Lawmakers brainstorm student debt improvements

AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – With student debt about to top $1-trillion dollars nationally, state lawmakers have some ideas about how to lessen the burden for students.

State schools like UMass can be easier to afford than a private college. But a new report shows student loan debt for the state’s public colleges and universities has risen 27% in the last three years.

At hearings, state lawmakers were surprised to learn that many students lacked a basic understand of loans and finances.

Now they’re recommending that financial literacy courses become a part of every high school’s curriculum. UMass Associate Provost for Enrollment Management Jim Roche told 22News supports that, but also thinks there needs to be self-education.

“It’s as simple for example as Googleing how to pay for college. You’d be amazed how many websites are out there including some from the Department of Education,” said Roche.

“I have a plan but it’s not really a solid plan and It’s a lot to deal with. If it did start when we were younger I feel like we’d be a lot more prepared than we are right now,” said Ryan Stebbins, a UMass Senior.

Other recommendations include promoting dual enrollment, allowing college credit for high school advanced placement courses, and reforming state aid and scholarships.

“A lot of kids don’t even know about the opportunities. I guess that could be an institutional problem,” said Joshua Castillo, a Junior at UMass.

Sophomore Christopher Beck told 22News, “I’m going to have to pay for rent when I’m out of college and utilities and other things. I’m not only thinking about the debt. It’s going to take a while.”

This report by state lawmakers is supposed to lead to future action.

About 66% of students here in Massachusetts take out loans to pay for college.

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