth Commitment and Mass Transfer, which offer students the opportunity to lower their tuition are programs are only available for full-time students. The report carefully reviews how the choices made about how each element of a program affects access and affordability for students from less wealthy families, students of color, and immigrant students.
Other MA news:
Trump Administration wants to limit student Borrowing
The time to reauthorize the Higher Education Act is coming up, and the White House has highlighted its desired guidelines, making it clear that limiting student borrowing is a top priority. While supporters of setting caps to loans argue that it will curb tuition increases, opponents worry that it will price out low-to moderate income students from higher education, as there is no plan to increase grant money for them. Meanwhile, the Trump Administration’s budget proposal asks Congress to open Pell Grants to “high-quality” short-term programs, eliminate Public Service Loan Forgiveness and subsidized student loans, and streamline income-driven repayment programs for student borrowers. It also called for deep cuts to scientific research.
Many Promising Higher Ed Bills to Watch for
There are several promising proposals at the Federal level that are worth getting excited about:
Sen. Brian Schatz introduced Debt-Free College Act, which addresses costs beyond tuition, such as books and living expenses. Under the State/Federal partnership, states would receive a one-to-one federal match of state higher education appropriations in exchange for a commitment to help students pay for the full cost of attendance without incurring debt.
Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) reintroduced the Protecting Jobs Act. Under the bill (S. 609), any state that receives federal funding through the Higher Education Act would be barred from denying, suspending, or revoking an occupational licenses or a driver’s licenses solely because a borrower defaulted on their federal student loans.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers reintroduced the College Transparency Act, legislation that would produce new data on program-level collegiate student outcomes like graduate earnings and loan repayment rates.
Sens. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H.and Richard Durbin, D-Ill. Introduced the PROTECT Students Act. The bill endeavors to safeguard students, veterans and taxpayers from predatory and anti-student higher education practices and ensures that higher education meets the needs of hard-working students.