We attended the Education Equity Hearing with our brothers and sisters at the Student Immigrant Movement at the State House today. There were more than 150 advocates in the hearing and we even participated in a small rally outside of the State House before the hearing. Check out one of our Board Members, Gillian Mason of Massachusetts Jobs with Justice, at the Rally and a photo from inside the hearing. Below is our written testimony to the Joint Committee on Higher Education.
Testimony in Support of H.1061/S.654
Good morning. My name is Natalie Higgins and I am the Executive Director of PHENOM (the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts). We are a coalition of students, faculty, staff, administrators, and alumni, advocating for more affordable and accessible, quality public higher education in the Commonwealth. For years, PHENOM has advocated for increased affordability and accessibility for ALL residents of the Commonwealth, regardless of their immigration status. And I am very excited to be here representing our membership in support of the Education Equity Act (H.1061/S.654), as we prioritized this issue in our legislative agenda this year.
PHENOM focuses on building coalitions, bringing together so many diverse public higher education stakeholder groups, and this often is a difficult task. Too often, people try to frame the public higher education narrative as “us versus them,” for example students versus faculty, faculty versus the administration. The debate around the Education Equity Act cannot devolve into this. We must be united in our efforts to strengthen our public higher education system. Our system is just now beginning to see increased investment, after more than a decade of severe cuts, but this increased investment cannot be limited to certain groups. All of our youth have a right to a quality public higher education in the Commonwealth. We know that this education is unaffordable for so many students paying in-state tuition rates, nevermind undocumented students who are forced to pay rates two to three times that in order to get the same education as their peers.
Put simply, this legislation asks students who are long-time residents of Massachusetts communities to pay the same rate as one another and allows them to rightfully access the state’s financial aid pool to which they and their families contribute, which makes sense for the state’s bottom line. By giving these youth a chance to live up to their full potential, these hard-working and talented students will directly fuel the Massachusetts economy by filling labor shortages in key sectors, and also contribute more to the state through taxes as a result of their increased earning power.
We urge you to take action now, to ensure that all students graduating will have the opportunity to pursue their dreams of higher education. I proudly endorse these efforts and look forward to seeing these students in a more affordable and accessible public higher education system.
Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts (PHENOM)
Submitted to the Joint Committee on Higher Education
July 15, 2015