Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Students should take action to secure state funding for UMass

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(Scutter/Flickr)

(Scutter/Flickr)

The average student graduates from college with a little under $30,000 worth of student debt. Overall, the level of student debt in the country has surpassed $1.2 trillion. The class of 2014, as The Wall Street Journal put it, was the most indebted class ever.

Rising college costs create a major barrier of entry for underrepresented groups such as low income students, students of color and non-traditional students. For those who are able to enroll in school, many are forced to take on many hours of work to help offset a small fraction of their costs. This in turn reduces their capacity to succeed academically and in increasingly important extra-curricular activities.

On top of this, our universities are employing adjunct faculty and graduate students to teach a majority of courses, subsequently overworking those who are not paid nearly enough for their work. And of course, many of our facilities and classrooms are in a pitiful state of disrepair.

It doesn’t take a radical to see the problems with this. It also doesn’t take a radical to do something about it.

These problems are in large part a direct result of major divestment from public higher education in the past decade, particularly in most states’ response to the 2008 financial crisis. Massachusetts is most certainly included. In fact, in fiscal year 2012 Massachusetts was ranked 48th in public higher education spending as a percentage of economic capacity.

This does not have to be so. There are 28,000 students at UMass, 22,000 of whom are undergraduates. Students have immense power in those numbers. Students have the power to shut down the University any given day. Students have the power to move the results of elections. Students have the power to pack the State House far beyond capacity and demand that the state commit to making public higher education free for all. And yes, students have the power to win that demand through action.

Administrators have a responsibility to foster an environment in which students can take action. On March 4, students and community members will storm the State House to advocate for proper state funding from our state legislators. Instead of figuring out their next draconian guest policy, the administration should be emailing students to remind them of the event and to encourage them to go.

The administration should be contacting faculty to excuse their students from class and even provide extra credit for being civically engaged. The administration, instead of questioning whether or not it is their responsibility to pay for buses to advocacy day, should be asking what they can do to get as many in the community as possible to Boston to shut down the State House.

And so, I invite any and all of you take a step in the right direction. Come to our Public Higher Education Advocacy Day on March 4 and demand a commitment to higher education from your legislators. Buses leave at 8 a.m. from the Haigis Mall. You can register at: bit.ly/PHEAD15.

And don’t stop there. Join the student movement and stop waiting for change – create it.

Filipe de Carvalho is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected]

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