AICUM in the News
How to Make College More Affordable
By Richard Doherty
May 20, 2014
Although the colleges and universities in Massachusetts are critical to the state’s economy, the rising level of student debt could temper our economic growth. Independent colleges and universities in the Commonwealth are acutely aware of their responsibility to help control debt levels and, last year, awarded nearly $600 million in scholarship aid to Massachusetts residents. However, we can do more to leverage that investment through federal and state partnerships. We need to work together to create a cradle-to-career approach to financing higher education by providing an incentive to increase college savings from birth, increasing state support for need-based financial aid, and lowering student loan interest rates. We can help college students and graduates refinance debt and stimulate the economy.
First, on the state level, we must provide families with an important incentive to start saving for college as soon as their first child is born. State Senator Eileen Donoghue is championing a proposal to give Massachusetts families what is already offered in more than 30 states — an income tax deduction for contributions made to qualified college savings plans. Donoghue recently completed a far-reaching examination of the student debt issue as co-chair of the Sub-Committee on Student Loans & Debt, which concluded that it was “incumbent on the Commonwealth to help students and families pay for college themselves,” and recommended offering a tax deduction for contributions— up to $5,000 — made to such plans. Incentivizing college savings early will put Massachusetts families on the right path well before arriving on campus.
Second, the state must reinvest meaningfully in need-based financial aid programs. By committing to a multi-year plan to reinvest in need-based scholarship programs, Massachusetts would enable more deserving students, who possess the talent but not the financial resources, to attend the Massachusetts college which best match their educational interests and learning style. Increasing the average award will surely entice Massachusetts students exploring colleges outside the Commonwealth to reconsider and attend one of our outstanding colleges. In 2010, over 18,000 high school graduates left Massachusetts in part, some argue, because our state financial aid program isn’t robust enough to keep them here. We need to stop this brain drain.
Third, we can help students and recent grads better manage student debt. At the federal level, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. John Tierney have again demonstrated their commitment to ensuring access and affordability by introducing legislation to allow students and graduates with existing student loan debt to refinance at lower interest rates. This commonsense approach would provide instant relief to borrowers struggling to make payments on high-interest loans as they are beginning their careers. Their plan would allow these recent grads to reinvest those savings — to purchase a car, save for a home, start a family — and positively impact all segments of the economy.
For the more than 500,000 students attending college in the Commonwealth and the more than 1.4 million Massachusetts residents under age 18, we must work together to provide affordable access to college without burdening graduates with unmanageable debt. Working together, through public/private partnerships involving the federal government, state government, colleges and universities, and families, we can take steps to ensure a new pathway to higher education, one that is truly cradle to career.
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AICUM in the News
Viewpoint: Mass. in Back of the Class for College Aid
By Richard Doherty
May 9, 2014
As the home to over 100 colleges and universities, Massachusetts is rightly known as the hub of higher education. Each fall, tens of thousands of high school graduates from across Massachusetts arrive on our campuses to begin their pursuit of a higher education. In doing so, these students become integral members of the community, contributing both economically and culturally throughout their college career — and often their professional career.
This homegrown talent, which forms the bulk of incoming freshmen classes across all campuses, is a critical component to the higher education sector in the state. However, in order for Massachusetts’ colleges and universities to continue to retain our own high school graduates, we must provide adequate state scholarships to help make college affordable and to incentivize these talented students to attend college here.
We have work to do. Right now, Massachusetts is ahead of only Arkansas measured by the average state need-based financial aid award. In 2012, the average qualifying student in Massachusetts received a MassGrant award of $657 — as compared to the national average of $2,405. A California student from a similar family income received $5,983 on average.
Our low average award is a result of many factors, primarily the relative level-funding of scholarship aid over past decades combined with a skyrocketing increase in the number of students eligible for the need-based award. In fact, the average MassGrant award was 43 percent higher in 2008 than in 2012, largely the result of a whopping 91-percent increase in the number of eligible students. For a state that justifiably points to its higher education institutions, both public and private, as examples of excellence, this is not an acceptable financial commitment to our students.
A legislative subcommittee tasked with studying student loans and debt in the commonwealth just released a report containing recommendations to aid students in attending college and graduating with less debt. The report rightly points out that, in 1988, a MassGrant award covered 80 percent of tuition and fees at public colleges and universities. Today, the same grant only covers 9 percent. This is a stunning reduction in purchasing power. Among the subcommittee’s nine recommendations was a call for an immediate increase in the state scholarships to make college more affordable.
To that end, we are asking the Legislature to restore funding for these important scholarship programs to prerecession levels. Doing so will enable more deserving students, who may lack the financial resources, to attend the college in Massachusetts that best fits their interests and talents. In addition, increasing the average award may entice Massachusetts high school graduates exploring colleges outside the commonwealth to reconsider and remain here.
The federal government and colleges and universities here in Massachusetts are doing their part to help students attend college — the federal government by increasing Pell Grants and colleges and universities by offering a record amount of institutional aid to Massachusetts residents last year. Now it is time for Massachusetts to do the same.
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Jeff Selingo, Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry, and Sen. Eileen Donoghue Speak at AICUM’s Annual Meeting, April 29, 2014
Lynn Pasquerella, President of Mount Holyoke, Elected New Chair of AICUM Board.
More than 100 college and affiliate members from across the Commonwealth attended AICUM’s annual meeting (April 29) at Boston College. The agenda included election of officers and remarks from three guest speakers.
New members of the Board will be: Chris Hopey, President of Merrimack College, Deborah Jackson, President of Cambridge College, and Antoinette Hays, President of Regis College.
Second, he urged college administrators to think about what is innovative and distinctive about their particular college. For all but a few colleges, he said. being a “commodity” will not continue to work. Each college must decide what it wants to offer and how it wants to be perceived. The major types of college learning he predicted will be: MOOCs (massive open online course), face-to-face, and hybrid (part MOOC and part face-to face) “Can a small liberal arts college scale high-impact practices (MOOCs and hybrids) with a short residential course?,” he queried. Selingo noted the predominant disconnect now between age and financial independence and maintained that people now in their twenties are developing a different approach to skills, training, certificates, and degrees. He said they are becoming true “life-long learners.”
Selingo’s fourth trend was the Bachelor’s Degree and what it means. “We’ve been stuffing more and more in the B.A.,” he said., “it’s been overworked.” What goes into it and why everyone needs one should be re-thought and will be. The fifth trend, he stated, is “value, not price.” Economics is certainly one factor but only one. “Can the person get a job, progress, be part of the community?” These are all part of the mission and value of higher education,” he said.
Senator Donoghue discussed the findings of the subcommittee and some of its major recommendations, which include:
- Expand financial literacy for all Massachusetts students by offering financial literacy courses in high school, embedding financial literacy in the Massachusetts Core Curriculum, and requiring colleges and universities to uniformly describe financial aid information.
- Expand and reform state aid, by increasing MassGrant scholarship funds, reforming the Adams scholarship, and exploring concepts such as “Pay It Forward.”
- Decrease the time it takes to get a degree, by expanding the dual enrollment option for high school students (taking college courses while still in high school), getting credit in college for advanced placement courses, and accessing programs that allow progression from community colleges to four-year colleges.
- Create incentives for students to save, by improving the Commonwealth’s 529 College Savings Plan and increasing greater coordination with non-profits.
- Advance loan forgiveness programs–particularly for occupations where there is both great need and a lack of financial incentive (i.e. social work).
- Develop public-private partnerships that would incentivize employers to assist employees that have student debt and would like to pursue continuing education opportunities.
Financial Aid Advocacy Day
February 24, 2014.
More than 150 students from independent colleges and universities across the Commonwealth convened at the State House on Monday, February 24. They met with state representatives and senators, thanked them for previous support, and urged them to legislate for increased financial aid and scholarships.
House Speaker Robert De Leo addressed the students in the Great Hall. “Each of you is critical to the future of the Commonwealth, he emphasized. “And my hope is that you stay here after you graduate and continue to be part of our dynamic Massachusetts economy.” Speaker De Leo also noted that Massachusetts is the only state that educates more students at private, independent colleges than at public institutions. “We have the best and the brightest here,” and we want to keep you here.”
The Speaker urged students to meet with their state legislators and share their experiences. “The most important lobbying efforts are by the people who are actually affected. That’s what makes the real difference to lawmakers,” he said.
AICUM Annual Dinner, December 9, 2013
More than 400 people, including top leaders in education and government, turned out for AICUM’s 9th annual dinner, which took place on Monday, December 9, at Boston’s Seaport Hotel. AICUM celebrated the value of a liberal arts education in the Massachusetts innovation economy (check out our video on YouTube) and the 40-year impact of the federal Pell Grant program on access and affordability. Former Senator Mo Cowan (pictured) talked about what a Pell Grant meant to him, his family and his education. For more images, visit our photo gallery.
Fall Symposium– A Great Success
AICUM’s 2013 fall symposium–where Affiliated Members provide best practice presentations to administrators and staff from AICUM member institutions–was an outstanding success. Over 100 attended and more than 35 colleges and universities were represented at the annual event, held at College of the Holy Cross on October 3, 1013.
The day focused on Campus Accountability and Cost Containment and included talks on: hot topics in labor law, college affordability, transforming building eyesores into assets, saving on college operations, surviving the IT audit, negotiating with adjunct faculty, non-profit taxation developments, growth plans for STEM programs, and the effects of student debt on post-college spending. Considerable networking over lunch and much discussion on other higher education issues rounded out the event. For more photos, visit our Event Gallery.
Senator Elizabeth Warren addresses ACIUM Annual Meeting (April 30, 2013)
AICUM’s annual meeting (April 30) brought together college and affiliate members from across the state, with an agenda that included election of officers and remarks from three prominent leaders. U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, Greg Bielecki, and State Senator Gale Candaras, spoke to more than 100 attendees on education and economic policies affecting higher education.
In the AICUM election, Ronald W. Crutcher, President of Wheaton College, became Chair of the Board, Lynn Pasquerella, President of Mount Holyoke College, was elected Vice Chair/Chair Elect, and Paula M. Rooney, President of Dean College, continues to serve as Secretary/Treasurer. New members of the Board are: Corlis McGee, President of Eastern Nazarene College, David Angel, President of Clark University, Jan Bellack, President of the MGH Institute of Health Professions, and Lee Pelton, President of Emerson College.
In her keynote speech, Senator Warren voiced her strong support for and understanding of the critical role that institutions of higher education play in so many aspects of the Commonwealth’s economy. She also addressed the issue of student debt and the need for college to be more affordable. Senator Warren acknowledged that the level of regulations imposed on colleges and universities by the federal government added to the cost of attending college.
She encouraged attendees to get involved, meet with each other and identify a “dirty dozen” list of the most costly and cumbersome regulations that have the least benefit. She said she would meet with Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, with the Senate Health Committee (on which she serves) to represent college and university policies and interests. The Senator also talked about the power of education, alluding to her own evolution from daughter of a janitor to young mother going to law school. “Higher education opened up a whole new world,” she said, recommending that four-year college degrees be available to everyone.
Noting that higher education is the “fundamental building block of the Massachusetts economy,” Greg Bialecki, Massachustts Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, attributed that distinction not only to the size and scope of our colleges and universities, but to their international reputation, and its ability to attract talent from across the country and across the world. Sec. Bielecki focused on the important way that the Commonwealth’s innovation economy helps create not only new jobs but the workforce needed to fill those jobs. He urged more partnerships between universities and industry to produce a new wave of data scientists and a new framework for online learning.
State Senator Gale Candaras, who chairs the Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Committee, spoke about the “new normal” which aims to provide a young diverse population with education and training for new jobs in a different economy.
Sen. Candaras also talked about Senate 575/House bill 1076, which she and Rep. Alice Peisch of Wellesley filed this year, and AICUM initiated. “We need to ensure that private institutions are not hampered by red tape and bad public policy,” she said, noting that Massachusetts is one of very few states that burden private colleges–when they want to offer a new field of study or additional degree program–with a lengthy academic regulatory process. She urged college and university staff to call representatives and senators and “help them pass this bill.”