Two of PHENOM’s top legislative priorities — tax reform and financial aid — had hearings at the State House in May.
On May 5, PHENOM turned out 50+ people from across the state to show support for An Act to Invest in Our Communities which would generate an additional $1.3 billion per year in revenue for the state, with almost all of it coming from the wealthy. They were part of a crowd of over 500 people who heard PHENOM leaders explain to the Joint Committee on Revenue the impact repeated budget cuts are having on our campuses. Waving yellow signs, students, staff and faculty made it clear that “Taxes”is no longer a dirty word and that we were not there to fight for a larger piece of a shrinking pie. Together with town officials, human service advocates, K-12 leaders and other, we were there to say we needed a bigger pie.
6 days later, we were back to testify before the Joint Committee on Higher Education. Stasha Lampert, Patrick Burke and Vonds Auguste gave moving testimony for H.350, the Finish Line Grant legislation crafted by Rep. Garballey and PHENOM. This bill would provide scholarships to cover the entire cost of tuition and fees at a public college for residents of Massachusetts in need of financial assistance. The students and ex-students told their personal stories and tied them to the societal need for more college graduates. Improving access is important but insufficient. Retention and graduation are equally important. As Stasha said, “The Finishline Grant, then, stands as a mediator of this problem of high costs, and compromised graduation rates by helping students who face struggles getting through their final year, or who are looking forward to at some point having a final year, and would see this grant as a motivator and potential enabler for the completion of their degree.”
PHENOM also expressed support for two other financial aid bills. H.351 would limit to 50% the proportion of state financial aid that went to students attending private colleges. The Education Rewards Grant Program to Assist Low-Income Workers Act (H977/S42), would preserve the only state grant available to low-income students enrolled in college less than half time.