UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Mass Higher Education Fails Affordability Test

The price of learning has just gone up for Massachusetts.

According to a new report in the 2006 State Report Card on Higher Education, Massachusetts received a failing grade for “College Affordability.” Cited in the report, called “Measuring Up”, are failures that point to a large percentage of family incomes being devoted to college tuitions, as well as a low state-backed need-based financial aid system that gives little help in Massachusetts where low-priced college opportunities are barely offered.

The share of family income devoted to tuition at public universities has increased over the past several years from 28% in 1992 to 34% in 2006, and as a result undergraduates borrowed a total of $4,342 last year.

Students working to get out from the lowest income bracket into a middle bracket must pay approximately 88% of their family’s income toward four-year public university tuition. For the highest rung, that share equals roughly nine percent of their family income.

The high cost university education in Massachusetts has served as a detriment to what many feel is a potential boom for the state’s economy.

“We have 75,000 jobs in Massachusetts looking for people when we have close to 200,000 people who are unemployed,” Sen. Edward Kennedy said, as attributed by the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. “How are we going to develop the innovative industries of our time to be able to develop high-paying jobs with good benefits and maintain a world class economy that is second to none? Education is at its core.”

Mr. Kennedy believes a more level system needs to be put in place in order to promote competition in the student loan program, or else Massachusetts will be caught in a system “working very, very well for the banks, but not for our students.”

Released by the not for profit, non-partisan Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, the report investigated education systems in all fifty states. After the investigating, grades are given to each state in six overall performance categories that include preparation, participation, affordability, completion, benefits, and learning. Massachusetts earned an “A” grade in every category other than “Affordability.”

Most states received satisfactory grades when it came to all categories other than affordability, but for cost measurements only Utah and California received a grade higher than a D, and they rated at a mere C-.

Even though the Bay State failed in affordability, it did however advance in every other category. The report went so far as to categorize Massachusetts as plus in general education, a distinction granted to only nine other states’ school systems. States given the plus rating were Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Nevada, New York, Oklahoma, and South Carolina. None of these “plus” states received a grade higher than an F for affordability.

And while members of the Commonwealth may fret over the percentage of income that goes to their tuition, they cannot justly say it goes without paying-off. In a 2005 survey in another Measuring Up report which was sponsored by National Forum on College Level Learning, citizens from five states were evaluated under a survey entitled “Graduate Ready for Advanced Practice.” The states included in the survey were Illinois, South Carolina, Kentucky, Nevada, and Oklahoma; each of which had generally rated at a plus in the 2006 Measuring Up survey. In the more recent survey, Massachusetts rated significantly higher than the other states with respect to the literacy of its adult population. The state also proved 34% of its graduated population to be proficient, compared to a 30% national average. Massachusetts also ranked five percentage points higher than the national average when it came to quantitative literacy.