#DebtFreeFuture is a student-led, youth-driven movement for free public college and debt cancellation.

Photo: A student holds a sign reading “Public College Should Not Be A Debt Sentence” at Advocacy Day 2018. (Jen Ford/PHENOM)

Huge cuts in state funding for public colleges are making it impossible for students and families to afford college, and these cuts are now driving Massachusetts public college tuition and fees up faster than any other state in the country. The average student debt in Massachusetts is $37,172, and it’s only growing.

It’s clear: student debt is a crisis that can no longer be ignored or pushed aside.

That’s why we filed the Debt Free Future Act (SD1415/HD3113) with Senator Jamie Eldridge and Representative Natalie Higgins.

This bill, formally titled “An Act to Guarantee Debt-Free Public Higher Education,” would guarantee every Massachusetts resident has a right to a public higher education free of tuition, fees, and student debt. With this bill, we’re taking the next step in our Debt Free Future campaign to demand justice for students and take bold action to address the student debt crisis.

Now, Massachusetts has the 10th highest student debt burden in the country and the 6th lowest public college budget. Student debt growth in Massachusetts was the second-fastest in the whole country over the past 15 years. Average debt only went up faster in Delaware, putting us ahead of 48 other states. It’s not a top-two list we want to be on.

Please email and call your State Rep and State Senator and ask them to support the Debt Free Future Act! Click here to send an email to your lawmakers. Then, click here to make a call to your lawmakers.

PRESS COVERAGE

Fall 2018
Lowell Sun: “Report Attacks Beacon Hill’s Record on Funding Public Colleges”
WBUR:
“Gonzalez Endowment Tax Proposal Gets Harsh Response From Higher Education Community”
Daily Hampshire Gazette: “Gonzalez floats tax on private college endowments”
State House News Service: “Jay Gonzalez: Tax Harvard; Charlie Baker: Bad Idea”
WWLP: “Baker rips Gonzalez’s endowment tax as ‘bad idea'”
Next City: “Gubernatorial Hopeful Wants to Tax Massachusetts’ Private Colleges”
Daily Hampshire Gazette: “UMass Amherst climbs to 26th in public college rankings”

Summer 2018
Daily Hampshire Gazette:
“UMass tuition to increase for fall”
Lowell Sun: “Tuition rising 2.5% at UMass”
Amherst Bulletin: “Tuition hikes in offing at UMass Amherst”

April 2018
Leslie Marshall Show: “Rep. Natalie Higgins and PHENOM’s Zac Bears on the Student Loan Bill of Rights”
The Atlantic: “Why Would the Government Stop States From Helping Student Borrowers?”
MassLive Editorial: “State should take lead in protecting student debtors”
MarketWatch: “Massachusetts defies Trump administration with crackdown on student loan debt”
MassLive.com: “Mass. Senate passes student loan regulations, setting up clash with Trump administration”
New England Public Radio: “Student Debt Is ‘Poisoning Everything Else In Our Economy,’ Says Sen. Eric Lesser”
Valley Advocate: “Massachusetts readies for legal fight over ‘Student Loan Bill of Rights’”
AP/Boston.com: “Massachusetts Senate OKs bill aimed at student loan lenders”
WBUR: “Massachusetts Senate OKs Bill Aimed At Student Loan Lenders”
Daily Hampshire Gazette: “State Senate passes student loan bill of rights”
Public News Service:
“Student Loan Bill of Rights Passes Mass. Senate”
The Student Loan Report:
“Massachusetts May Face Legal Battle Over Student Loan Bill of Rights”
WWLP-22 News:
“Bill aims to end predatory student loan services”
Lowell Sun: “Senate OKs ‘student loan bill of rights’”
Western Mass News: “Massachusetts Senate OKs bill aimed at student loan lenders”
U.S. News & World Report: “Massachusetts Senate OKs Bill Aimed At Student Loan Lenders”
WHDH-7 News: “Massachusetts Senate OKs Bill Aimed At Student Loan Lenders”
BU Daily Free Press: “Massachusetts on path to regulate student loan servicers”
Amherst Bulletin: “UMass students push for affordable college”
Greenfield Recorder: “Panel tackles college affordability”
MetroWest Daily News: “Sherborn’s state senator supports student loan bill of rights”
Auburn Mass. Daily:
“Student Loan Bill of Rights to Protect Borrowers”
MassPIRG: “Mass. Senate Passes Much Needed Consumer Protections for Student Loan Borrowers”
PHENOM:
“Students and Advocates Support Student Loan Bill of Rights”

March 2018
WBUR: “As Costs Climb At Public Colleges, State Leaders Weigh Fixes — But Students Demand More”
WWLP-22 News: “Students push for lawmakers to increase higher education funding”
State House News Service: “UMass eyes online ed revenues to address affordability”
MassLive.com: “UMass President Marty Meehan stresses college affordability in State of UMass address”
Boston Globe: “Mass. students borrowing more to attend public universities”
Boston Business Journal: “Massachusetts’ rising student debt said to hurt local businesses”
MassLive.com: “Trump policy threatens Massachusetts’ regulation of student loans”
Daily Collegian (UMass): “Letter: UMatter at UMass, but do you matter in Massachusetts?”
MassBudget: “Educated and Encumbered: Student Debt Rising with Higher Education Funding Falling in MA”

Fall 2017
American Prospect: “States Take on Student Debt Abuses as the Trump Administration Defaults”
MassLive.com: “After DeVos rescinds protections, Massachusetts mulls regulations for student loan industry”
Massachusetts Jobs With Justice: “A Student Loan Borrowers Bill of Rights”

Spring 2017
MassLive.com: “It’s time for a student loan bill of rights in Massachusetts (Guest Viewpoint)”
MassLive.com: “Do Massachusetts college students need a borrower’s bill of rights?”

Our Legislation

“An Act to Guarantee Debt-Free Public Higher Education” (SD. 1415/HD. 3113)
Lead Sponsors: Senator Jamie Eldridge and Representative Natalie Higgins

SECTION 1. Section 1 of Chapter 15A of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2016 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after the word “opportunities.” in line 14 the following words:

-It is hereby further declared to be the policy of the commonwealth to guarantee free public higher education as a right for all residents.

SECTION 2. Chapter 15A of the General Laws is hereby amended by adding the following section:

-Section 45. (a) Definitions used in this section, the following words shall have the following meanings, unless the context clearly requires otherwise:

“Board”, the Board of Higher Education.

“Eligible Student”, a resident of the commonwealth as determined by the board of higher education’s residency status for tuition classification purposes, who has attained a high school diploma or its equivalent in the commonwealth, who is admitted to and enrolled in a Massachusetts public college or university or other public certificate, vocational, or adult education program, and who is enrolled full-time or part-time, and who maintains a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or above.

(b) Notwithstanding the provisions of any general or special law to the contrary, the board shall create a grant program to pay the equivalent of tuition and mandatory fees to an eligible student at any Massachusetts public college or university, or certificate, vocational, or training program at a public institution, up to the equivalent of four years of public college or university.

(c) The grant shall supplement and shall not replace state grants, gift aid, institutional aid, or federal aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid process. The board shall promulgate regulations to ensure funds from this program do not affect eligibility for other state grants, gift aid, institutional aid, or federal aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid process.

(d) All public higher education and public vocational training institutions shall be considered eligible institutions for this program and there shall be no restrictions on a student’s choice of academic programs.

(e) The board shall provide an annual notice of eligibility for this program to all eligible students and all new graduates from a Massachusetts high school or GED program. The board will maintain a database of all students currently or potentially eligible for this program.

 

Our Co-Sponsors

State Representatives (50)

  • Arciero, James
  • Balser, Ruth
  • Barber, Christine
  • Benson, Jennifer
  • Blais, Natalie
  • Cabral, Antonio
  • Cahill, Daniel
  • Capano, Peter
  • Cassidy, Gerard
  • Ciccolo, Michelle
  • Connolly, Mike
  • Cullinane, Daniel
  • Day, Michael
  • Decker, Marjorie
  • Domb, Mindy
  • Donahue, Daniel
  • Elugardo, Nika
  • Farley-Bouvier, Tricia
  • Fernandes, Dylan
  • Garballey, Sean
  • Garlick, Denise
  • Gentile, Carmine
  • Gonzalez, Carlos
  • Gordon, Kenneth
  • Gouveia, Tami
  • Hawkins, James

State Reps (continued)

  • Higgins, Natalie
  • Kearney, Patrick
  • Keefe, Mary
  • Khan, Kay
  • LeBoeuf, David
  • Lewis, Jack
  • Linsky, David
  • Livingstone, Jay
  • Madaro, Adrian
  • Malia, Elizabeth
  • Minicucci, Christina
  • Miranda, Liz
  • Nguyen, Tram
  • O’Day, James
  • Provost, Denise
  • Robinson, Maria
  • Rogers, David
  • Ryan, Daniel
  • Sabadosa, Lindsay
  • Santiago, Jon
  • Stanley, Thomas
  • Tyler, Chynah
  • Ultrino, Steven
  • Vitolo, Tommy
  • Williams, Bud

State Senators (14)

  • Barrett, Michael
  • Boncore, Joseph
  • Brady, Michael
  • Collins, Nick
  • Cyr, Julian
  • DiDomenico, Sal
  • Eldridge, James
  • Friedman, Cindy
  • Hinds, Adam
  • Jehlen, Patricia
  • Lesser, Eric
  • Lewis, Jason
  • Moore, Michael
  • Rausch, Rebecca

#DebtFreeFuture Advocacy Day 2018

“If we as students do not organize and demand our right to a #DebtFreeFuture, who will?” UMass Amherst student Nathalie Amazan asked the 500-person crowd gathered at the State House on March 5th for Public Higher Education Advocacy Day 2018.

“You have the power. You have the power. You have the power. You have the power. You have the power,” Amazan declared, pointing at different groups of students gathered across the room. “All of us have the power as students to organize together and demand a system that works for us. We have the power to do that today. That’s why we’re here.”

Hundreds of students from public colleges and universities across Massachusetts took that power right into the Beacon Hill offices of their state representatives and state senators, laying out an ambitious and long-overdue agenda to make college affordable and accessible for the students and families of the Commonwealth.

“The Department of Higher Education is trying to help people afford college, but we need to put a lot more money into it than five, seven million dollars,” PHENOM executive director Zac Bears said. “We need $500 million just as a start, just to get going.”

Read More

Student Loan Bill of Rights

Student debt is now the second largest form of debt held by people in the United States. Over $1.5 trillion in student loans are outstanding, with nearly two-thirds of that amount being held by women. But student loan borrowers don’t even have the same basic protections provided to mortgage loans, car loans or even credit card debt. We have to change that in Massachusetts.

The Student Loan Bill of Rights (S.2380 and H.2173) would provide all student loan borrowers in the state with the basic consumer protections they deserve. Click here to download our print factsheet.

The Student Loan Bill of Rights passed the Massachusetts Senate unanimously on April 11th, 2018. The bill now sits in the Massachusetts House of Representatives awaiting a vote before it is sent to Governor Baker for his signature.

PHENOM worked with “The Loan Rangers,” a student law office of about 15 Northeastern University School of Law students, to analyze the Student Loan Bill of Rights, create a “Know Your Rights” guide for student borrowers and suggest amendments to the bills currently being moved through the State House. We are proud to say that some of these changes made it into the bill that passed the Massachusetts Senate in April 2018. Read their report on the Student Loan Bill of Rights here.

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