Students Testify at Ways & Means Hearing

State House must fund campuses to prevent a tuition and fee increase.

Students asked state representatives and senators to provide full funding for the state’s 29 public colleges and universities in order to stop tuition and fee increases in testimony before the Joint Committee on Ways & Means of the Massachusetts Legislature on March 29 at UMass Amherst. The event was co-hosted by PHENOM, Fair Shot for All and the Center for Education Policy & Advocacy (CEPA).

Read the full testimony of students here. (link)


Daily Hampshire Gazette: “Students urge legislators to freeze tuition” (link)
WWLP-22News: “UMass students fighting possible tuition increase” (link)
MassLive: “State officials hear pleas for more higher education funding at UMass hearing” (link)
Mass. Daily Collegian: “Rally held outside Joint Ways and Means Committee meeting for tuition and fee freezes” (link)

Andrew Lawson spoke on behalf of his community at North Shore Community College and Fair Shot for All, and discussed his personal struggle with finances and being able to pay for school.

“My family and I live in Lynn, Massachusetts, where we have been living in public housing since 2011. In many years past, we did not struggle with money the way we do today,” Lawson said. “After high school graduation I attended UMass Amherst for all of one semester. Even with financial aid and scholarships, I owed $6,000 out of pocket for the following semester. Unable to pay the outrageous fees, I transferred to North Shore Community College, where I still attend today. Although North Shore was considerably more affordable, there were still roadblocks.”

Erika Civitarese, a UMass Amherst senior and organizer with the Center for Education Policy & Advocacy, spoke at length about her issues with financial aid.

“When I was first accepted to UMass Amherst, I received an amazing financial aid package, but due to a tax error, my financial aid package disappeared. My family still did not have the money, so I had to take out private loans. After that year, I have received work study, scholarships, and I max out the Pell Grant every year. But still, to this day, I have $38,851 in student loans. My family and I worry daily about how we are going to pay them off, let alone how we will send my 15 year old sister through college in a few years when, at this rate, tuition will be sky high.”

“The time is now for Massachusetts to become a real leading force in free higher education,” Civitarese continued.

Nat Roosa, a UMass Amherst student who spoke on behalf of Fair Shot for All, said the high cost of higher education created a toxic environment in her home, making it financially impossible for her parents to get divorced.

“And now at UMass, I still am unable to conceive of a future where I feel freedom to explore career options. Once I graduate, I will have loans that have already accrued interest,” said Roosa. “Rather than working a low-paying job for valuable experience or using my young years to travel and explore new cultures, I will have to find a job that pays the bills. Most importantly, I won’t have the options I might have had if I did not have loans after graduation.”

“I hope you will seriously consider these stories of high debt, high costs and struggle that almost every student on each of our campuses faces every single day,” said Zac Bears, PHENOM’s Executive Director. “Each dollar appropriated below the campus budget requests is a dollar that must be paid for by someone else, likely through tuition and fee increases. Please don’t push those costs onto students and working families who are already struggling to pay for school and put food on the table.”