RELEASE: National Report Recognizes Massachusetts Advocates Leading Student Debt Charge; Over 15 Percent of Massachusetts Zip Codes Hold Alarming Rates of Loan Balances


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RELEASE: National Report Recognizes Massachusetts Advocates Leading Student Debt Charge; Over 15 Percent of Massachusetts Zip Codes Hold Alarming Rates of Loan Balances


CONTACT: Kyle Epstein; 202.481.8137

Washington, D.C. – As student debt levels nationwide surge above $1.3 trillion, the pursuit of a higher education has never been more unaffordable. In light of congressional inaction on addressing the student debt crisis, a new paper by Generation Progress argues that states and municipalities are well-positioned to take immediate and meaningful action on the national crisis.

On the heels of the release of Mapping Student Debt – the first-of-its-kind project which tracks student loan balances, delinquency rates, and median income at the zip code level – “We Can’t Wait: How States and Municipalities Can Help Stem the Student Debt Crisis” offers a menu of policy solutions as a framework for tackling the national crisis at the local level. For months, advocates throughout the country have worked to develop a catalog of tailored solutions addressing student debt.

In Massachusetts, about 3.4 percent of zip codes in the state have alarmingly high rates of delinquency, according to the “high,” “very high,” and “extremely high” thresholds defined by the Mapping Student Debt project. Likewise, about 15.4 percent of Massachusetts zip codes hold critically high loan balances, according to those same scales.

“If we believe that the youth of the Commonwealth represent our future, then we must address the enormous debt students are saddled with after college. Federal inaction should not prevent us from employing local solutions to alleviate this burden,” said Massachusetts State Representative Sean Garballey, also the Vice Chair on the Joint Committee on Higher Education.

“Nearly one million Massachusetts residents carry more than $24 billion in student debt,” said Natalie Higgins, Executive Director of the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts (PHENOM). “Collectively, our borrowers are losing $2.5 billion of forgone savings and equity each year! PHENOM is exploring state-level solutions to the student debt crisis, while also helping future students and their families with a multi-year campaign to make free public higher education a reality in Massachusetts.”

Case studies of successful local initiatives highlighted in the paper can serve as models for other states and municipalities looking to provide relief to students and borrowers.

“Local communities can’t afford to wait for federal solutions to the student debt crisis,” said Maggie Thompson, Campaign Manager for Higher Ed, Not Debt and co-author of the report. “States and municipalities need policies they can implement now to help borrowers and address affordability and accountability in higher education. The magnitude of the crisis and the need to act is clear, so where Congress has done little, states, counties, and cities can step up and fill the void.”

  • The recommendations outlined in the paper include:
  • Addressing the current trillion dollar national debt
  • Cleaning up student loan servicing
  • Increasing enforcement of predatory schools
  • Making free or debt-free higher education options the new normal

Read the paper here.

Other related resources:
Mapping Student Debt


Generation Progress, the youth division of the Center for American Progress, is a nonpartisan organization that works with and for young people to promote progressive solutions to key political and social challenges. Through programs in activism, journalism, and events, Generation Progress engages a diverse group of young people nationwide, inspires them to embrace progressive values, provides them with essential trainings, and helps them to make their voices heard on important policy issues. Launched in 2005 and formerly called Campus Progress, we support national and local advocacy campaigns; run a daily web magazine for young progressives; support student publications on more than 50 campuses; and have held more than 900 public events. For more information, please visit

PHENOM unites students, faculty, staff, alumni, and others from community colleges, state universities, the UMass campuses, and the broader community to advocate for better funded, affordable and accessible public higher education in Massachusetts. The 500,000 people who make up the Massachusetts public higher education community are the sleeping giant of Massachusetts politics. By mobilizing a large and engaged grassroots network, PHENOM is waking up this sleeping giant so we can get the resources to create the public higher education system we and our children deserve.