Senator Jamie Eldridge’s “College For All” bill would make public higher education debt free for working families in Massachusetts.
BOSTON – Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) is filing legislation that would make public higher education debt free for more than ninety percent of Massachusetts households.
“I was inspired to file this legislation out of the experiences of so many families in my district and elsewhere in Massachusetts who are struggling to pay for college,” said Sen. Eldridge. “Our ultimate goal must be for every student, most especially students from low-income and working-class families, to be able to go to college without having to take out loans or incur crippling debt.”
Under Eldridge’s “College For All” bill, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts would cover the cost of all tuition and mandatory curriculum or course fees not covered by state or federal grants through the FAFSA process for eligible students attending a public higher education institution in Massachusetts. This includes the state’s community colleges, state universities, and the UMass campuses. Sen. Eldridge’s “Free College” bill would also require the state to provide financial assistance that will cover housing and transportation costs for Massachusetts residents whose annual household income is at or below the median income in the Commonwealth.
“If we’re serious about making an affordable college education a realistic opportunity for all Massachusetts residents, we have to eliminate any financial barriers for working families,” Sen. Eldridge said. “The state must, therefore, not only cover school tuition and fees, but also housing and transportation costs for low-income and middle-income families.”
Sen. Eldridge’s “College For All” bill is part of his economic justice legislative agenda aimed at reducing the state’s rising income and wealth gap. A college degree has become a necessity to get ahead in today’s economy – on average, graduates from four-year higher education institutions make roughly $21,000 more per year than high school graduates, while those with two-year degrees earn about $9,000 more per year than those with high school degrees. At the same time, college tuition more than tripled over the past thirty years, resulting in an increase in student loan debt. Today, most American students are graduating with debt, owing nearly $1.4 trillion in outstanding student loans nationwide.
“A college degree in Massachusetts has become essential to getting a job that will pay enough to cover our state’s rising cost of living, save for retirement and to reduce our state’s staggering wealth gap,” said Sen. Eldridge. “High student loan debt, however, is forcing graduates to work two jobs just to keep up with student loan payments or risking default. That’s unsustainable for the state’s economy and, quite frankly, unacceptable when we are giving tens of millions in tax breaks to wealthy corporations.”
The eligibility requirements for Sen. Eldridge’s “College For All” plan are:
- The student’s annual household income is $200,000 or less.
- The student shall have attended high school in the Commonwealth or attained the equivalent in the Commonwealth, and actively be a resident of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
- The student shall have applied for federal and state grants and aid via the FAFSA process (individuals who are not eligible to apply through FAFSA are exempt from this requirement).
- The student shall be enrolled fulltime in a program of higher education at a Massachusetts public higher education institution at a per-semester minimum course load of 15 credits.
- The student shall maintain a minimum grade point average of 2.7.
- The student shall not hold a baccalaureate degree or higher.