Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Charlie Baker: Rewiring higher education

(Courtesy of Rappaport Center/Flickr)
(Courtesy of Rappaport Center/Flickr)

With campaign season in full swing, college students across Massachusetts – many of whom will be voting for the first time – will play a major role in the up-and-coming gubernatorial election between Charlie Baker and Martha Coakley. Among the issues stressed by young voters is the need to address problems surrounding higher education.

It goes without saying that the rising cost of college nationwide is overwhelming to college students and families. Massachusetts is no exception as the state has done little to curb the average crippling debt accumulated over four years. Overall tuition and fees have jumped an alarming 80 percent in the past decade alone, according to Baker’s campaign, and Massachusetts has seen an overall 10 percent hike since 2008.

It certainly goes without question that Gov. Deval Patrick has been a friend to expanding the funds, resources and potential for public education. However, one concern that doesn’t seem to be addressed is the effect on both college students and taxpayers.

While the current administration under Patrick has made a positive effort in halting costs through measures such as freezing tuition at institutions such as the University of Massachusetts (for the past two years, costs have remained the same), little has been done in the way of overall cost reductions.

Coakley made a proposition of implementing $5,000 tax deductions for households who contribute to tax-free college savings accounts. In addition, she hopes to expand financial aid for the state. While this can be seen as an investment for the future, it would come at an inefficient price.

Unfortunately, Coakley’s financial aid plan would account for an astounding $225 million, with an additional $20 million for the tax deductions alone. Her plan, though well intentioned, is quite expensive, ambiguous in nature and fails to specifically address the steadily rising cost of higher education.

For Baker, however, there is a clear-cut plan for combatting the issue with precision and financial understanding. He has proposed competitive public grant programs for both public universities and high schools statewide. In addition, he intends to implement co-op credit programs, expand internships and encourage online learning to cut costs and expand the role of technology.

This would be done in the hopes that his administration could bring the standard price for four years of college to a more affordable three years, effectively reducing the overall cost by 25 percent. Combined with the credit-valued co-ops and internships, students would have the opportunity to explore their majors and gain firsthand experience, all while reducing costs and building their resumes.

Though the precise budget for Baker’s co-op and grant programs has yet to be determined, it would certainly be more affordable than Coakley’s propositions. The more captivating goal is the 25 percent reduction for individual college costs.

Baker’s plan would dramatically enhance college opportunities throughout Massachusetts. Such a maneuver would provide the best of both worlds in terms of reduced debt and enhanced opportunities for students, as well as a break for the taxpayers funding it.

His business-savvy policies may bring something new to the table. Baker certainly sees a bright future for how education is carried in his state. His clear-cut plan would let us hold onto the title of “Athens of America” and maybe abandon that old “Taxachusetts” jab.

Robert Malinn is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected].

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  • P

    PepeAug 10, 2015 at 2:27 pm

    This was a very well articulated opinion piece and I enjoyed it very much. I think this author has politics in his future.

  • G

    GalantNov 4, 2014 at 4:37 am

    Interesting but I am not a dan of exchanging classroom time with online time