“We have some residence halls that are really rundown. More student services. More full-time faculty, tenured faculty.”
Even as confusion sets in with the Biden administration changing the terms of his recent announcement about financial relief, some students bolstered by recent debt forgiveness say their next challenge is canceling the debt carried by colleges and universities, which also affects them.
The UMass system currently holds some $3 billion in debt, and at Mass State Colleges, it’s more than $1 billion. It is estimated students pay more than $2,500 in annual fees, just to help cover their school’s debt.
Cassidy O’Conner, a senior studying political science at Salem State University, thinks student fees could be better spent on her school’s most pressing needs.
“There’s a lot of facilities on campus that need to be updated,” O’Conner asserted. “We have some residence halls that are really rundown. More student services. More full-time faculty, tenured faculty.”
A new report from the Massachusetts Teachers Association found the increase in student fees to pay for capital debts has increased student loan debt by roughly 25%. O’Conner pointed out it means students have to work more and study less, which diminishes their campus experience.
Last year, the Department of Education relieved Historically Black Colleges and Universities of roughly $1.6 billion in debt, allowing the schools to put the focus back on students and staff.
Joanna Gonsalves, professor of psychology at Salem State University and co-author of the report, said the Commonwealth could do the same for its 29 public campuses.
“They can pay those annual payments until the bonds are paid out,” Gonsalves suggested. “And in the future, when we need a new library, or we need a new classroom or a new dorm, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts can build it and maintain it like they used to.”
Voters will have a say in the matter come November, with the Fair Share Amendment on the ballot. The measure would create a new tax on incomes above $1 million, with revenue specifically earmarked for public schools and public transportation.
Kathryn Carley began her career in community radio, and is happy to be back, covering the New England region for Public News Service. Getting her start at KFAI in Minneapolis, Carley graduated from the University of Minnesota and then worked as a reporter for Minnesota Public Radio, focusing on energy and agriculture. Moving to Washington, D.C., she filed stories for The Pacifica Network News and The Pacifica Report. Later Carley worked as News Host for New York Public Radio, WNYC as well as Co-Anchor for Newsweek’s long running radio program, Newsweek on Air. Carley also served as News Anchor for New York Times Radio. She now lives near Boston, MA.