Bill could give students 1 year of free public college in Massachusetts

The proposal is under review by the state's Higher Education Committee

BOSTON (WWLP) – Although costs to go to college in Massachusetts continue to rise, state funding has declined since 2001.

Students are calling on lawmakers to support a bill that gives students one year of free public college in Massachusetts. They told 22News free college should be a right.

Higher education funding per student has been cut by more than 30 percent since 2001. But it continues to become more expensive to go to college in Massachusetts.

UMass Amherst student Isabella Epshtein told 22News that high tuition and fees have forced some of her friends to take on multiple jobs or even drop out.

“They’re leaving unable to achieve the careers that they want to, but be struggling with debt for a very long time,” said Epshtein.

Lawmakers are considering a proposal to provide low-income students with one full year of tuition and fees at Massachusetts public community colleges, state colleges and universities.

States with more college-educated workers have stronger, higher-wage economies, according to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. But for many low-income residents, this opportunity to access higher-wage jobs and move out of poverty remains out of reach.

“Students and families are the ones who are now paying and shouldering the heavy burden,” said Zac Bears, Executive Director of Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts. “We need to move back to a place where everyone can afford to go to college because what we’re doing is pricing people out. ”

“We’re forcing our students to figure out, do I pay for my class and my text books or do I put food on my table, and we should not have that in the United States and definitely not in Massachusetts. Public higher education is a right,” said State Rep. Natalie Higgins, (D) Leominster.

But critics question if the state can afford to pay for residents’ college education.

The proposal is under review by the state’s Higher Education Committee and still has a long way to go before it can become law.