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State Rep. James Arciero, recently named as the House Vice Chairman of the Joint Committee on Higher Education, has made addressing the rising cost of college student debt a major component of his legislative agenda for the 2019-2020 legislative agenda.
The higher education proposals by Arciero consist of three separate bills filed to address the resultant cost of attending college and future financial impact of that debt on those who have acquired post-secondary degrees. Specifically, Arciero has filed the following proposals in the Massachusetts House of Representatives:
House Bill 1202: An Act Establishing A Program For Student Loan Forgiveness– a proposal modeled after a similar program in New York state whereby a student who is a graduate of a Massachusetts High School, a graduate of a Massachusetts public state college or university, who is making less than $50,000 and has been out of college for less than 2 years, be eligible for two years of loan forgiveness.
House Bill 2391: An Act Encouraging Employer Student Loan Repayment– a proposal that would encourage a Massachusetts’ employer to assist in the repayment of student loans of an employee by allowing the business to take a state tax deduction of $2,000 for a principal payment of $2,000 against their employee’s student loan debt.
House Bill 3167: An Act Relative To Student Loan Debt Relief Tax Credit– a proposal which would provide an annual $2500 tax credit to recently graduated students who have over $20,000 in college student debt, with at least $5,000 of such debt still being owed. In addition, the individual would have to be a Massachusetts resident and file a Massachusetts state income tax return.
“As a former state college student, student trustee of the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees, I have always been keenly interested in the policies effecting high education in Massachusetts. As the Vice Chairman of the Higher Education Committee, working with the new House Chairman Jeffrey Roy, I am hopeful that we can implement some positive changes to bring much needed reform and relief to our graduating seniors,” said Arciero, who filed a number of proposals at the beginning of the legislative year before his appointment as Vice Chairman was announced by Speaker of the House Robert A. DeLeo.
“I am always mindful of the fact that secondary college education, and the cost associated with it, constitute the second highest source of consumer debt for the residents of our state, being only eclipsed by home mortgages. Not only this but the fact that such a large debt comes at the beginning of someone’s professional life is concerning when they are trying to get established and off to a good start in their adult lives, as well as, moving forward with their career goals. We have to be cognisant of the fact that student debt can easily drive recent graduates to move out of state to places with lower costs of living, taking with them the newly acquired skills which they learned in our world class colleges and universities and which we need for our future economic growth,” said Arciero.
According to findings of the Mass Budget Policy Center in their report “Educated and Encumbered: Student Debt Rising with Higher Education Funding Falling in Massachusetts,” Higher Education is vital to Massachusetts’ economic strength. Specifically, the report found that states with more college-educated workers have stronger, higher-wage economies, those earning bachelor degrees have higher earnings and residents graduating from Massachusetts public colleges and universities are more likely to stay and work in the state. Another important finding was the fact that public college debt is now approaching the amount of debt held by those students graduating from private institutions of higher education.
“It is fundamentally unfair to strap students with huge amounts of debt when they are trying to get their lives started. I am hopeful that with critical common sense changes in the law, we can implement those changes which will continue to make Massachusetts the state they want to live in, work in, and raise their families,” concluded Arciero.
The Massachusetts budget report also raised the warning that funding cuts to higher education are a significant factor in both rising tuition and fees at Massachusetts public colleges and universities, as well as a driving force in rising student debts for Massachusetts graduates, with increases in student debt now outpacing all other states but one. Student per capita debt has increased on average over 122 percent in recent years according to the 2018 Mass Budget document.
The Arciero proposals are likely to be assigned by the House and Senate Clerks to the Joint Committee on Higher Education for their public hearings and committee review. To date, the public hearing dates have not been determined as legislative committees and their membership have just been formalized for the two-year legislative session, with new leadership in both the House and Senate chairs.