State and National Higher Ed Policy Updates — May 2019

Bahar Akman Imboden
Jun 3 · 6 min read

Massachusetts Updates:

The fight for Mt Ida students is not over

By dismissing the lawsuit by former students of the now-closed Mount Ida College, a Federal judge has set some dangerous precedents. The ruling establishes that college officials do not owe students any fiduciary duty to reveal their institution’s financial struggles, and that colleges have no contractual obligations with students to have them complete the degree. Our founder, Bob Hildreth, who financed the lawsuit, found this ruling appalling “not just for the hundreds of students who were harmed by Mount Ida’s fraud and violations of trust, but for all college students in Massachusetts.” Citing the landmark ruling that allowed escaped slaves to be returned to slavery, he explained that “The Dred Scott case may have been rightly decided under the law, but the judge missed the bigger picture.”

Students demand Debt-Free College, The state underfunds UMass requiring a tuition freeze

It all started with UMass president Marty Meehan making it clear that there will be a tuition increase of 2.5% if lawmakers did not include the full $568.3 million funding request in their 2020 budget. The situation escalated when the Senate Ways and Means Committee released it budget with an appropriation of $10 million short of Meehan’s request and with new language stipulating that the university shall also freeze tuition. Politicians state that they have steadily increased funding to UMass, which should enable them to freeze tuition this year. However, with the severe disinvestment we experience in MA, data shows that state support for UMass has still not reach the levels of 2001.

Meanwhile, last week, PHENOM student activists from UMassAmherst staged a 5 day sit-in outside the offices of Beacon Hill’s legislative leaders, rallying support for the Debt Free Future Act and Cherish Act. After some tense moments at the State House, students ended their sit-in, frustrated by legislative inaction but determined to continue organizing and building student power across Massachusetts to demand affordable, ZeroDebt degrees.

UMass Gaston Institute gets $1 million donation

Bob Hildreth speaking at the event hosted by Mauricio Gastón Institute for Latino Community Development and Public Policy

From finances in the red to leadership mistakes, little has gone right for the University of Massachusetts Boston. As Boston’s signature public university, where 50% of the students are low-income and diverse, our founder, Bob Hildreth believes that UMASS Boston is too important for us to let the slide continue.

In hope of motivating gifts from others, Bob and Diane Hildreth have donated $1 million to UMass. Specifically, the gift is for the University’s Mauricio Gastón Institute for Latino Community Development and Public Policy, which along with all other institutes has been targeted for severe belt tightening and even possible closure.

Bob and Diane Hildreth

Hopefully, this gift will prompt the university leaders to hit the pause button on their ill-considered plan. The Gaston Institute is vital to UMass’ supposed mission of research, teaching and commitment to Boston’s large Latino population.

Last month, Bob was up at the State House testifying in support of a program called the Endowment Match Program, which would incentivize private donors like him to invest in our public colleges and universities by matching their donations with public funds. Massachusetts already successfully implemented this strategy in the 1990s, and it was a great success. We can do it again and attract millions of dollars in additional funding for public higher education. There is no greater investment in the future of Massachusetts than an investment in public higher education for our students!

Read our latest issue paper on the success of this program.

Other MA news:

$1M gift to advance LatinX Studies at UMass Boston

Debt ‘carnival’ highlights high college costs

Boston teachers would get 2 percent pay raises under contract deal

Hundreds of teachers, students rally in Springfield for better education funding

‘Fund Our Future’ rally at Springfield City Hall

As UMass’ costs rise, lawmakers try a new tactic: increase funding but demand a tuition freeze

Marty Meehan huffs and puffs over budget impasse

UMass students hold sit-in at State House

UMass objections to tuition freeze fall flat in Senate

College student sit-in comes to loud, tense end

No Free College and We Can’t Conduct A Sit-In at the House Speaker’s Office?

Newbury College Is Closing. Alumni Say It Gave Them A Chance When No One Else Would

Hampshire College announces incoming class of 15 students

National updates:

The CFPB blames Dept. of Education for standing in the way of proper Student loan oversight

Empowered by the Department of Education, student loan servicers are refusing to share information which the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) says it needs to perform proper oversight. This shocking revelation came out in a round of letters between CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger and Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other lawmakers about whether the federal regulator had “abandoned its supervision and enforcement activities” related to more than $1 trillion in student loans. The CFPB has been critical in monitoring loan servicers since 2011, it has processed complaints from student borrowers and brought enforcement actions when it discovered wrongdoing. But with Richard Cordray, the bureau’s Obama-era director, stepping down in November 2017, consumer advocates have been warning that the Trump-appointed interim and permanent directors have backed away from protecting student borrowers.

The Trump/DeVos administration has repetitively defended the loan servicers and are against regulating them. They have also stood in the way of many states seeking to create their own consumer protection and oversight of these servicers. But states are not ready to back down. In California, for instance, the Assembly just overwhelmingly passed their Student Loan Bill of Right and are one step closer to making it law.

Here in Massachusetts, Senator Eric Lesser and Representative Natalie Higgins are leading efforts to establish our own “Student Loan Bill of Rightscalling for a wide range of regulations, including the establishment of a student loan ombudsman and of a state-level licensing system for loan servicers.

We, at Hildreth Institute, fully support this initiative. We need to take action and protect student loan borrowers from the illegal and predatory practices by the student loan servicing industry by enacting our own Student Loan Bill of Rights!

Betsy DeVos should stop making disabled Veterans’ life harder

Veterans who are permanently and totally disabled are currently eligible to have their student debt cancelled. However, Betsy Devos is requiring Veterans to fill out paperwork to get the benefit. According to the group Veterans Education Success, almost 60 percent of eligible veterans had defaulted on a loan payment as of April 2018. Yet only about 20 percent had applied to the loan forgiveness program. The attorney generals of 51 states and territories demand change. In their letter: “Because America’s veterans deserve better, we ask the Department to develop an automatic discharge process to ensure that all eligible veterans can have their student loans forgiven,” the attorney generals wrote in the letter. “Any concerns that some disabled veterans might not want their student loans discharged can be addressed by providing veterans notice and an opportunity to opt out of loan forgiveness or to seek reinstatement of their loans.”

Other National news:

2020 Democrats jockey over surging college costs

Education Department Under Betsy DeVos Blocking Student Loan Oversight, CFPB Chief Says

51 attorneys general urge DeVos: Erase disabled veterans’ student debt

More states pass student loan servicer laws

CBO: Federal Student Loan Program Will Run Deficit

Robert Smith Pledges To Pay Off Student Loans For Morehouse College’s Class Of 2019

A Pledge to Pay Morehouse College Students’ Debt Prompts Elation, Envy and a Host of Questions

Interest Rates on New Federal Student Loans Will Dip Slightly

Securing the U.S. middle class may depend on college. Does a degree still pay off?

Teacher’s Union leader endorses Warren’s student loan plan

The Growing Trend Of Retiree Student Loan Debt

Enrollment Shortfalls Spread to More Colleges

Private Colleges Now Use Nearly Half of Tuition Revenue For Financial Aid

In Vermont, Small Colleges Are Closing

State education officials seek to head off college closures

Hildreth Institute

Bahar Akman Imboden

Written by

Bahar is co-founder and Managing Director of Hildreth Institute. Working towards solutions to address pervasive inequalities present in our society. McGill PhD.

Hildreth Institute

The Hildreth Institute is a non-profit, nonpartisan research and policy center dedicated to restoring the promise of higher education as an engine of upward mobility for all.

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