State Rep. Candidates Discuss The Rising Cost of Higher Education

FRAMINGHAM – The cost of higher education continues to increase.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, between 2005–06 and 2015–16, prices for undergraduate tuition, fees, room, and board at public institutions rose 34 percent, and prices at private nonprofit institutions rose 26 percent, after adjustment for inflation.

Last year, the average cost for a student at public 4-year in state college (like Framingham State or UMass) with tuition, room, and board was $20,770.

The average cost for a student at a public, 4-year out-of state college (like SUNY or the University of Maryland), with tuition, room and board was $36,420.

The average cost for a student in a private, 4-year with tuition (like Boston University or Brandeis), room, and board was $46,950.

This year some colleges are now over the $75,000 a year mark, with room and board included.

The national student debt now totals more $1.4 trillion. Seven in 10 seniors (69 percent) who graduated from public and nonprofit colleges in 2014 had student loan debt, with an average of $28,950 per borrower, according to the Institute for College Access & Success.

Election Day – Tuesday, Sept. 4

On Tuesday, September 4, the day after Labor Day, Framingham voters will participate in the state primary election.

Voters in Precinct 3, will see State Rep. Carmine Gentile on the Democratic ballot seeking re-election in the 13th Middlesex District. He has no Republican challenger. Voters in Precincts 8, 13, 14, 16, 17, and 18, will see State Rep. Jack Patrick Lewis on the Democratic ballot seeking re-election in the 7th Middlesex District. He has no Republican challenger. And voters in Precincts (not City Districts) 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 15 will see no names on any ballots.

With the death of State Rep. Chris Walsh in May there was not time for any candidate to gather signatures and appear on the ballot after his death. Thus, every candidate that wants the 6th Middlesex state representative seat must run a write-in campaign.

There are five candidates who have announced write-in campaigns – four Democrats and one Republican. The Democrats are Mary Kate Feeney, Mike Gatlin, Maria Robinson, and Mark Tilden. The Republican is Tom Blandford.

In Framingham, as in the state, the majority of registered voters are unenrolled, which means they have no party affiliation. Unenrolled voters may choose a Democratic, Republican, or Libertarian ballot on Tuesday, Sept 4 and write in the candidate of their choice. The announced Democratic candidates are encouraging voters to pull a Democratic ballot and write their name, and the Republican candidate is encouraging unenrolled voters to pull a Republican ballot and write his name.

Source asked the write-in candidates a series of questions, of which we are publishing the answers one a day this week and next week.

Today’s question — The cost of higher education continues to rise. Even students who qualify for the Adams Scholarship for free tuition face a large bill. For example, UMass Amherst charges a student more than $15,000 a year, but the Adams scholarship is just $1,714. At Framingham State total student charges is $9,920, but the Adams scholarship is just $970. Do you support a free tuition program like New York State? If not, how would you help make college more affordable for students?

Editor’s Note: The candidates were given 500 words or less for a response. The responses are published below, as received, unless they went over 500 words, and then the news site cut the answer at the sentence closest to 500 words.


FEENEY: Every day students and their families are faced with the question of how to pay for higher education, while graduates are burdened with thousands in debt as they begin their careers. It is a cycle that never seems to end and is getting worse. The cost of higher education should not be a roadblock for an individual to continue their education.

We can keep public higher education affordable through partnerships among municipalities, community colleges, businesses, state colleges and universities, and the  Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth Commitment program provides community college graduates who complete an Associates Degree, and then transfers to a state college or university discounts,
rebates and a freeze on all mandatory student charges.

The City of Boston last year partnered with the Commonwealth and established The Boston Bridge, a pilot program that covers a students’ tuition and fees at the Boston community college and if they transfer to a state college and university. This partnership between Boston and the Commonwealth is a great way for students to obtain a higher education degree, and we should seek similar arrangements throughout Massachusetts.

We are fortunate to have two institutions of higher education in our community. Our high school should partner with Massachusetts Bay Community College and Framingham State University as a way for students to take college-level courses, earn college credits and opens our students to new learning experiences and possibilities.

The Commonwealth’s Duel Enrollment Program, which allows high school students the chance to learn at a local state college at a discounted rate, should be expanded to a more formal arrangement between these three schools.

Lastly, we should encourage partnerships between higher education and businesses. Earlier this month, Lesley University, Bristol Community College and the DeMello International Center in New Bedford announced their partnership called the Rising Tide Educational Initiative. Part of the program provides local New Bedford teachers with the opportunity to earn their master’s from Lesley at a reduced rate, in exchange for an additional three years of teaching in New Bedford Public Schools.

Additionally, college is not always the best path for everyone. We are lucky to have Keefe Regional Technical High School in our community. Vocational schools train students in the skills they need for in-demand, well-paying careers. As state representative, I will work with the Keefe School Board and Superintendent on ensuring the state is providing the school with the resources it needs for its students and teachers.

As state representative, I am committed to expanding educational opportunities and working to keep higher education affordable for all. I will support the continued funding of the
Commonwealth Commitment program, and seek ways Framingham can participate in similar arrangements, and encourage partnerships between our local businesses and our state
colleges and universities.


GATLIN: To begin with, the Commonwealth needs to honor its commitment to fund the state college system at a much higher rate that is presently the case.

State support has dropped from 80 percent of costs to 20 percent in 10 years.

This alone should help to at least stabilize the cost of college tuition in the state college/ university system.

I would also be supportive of a free-tuition program as has been enacted in New York state which provides free tuition to students coming from households with a family income below a preset amount.



ROBINSON:  Massachusetts public universities currently charge a small amount (the amount given in the Adams Scholarship) for tuition but charge significantly more in fees. What New York has done is offer free tuition for full-time students at 2- and 4-year colleges, but the fees for room, board, books, and other costs still remain.

The requirement to attend full-time is certainly not something that would work for many Massachusetts students who are seeking degrees part-time and for working-class families that depend on the income.

The post-college residency requirement in New York is something that could work for Massachusetts, if we try to find needs in the system and work to meet them with free tuition and reduced fees. For example, there is a shortage of social workers at the Department of Children and Family Services; we could provide loan forgiveness to students who commit to working for the Department for five years after they graduate college with a degree in social work. This would reduce college debt for students who are providing valuable services to the Commonwealth.

One way to reduce costs in higher education is to take a systematic look at where the highest costs are, particularly in administrative costs, and find better pathways to streamline the costs. This could include better state-wide procurement programs for needs of all colleges and universities, such as electricity or textbooks.
The rising cost of higher education is simply exacerbating existing economic inequality across the Commonwealth, and we need to get to the root of how we are spending funding right now and how we can improve this process before we increase fees and tuition on our students.


TILDEN: I do not support universal free tuition.

I would prefer a generous loan program at affordable interest rates with an option to work off the payments.






BLANDFORD: I support a 2-year college free tuition for students that are also willing to volunteer and also to help bring down some of the cost as well.

To have big companies invest back into students that they want to stay and work here.

I would encourage the students to stay and invest here and to work here and to raise a family here and to build here and invest here.


Framingham Source Editor Susan Petroni

Susan Petroni Framingham Source Editor Email: Phone: 508-315-7176

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