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The Gatepost Editorial: An investment in our Commonwealth

By The Gatepost Editorial Board

A bill before the legislature sponsored by Representative Natalie Higgins and Senator Jamie Eldrige called the Debt-Free Future Act would make college free for all public higher education students and subsidize the cost of room and board for Pell grant-eligible students.

According to the Office of Institutional Research, 1,732 of FSU students receive financial aid. This means that while the majority of students are receiving financial support to pay for their college bills, the bulk of this support is mainly federal and state distributed loans.

As 60% of Framingham State students are commuters, most students’ University costs would be almost free if this bill became law, except for paying for books and instructional materials.

However, as a great number of commuter students opt to commute due to the high cost of room and board, this bill might even make living on campus affordable again.

The major pushback to this bill is the cost. Investing in public higher education so students no longer have to pay tuition and fees would cost over $1 billion. Some will argue this is too much money when there are other pressing issues such as the problematic MBTA or the lack of affordable housing.

But investing in public higher education is worth it.

If college were not so expensive, a huge burden would be lifted off the shoulders of college-educated people. They would not be saddled by the cost of their loans into their 40s and 50s.

Furthermore, for many students, this bill would mean being able to focus on the value of their education and their degrees wouldn’t just be a slog of going through the motions.

It would mean no more sleepless nights worrying about debt. It would mean no more working two or three jobs to afford the next tuition and fees bill.

Students would just focus on coming to school to learn without worrying how it will monetarily affect them for the rest of their lives - just as at many private institutions, where students typically receive nearly full-ride scholarships or have families who help pay for most or all of their education.

Students could dedicate their time to being students.

This bill would also provide Framingham State a valuable opportunity to enroll and retain more students from low-income communities.

Framingham State is already suffering a decline in enrollment for a myriad of reasons. Imagine all of the talented and skilled students the University does not have the opportunity to offer a place to because they cannot afford the cost of studying here.

Framingham State is considered one of the most affordable schools in the state, but for some of the lowest-income families in our surrounding communities, taking on thousands of dollars in debt or paying the base cost of a bill after financial aid is not something that is possible for them.

Public higher education is meant to provide students with preparation for the workforce, to become leaders, and learn civic-mindedness.

It is not equitable to keep this learning behind a paywall any longer because a four-year college education is essential to most jobs today.

Furthermore, the Commonwealth is suffering from work shortages in critical fields such as teaching and nursing, so this bill would not just change the future of higher education, but the future of Massachusetts. It would affect our K-12 system, our hospitals, our government - our economy.

Students - we urge you to tell your stories to your state legislators. Raise your voices to advocate for tax money to be used to lift up and educate the next generation of students - the future leaders of Massachusetts.

Call them. Visit the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts’ website and learn how to start tabling at Framingham State and in your local community.

If this bill were to be passed, it may not be implemented in time to provide free tuition and fees for you or us - but you should consider it an investment in the future. Consider it an investment in your friends, families, neighbors, potential future children, and the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts.


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