One-third of Massachusetts public college students are going hungry.
Photo: Students holding signs at the #RespectUMB Walkout on May 8. (Zac Bears/PHENOM)
Hey PHENOMenal community!
So we are going to try something a little different this week and provide a short weekly update on all of the work students and the community have been doing to build our movement for a #DebtFreeFuture on the road to free public higher education for all. So if you like this update after you read it, and you want to keep receiving it, please click here to sign up! (Also, we haven’t named this yet—so if you have any ideas, send them our way!)
We’ve seen some major headlines this week on key issues facing students and our public colleges, and PHENOM has been shaping the conversation. From saving UMass Boston from its state-imposed funding crisis to new information on the deep, lasting problem of hunger and homelessness on our campuses, it’s clearer than ever that the attacks on students and our public higher education system have driven students and families to the brink. Together, we’re working to fix it, but we can only win by continuing to grow our movement, shaping the conversation by centering students and demanding that leaders turn talk into action.
Almost 50% of Community College Students Are Going Hungry
Massachusetts became the first state in the country to issue a report on campus hunger at our public college campuses this week, and the findings are stark—almost half of community college students and almost a third of state university students are facing serious hunger on a regular basis. This is shameful, and this study proves what so many students and families have been experiencing for years. Choosing between a textbook and a meal. Dropping out for a semester because you need a third job to get by. It’s not isolated. This conversation on our Facebook page really brings the story home. “I have leftover ramen” is not an answer any of us should be comfortable hearing.
And yet our campuses are putting up higher and higher barriers of fees and debt every year. When tens of thousands of public college students in the state are going hungry, skipping meals and facing homelessness, we need to seriously reconsider charging $5,000 to $15,000 in fees to students and families. We need a #DebtFreeFuture because public college students are going hungry.
On Friday, we participated in the Voices of Hunger on Campus Conference at Worcester State, where PHENOM Director Zac Bears helped facilitate a workshop on empowering students to fight hunger and food insecurity on their campus. But we need to do more than open food pantries and implement meal swipe sharing programs. We need to address the root causes, one of which is that public colleges in Massachusetts are extremely underfunded and way too expensive.
Hundreds Walk Out to Save UMass Boston
PHENOM has been deeply involved in the fight to #SaveUMB for over a year now, and the crisis on campus is only deepening. Administrators are cutting night classes, laying off essential staff, doubling parking fees and, many local community members fear, moving the campus away from its essential urban mission to serve working-class people and communities of color in Boston.
Over 500 people walked out on Tuesday, and almost every local TV station and newspaper covered it. Students are demanding that we #RespectUMB, especially in the context of the UMass Amherst-Mount Ida deal which so many people at UMB see as a slap in the face. PHENOM student organizer and UMB sophomore Maddi Walker was featured in the Boston Globe story on the walkout.
Sign up to take action to #SaveUMB at bit.ly/SaveUMBAction.
Congratulating PHENOM’s Graduating Seniors
It’s also that time of year at PHENOM and colleges across the state—graduation. We want to thank our four graduating seniors who will be leaving their campuses this month. They are:
- Delia Fuentes, Springfield Technical Community College
- Jennifer Ford, Bridgewater State University
- Kenny Fairneny, UMass Amherst
- Stephanie Houten, Massachusetts College of Art and Design
We still plan to keep them involved through our alumni organizing work to reach people who are paying back student debt!
Further Reading and What’s Up Next Week
And that’s just some of what we’ve been doing over the past week.
The Senate budget for next year just came out, and while it’s better than Governor Baker’s budget for public higher education, we’re still facing a funding hole of between $50 and $100 million and students and families are likely to face tuition and fee increases. Read more.
PHENOM joined Raise Up Massachusetts for the Raise Up Congress at the State House to support the $15 minimum wage and Paid Family and Medical Leave. “Zac Bears of PHENOM said he attended the rally on behalf of students who need a higher minimum wage to work their way through college.” Read more.
Donald Trump’s head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is closing a student debt protection office that has returned more than $750 million to defrauded student borrowers. Read more.
America hit a milestone this week. “For the first time, public universities in most states received most of their revenue from tuition rather than the government.” In Massachusetts, we hit this milestone almost a decade ago. We need to provide a #DebtFreeFuture. Read more.
With the end of the semester, we’re not holding as many events over the summer, but we still have some things going on next week, and we have two big events in June!
- Next week, we have a big internal strategy day on Monday, we’re going to the Raise Up MA Grassroots Fundraiser on Tuesday, our Public Higher Education Summit Group Meeting and the State Senate hearing on the UMass Amherst-Mount Ida deal on Wednesday, and our “Coworking Fridays” at Jobs With Justice to end the week.
- Join us on Sunday, June 10th for our 2018 PHENOM Annual Meeting at UMass Amherst or via Zoom videoconference. The event is free and open, and we’ll be electing our Board for the next year, discussing our budget and working on our #DebtFreeFuture campaign. Click here to RSVP.
- We also have the MEJA Statewide Convening on June 23rd to discuss our statewide campaigns to #FundOurSchools and provide a #DebtFreeFuture. Join us!