Public college is expensive too. My son has $ 27,000 in debt – from UMass
The envelopes started arriving in the spring of my son’s freshman year of college: Citizens Bank, Wells Fargo, Sallie Mae.
“Find your ideal student loan!” proclaims a – as if there is such a thing – or “Know that they are covered from orientation until graduation …” They don’t mention what happens after graduation diploma. I hid them from my child, who graduated from UMass Amherst this month with $ 27,000 in federal student loans. He already has enough debt.
In the United States, 45 million borrowers now hold more than $ 1.7 trillion in student debt, the second of total consumer debt after mortgages. Almost two decades ago, graduates of Massachusetts public universities had the 49th lowest student debt in the country, but by 2016 debt levels had climbed to 10th place, an average of $ 30,248 per borrower.
And no wonder. The Commonwealth cut funding for higher education by 30% per student, in inflation-adjusted dollars, between 2001 and 2019, largely due to tax cuts that cost the state more than $ 4 billion dollars a year and overwhelmingly favor the wealthiest in the state. In 2001, Massachusetts families paid about 32% of the costs of a public college education; by 2018, that number had nearly doubled, to 62%, as our public colleges and universities saw some of the largest tuition fee increases in the country.
Without some kind of financial help, my child and many others across the state simply wouldn’t go to college. Tuition and fees for state students at UMass’s flagship campus in Amherst this year are $ 16,439, not including books or other necessities – out of reach for many families. And the full price of the habitable sticker? About $ 31,000 per year. When grants, salaries and scholarships are insufficient, as they almost always do, students turn to loans, which can have negative long-term effects. Student debt is associated with worse physical and mental health outcomes and late lifestyle choices for adults, such as marriage, child rearing, and home ownership.
“I won’t take out a second mortgage to get you through college,” I told my son in his senior year in high school, after the college acceptance and financial aid packages arrived. . The private colleges into which he had been accepted were immediately withdrawn from the table; even the one who claimed to “meet all needs” cost $ 25,000 more per year, after financial assistance, than UMass. Our public college system was clearly the best option.
I tiptoed through my son’s college years, fingers crossed. In the precarious single parenthood calculations I’m still performing, we’ve managed to meet our financial obligations through a dizzying array of grants, federal student loans, work-study, and off-campus jobs – until to three at a time for my child – and the scholarships my son laboriously requested during long winter nights. I didn’t need to find a third job in addition to the two I already have. My son did not suffer from food or housing insecurity like an extraordinary 56% of Massachusetts public college students.
I tiptoed through my son’s college years, fingers crossed.
In many ways we were lucky, but I still held my breath every July, waiting to see the tuition / help program for the coming year, and therefore the final tally. For the second year, the tuition contained an increase of $ 844, an increase described at the time – by men who probably always had lucrative jobs – as “moderate” (chairman of the board of directors of the UMass, Rob Manning) and as “minimizing the … impact on students and families” (UMass President, Martin Meehan). The following year saw another increase of $ 877. It took a pandemic to stop the cost increases for my son’s last year.
In a state renowned for education, it’s time to reinvest in our students. Senate Bill 824, known as the CHERISH Act, would reduce funding for public higher education in Massachusetts to 2001 levels, while freezing tuition and fees for five years. The Massachusetts Fair Share Amendment, the so-called Millionaires Tax, is a proposed constitutional amendment that will tax income over $ 1 million by 4%, resulting in an expected annual income of $ 2 billion that will be allocated to education, infrastructure and transport needs. the Republic.
But investing more public dollars in higher education isn’t just good for starving and cash-strapped students; it’s good for the state. Research shows that college graduates are both healthier and much less likely to need public assistance in their lifetimes. Compared to high school graduates, those with a college degree bring in more than 2 1/2 times more tax revenue to state and local governments, an average of $ 137,000 per person.
Such an investment is written everywhere where everyone wins. It is high time to make access to affordable higher education a right, not a privilege.
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