The Cherish Act with Senator Jo Comerford | Connecting Point | April 11, 2019

The Cherish Act with Senator Jo Comerford | Connecting Point | April 11, 2019


WHILE THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT
COLLEGE IS BREAKING THE BANK FOR MANY FAMILIES AND STUDENTS ARE
DEALING WITH MOUNTAINS OF DEBT THERE IS AN EFFORT IN
MASSACHUSETTS TO CONTROL COSTS AT PUBLIC COLLEGES AND
UNIVERSITIES BY INCREASING STATE FUNDING THROUGH THE PROPOSED
CHERISH ACT. I SAT DOWN WITH STATE SENATOR JO
COMERFORD TO LEARN MORE.>>THERE WAS A BIPARTISAN
COMMISSION THAT FOUND WE’RE UNDERFUNDING OUR HIGHER
INSTITUTIONS, EVERYTHING FROM COMMUNITY COLLEGES TO STATE
COLLEGES TO STATE UNIVERSITIES. IN FACT, WHEN WE LOOK AT THE PER
STUDENT FUNDING, WE’VE DIPPED 31% SINCE 2001 IN OUR STATE
INVESTMENT IN PUBLIC HIGHER ED.>>SO WHAT WOULD THIS BILL DO? RESTORE THE FUNDING TO THE 2001
LEVEL?>>EXACTLY. EXACTLY RIGHT. WE WOULD GO BACK TO 2001 WHICH
WOULD MEAN WE WOULD NEED AN ADDED $500 MILLION ANNUALLY TO
BE INVESTED IN PUBLIC HIGHER ED TO GET US UP, CATCH US UP, TO
THE GROUND WE’VE LOST SINCE 2001. THE BILL ASKS THE LEGISLATURE TO
CONSIDER $500 MILLION MORE DOLLARS COMING INTO PUBLIC
HIGHER ED. AS YOU KNOW, WE HAVE A NUMBER OF
PUBLIC HIGHER ED INSTITUTIONS IN THE MASSACHUSETTS REGION. IT WOULD ALSO HOLD STUDENT
TUITION STATIC FOR FIVE YEARS AS THAT FUNDING BUILDS UP, AND WE
THINK THAT NOT ONLY WOULD THAT HELP INCREASE THE EXCELLENCE OF
OUR PUBLIC HIGHER ED INSTITUTIONS, GIVE THEM THE
RESOURCES THEY NEED FOR THEIR STAFF AND FACULTY FOR THE KIND
OF COURSES AND OFFERINGS THEY WANT FOR THE STUDENTS BUT IT
WOULD BE ONE OF THE PIECES OF THE STUDENT DEBT PUZZLE. IT WOULD HOLD TUITION STATIC SO
THAT STUDENTS COULD ALSO CATCH THEIR BREATH WHO ARE ATTENDING
PUBLIC HIGHER INSTITUTIONS IN THE COMMONWEALTH, AS WE INCREASE
STATE INVESTMENT, STUDENTS WOULD NOT HAVE TO BEAR THE
DISPROPORTIONATE COST.>>WHEN YOU LOOK AT U MASS, FOR
EXAMPLE, I BELIEVE IT’S ABOUT $30,000 INCLUDING EVERYTHING,
FOR IN-STATE, WHICH IS CERTAINLY MORE THAN IT WAS WHEN I WAS
APPLYING TO COLLEGE. WHAT ARE YOU HEARING FROM PEOPLE
LIVING IN YOUR AREA?>>EVERYBODY IS TUNED INTO THE
ESCALATING, ALMOST BALLOONING COST OF HIGHER ED. I MEET WITH FAMILIES. I MEET WITH FACULTY AND STAFF. IT’S THE SAME CONVERSATION BUT
FROM DIFFERENT SIDES OF IT, RIGHT? FAMILIES ARE SAYING, HOW AM I
GOING TO GUARANTEE THAT MY CHILD WILL GET A COLLEGE EDUCATION? I WANT THEM TO HAVE THE SAME
OPPORTUNITIES I HAD BECAUSE OF MY HIGHER ED, BUT HOW AM I GOING
TO PAY FOR IT? THERE IS A REAL FEAR AMONG
FAMILIES AND A REAL CONCERN THAT THEY WON’T BE ABLE TO GIVE THEIR
KIDS THE LOVES OF THEIR LIFE IN MANY WAYS THE KIND OF
OPPORTUNITIES THAT THEY KNOW COME WITH A DEGREE, A HIGHER ED
DEGREE. AND ON THE FLIP SIDE WE SEE
FACULTY AND STAFF REALLY WANTING THEIR INSTITUTIONS TO REMAIN
EXCELLENT. REALLY WANTING THE KIND OF, YOU
KNOW, SALARY INCREASES KIND OF BENEFITS THAT KEEP THEM
COMMENSURATE WITH OTHER PROFESSIONS, OTHER INSTITUTIONS. ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF, WANTING
THEIR INSTITUTIONS TO REMAIN EXCELLENT AND CONTINUE RISING,
SO THAT IT’S A CYCLE UPWARD. WE HAVE STUDENTS THAT CAN AFFORD
IT. WE HAVE FACULTY AND STAFF
REMUNERATED FOR WHAT THEY ARE WORTH, AND WE HAVE INSTITUTIONS
THAT CONTINUE TO THRIVE AND GROW. IT’S REALLY A WIN-WIN.>>SO GOVERNOR BAKER HAS A
DIFFERENT PROPOSAL. DOES HIS PROPOSAL, IN YOUR
OPI OPINION, FALL SHORT? IS ONE OF THE COMPONENTS OF THE
PROPOSAL THAT WOULD SET UP A TRUST FUND WHICH COULD BE USED
TO REDUCE COST AS WELL, WHY NOT GO WITH THAT? 500 TO A HUNDRED MILLION SOUNDS
LIKE QUITE A DIFFERENCE?>>IT WOULDN’T GET US BACK TO
THAT TIME, THAT 2001 BENCHMARK, WHICH AGAIN, WAS A BIPARTISAN
UNDERSTANDING THAT WE NEEDED BECAUSE WE’VE EITHER BEEN
CUTTING PUBLIC HIGHER ED OR WE’VE BEEN TOLDING IT STATIC. YOU KNOW WHEN WE HOLD FUNDING
LEVEL COSTS DON’T REMAIN LEVEL. SO COSTS CONTINUE TO INCREASE
WHICH THEN EVERY YEAR, THE GAP BETWEEN WHAT’S ACTUALLY NEEDED
AND WHAT WE DELIVER AT THE STATE LEVEL GROWS.>>WHEN YOU LOOK AT STUDENT
DEBT, I KNOW COMING OUT OF PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES IT’S AN
AVERAGE OF ABOUT $30,000 THAT KIDS WOULD OWE, PRIVATE IS EVEN
HIGHER THAN THAT, DO YOU REALLY THINK THE MORE STATE FUNDING
WOULD START TO ATTACK THAT, CONSIDERING JUST HOW MASSIVE
THAT PROBLEM IS IN>>IT’S A PIECE OF THE PUZZLE. I DON’T PRETEND — NO ONE
PRETENDS THATC THE CHERISH ACT S THE WHOLE THING. STUDENTS GOING TO PRIVATE
UNIVERSITIES WON’T HAVE THE SAME KIND OF LEVEL TUITION FOR THIS
PERIOD OF TIME BUT WE HAVE TO START SOMEWHERE AND THIS STARTS
SOMEWHERE. THERE IS ANOTHER BILL THAT I
SUPPORT, A STUDENT BILL OF RIGHTS. A SENATOR HAS BEEN A CHAMPION OF
THAT SO WE HAVE TO ATTACK STUDENT DEBT FROM EVERY ANGLE. IT’S TENS OF BILLIONS OF DOLLARS
IN THE COMMONWEALTH ALONE IN STUDENT DEBT. IT’S A CRISIS. BOTH THE AFFORDABILITY AND THE
DEBT THAT STUDENTS CARRY.>>SOME HAVE SAID THAT FEDERAL
AID FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HAS REALLY CAUSED PART OF THIS
CRISIS BECAUSE, REALLY, THE UNIVERSITIES ARE GOING TO GET
PAID EITHER WAY SO A STUDENT WHO IS TAKING OUT LOANS TO GO TO
WHATEVER SCHOOL MAYBE NEEDS TO THINK HARDER ABOUT WHETHER OR
NOT YOU’LL BE ABLE TO PAY THOSE BACK.>>SURE. I’M GLAD YOU BROUGHT IN THE
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. ONE OF THE THINGS I DID FOR MANY
YEARS WAS RUN A FEDERAL BUDGET RESEARCH ORGANIZATION, AND WHAT
IS TRUE IS THAT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ACTUALLY DEVOTES A
VERY SMALL PERCENTAGE OF ITS OVERALL BUDGET TO EDUCATION. AT PRE-K THROUGH HIGHER ED. THAT SHIFTS THE BURDEN TO THE
STATES.>>WHAT I’M SAYING IS, THE
AVAILABILITY OF FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS, BECAUSE IT’S SO
ATTRACTIVE, IT’S LIKE 67% OF THOSE LOANS WILL GO FEDERALLY,
IT MAKES IT ALMOST TOO ATTRACTIVE FOR STUDENTS. I GUESS THE MINDSET, SHOULD YOU
RETHINK, YOU KNOW, COLLEGE IS REALLY WORTH IT?>>PERHAPS. EXCEPT I DO THINK WE KNOW THE
BENEFITS OF A COLLEGE EDUCATION, RIGHT? WE KNOW THAT FOLK LEAVING
COLLEGE GET BETTER SALARIES. WE KNOW THAT IN TERMS OF WORK
FORCE DEVELOPMENT, WE NEED, THAT’S THE OTHER WINS, RIGHT,
THE FIRST WIN IS WHEN WE LEAVE COLLEGE, THE UNIVERSITY, WE’RE
DISPROPORTIONATELY GOING TO GET A HIGHER SALARY AND WE KNOW THAT
THE WORK FORCE DEMANDS THE KIND OF SKILLS AND CAPACITIES COMING
OUT OF COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES. SO I THINK ABOUT THE CHERISH ACT
AS A QUADRUPLE WIN. FIRST, IT ACTUALLY MAKES COLLEGE
MORE AFFORDABLE. SECOND, IT’S A PIECE OF THE
STUDENT DEBT PUZZLE. THIRD, IT ACTUALLY GRADUATES A
SKILLED WORK FORCE, AND THEN FOURTH, WHICH IS GOING TO GET A
HIGHER INCOME OVER TIME, AND THEN FOURTH, IT ACTUALLY ADDS TO
THE KIND OF BUOYANCY OF OUR REGION, RIGHT? SO I THINK ABOUT THE 1991
CORRIDOR AS THE KNOWLEDGE CORRIDOR. SO WE WANT BUSINESSES TO MOVE
HERE. IN ORDER TO GET BUSINESSES TO
COME HERE WE NEED TO GIVE THEM A SKILLED — A 21st CENTURY HIGH
CAPACITY WORK FORCE AND THAT WILL COME OUT OF OUR COLLEGES
AND INSTITUTIONS.>>THEY HAVE BEEN ADVERTISING
FOR SOME TIME NOW ON THEIR BILLBOARDS TO STUDENTS FROM
MASSACHUSETTS, COME HERE, OUR TUITION, YOU KNOW, IS GOING TO
BE BETTER THAN WHAT YOU’RE SAYING. HOW DO YOU, I GUESS, LOOK AT U
MASS OR ANY OF THE STATE SCHOOLS, AND LOOK AT REALLY,
LIKELIHOODING THE LINE AS FAR AS COSTS GO?>>I THINK THAT WE, THAT’S ONE
OF THE THINGS WE HAVE TO LOOK AT, AT THE COMMONWEALTH LEVEL,
AT THE STATE LEVEL, IF OUR STUDENTS CAN’T FIND A HOME HERE
IN OUR, YOU KNOW, COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES, IF WE CAN’T FIGURE
OUT A WAY TO MAKE THEM AFFORDABLE, WE MAY LOSE THEM TO
NEARBY STATES THAT HAVE A PUBLIC SYSTEM THAT HAVE MORE REASONABLE
TUITION. AND, YOU KNOW, YOU MENTIONED U
MASS. U MASS AMHERST CONTINUES TO
CLIMB IN VERY MARKED WAYS.>>YOU CAN’T GET IN ANYMORE. IT’S HARD.>>I THINK THEY ARE DOING
EVERYTHING THEY CAN TO MAKE THEIR INSTITUTION A GO-TO SPOT,
BECAUSE THEY WANT TO ATTRACT STUDENTS BOTH FROM THE
COMMONWEALTH AND THEN FROM NEIGHBORING STATES TO HELP WITH
AFFORD-ABILITY. IN ORDER FOR US AS THE
COMMONWEALTH TO ENSURE THAT U MASS HAS THE RESOURCES IT NEEDS
TO EDUCATE OUR COMMONWEALTH STUDENTS WE HAVE TO INVEST.

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