Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Congressman McGovern headlines forum on student debt

By Brendan Deady

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Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian

(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, the congressman of Massachusetts’ second district, is coming to the University of Massachusetts to discuss the affordability of higher education and unprecedented levels of student debt Wednesday evening in the Student Union Ballroom.

The “Crisis of Affordability in Higher Education” forum is scheduled from 1 to 5 p.m., and is hosted by the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts. The event will focus on cost barriers and solutions, federal and state funding, public loan forgiveness and proposals for a debt-free higher education, according to PHENOM.

PHENOM, founded in 2007, is a grassroots organization designed to connect students, legislators, professors and families to improve the quality of higher education in the state.  The organization presents its mission as an effort to build a long-term movement towards affordable, accessible and well-funded higher education.

McGovern, originally from Worcester, visited UMass last year for an event hosted by the student group UMass Democrats.  During the meet and greet discussion he advocated for further government action to prevent higher education from becoming a “luxury only available to the rich” rather than an opportunity for citizens from all demographics.

McGovern explained that he opposed the proposed cuts to federal Pell Grants that would use its surplus reserved for future years to fund its current allocations. Pell Grants are awarded to low-income students and according to McGovern are essential to keeping higher education open to all classes.

McGovern joins Maggie Thompson of Higher Ed, Not Debt, a multi-year campaign of organizations dedicated to tackling the issue of student debt, and State Representative Paul Mark at the forum. Luc Schuster from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center will also discuss a recent study that examined the costs of providing free higher education across the state, according to MassLive.com.

According to the Congressional Budgetary Office, the average amount of debt owed by a student borrower in the U.S. is over $27,000. Collectively students across the country owe nearly $1.2 trillion and Massachusetts residents currently owe over $24 billion in outstanding debt.

In June, after three years of maintaining an unchanged cost of attendance, the UMass Board of Trustees approved a 4.9 percent increase in tuition and fees. Students at the Amherst campus were also charged a $250 IT fee. The fee increases resulted in a rise of $1,459 to the cost of attendance, which leaves the average cost for an on-campus student at $25,674.

Brendan Deady can be reached at [email protected]

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