Students push for lawmakers to increase higher education funding

Higher education spending per student has been cut by 32 percent since 2001

FILE - In this Sunday, Dec. 17, 2006, file photo, Eastern Michigan University graduates socialize before their commencement at the Convocation Center in Ypsilanti, Mich. In recent years, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission have closed only seven companies that lured consumers with rosy promises to reduce or forgive student loan debt. But more than 130 student loan debt relief businesses operating during the period had records of questionable or illegal behavior, according to a NerdWallet review of public records. (Leisa Thompson/The Ann Arbor News via AP, File)

BOSTON (WWLP)—Student debt is rising in Massachusetts, but state funding is falling. College students are calling on the state to invest more in the higher education system and provide them with some financial relief.

According to a MassBudget report, average tuition and fees for Massachusetts public colleges and universities have more than doubled since 2001. But higher education spending per student has been cut by 32 percent over the same period.

Students lobbied lawmakers at the State House Monday to put money back into the higher education system. They want lawmakers to pass a bill that would pay for one full year of tuition and fees at a public college or university for eligible students. It’s known as the “Finish Line Grant.”

“So many students usually drop out after the first year after seeing the costs and how it effects them so even just giving them one extra year to over think-especially with community colleges where you might only go for two years, pay for your first year and it encourages you to stay for your degree,” Westfield State University student Mickey Prout told 22News.

The bill is currently stuck in committee, but they’re expected to take action by April 25.

Students and advocates are also hoping voters will pass a 2018 ballot question, known as the “Fair Share Amendment” or millionaire’s tax, that would invest a portion of income tax revenue in education and transportation.

“We can’t afford to do the things that we’re talking about if the Fair Share Amendment doesn’t pass,” State Rep. John Scibak, (D) South Hadley, said.

If passed, the question would place a four percent surtax on incomes over one million dollars. Higher education advocates want $500 million of generated revenue to go to public higher education.