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WestfordCAT has asked the state Senate candidates to respond to questions about pressing societal issues. This week’s question: According to the Institute for College Access & Success, “68 percent of 2015 bachelor’s degree recipients graduated with student loan debt. The average was $30,100 per borrower.” This level of debt has the potential to choke today’s young adults who may never be able to dig out enough to own a home and raise a family. Do you have a plan for solving this financial crisis that some say is a bubble that will eventually burst?
The candidates who responded, state their positions below. John Drinkwater, Rodney Elliott and Bill Martin did not respond.
EDWARD J. KENNEDY
EDWARD J. KENNEDY – Lowell Democrat
I highlighted this issue when I announced my candidacy for the state Senate back in April. Student loan debt has a profound impact on the Massachusetts economy, affecting younger people’s ability to purchase a home, get married and have children, or invest in a business. For older citizens, student loan debt becomes a challenge to their retirement plans. Student debt has a real impact on the lives of our citizens, and on the economic health of our state.
In Massachusetts, approximately two-thirds of the graduating class of 2015 left campus with an average student debt of more than $30,000 and currently almost 45 percent of those with student loan debt are over the age of 45.
Although, student loan debt is a national problem that requires a solution from the federal government, I will support creative solutions aimed at easing the burden of student loan debt in Massachusetts such as promoting economic incentives to businesses and companies who offer plans to reduce student loan debt as a way of attracting new employees and retaining current employees.
Massachusetts currently offers student loan repayment programs for primary health care professionals as an incentive to practice in communities where there is a shortage of health care providers. Additional student loan reduction programs that would have an even broader impact will have my full support. I am also in favor of providing additional funding for the Commonwealth’s MassGrant Program and expanding the parameters of the Adams Scholarship to include tuition and fees rather than just tuition.
JOHN MACDONALD — Lowell Republican
Over 44 million Americans collectively hold nearly $1.5 trillion in student debt. It’s time we have a state Senator that will fight for our young adults and their parents. I will fight against predatory college lending rates. Our kids need a future that doesn’t saddle them with debt. It’s time that Massachusetts offers its college kids a fair and economical college education lending program. We need to offer Massachusetts residents a low and affordable fixed rate, working with local banks and credit unions doing business in Masaachusetts. We also need to look at lower instate tuition rates for all Massachusetts State Colleges and Universities. College should only be a path to success, not a path to financial ruin!
TERRY RYAN – Westford Democrat
Student loan debt has indeed become a financial and social crisis, threatening the stability of our economy and the quality of life for the next generation. We need to take immediate steps on both a state and federal level to reverse this trend, including:
- Make all student loan interest tax deductible and boost the student loan tax deduction. I would build on legislation previously filed by Sen. Eileen Donoghue that allows Massachusetts residents to deduct contributions to 529 college savings plans from their state taxable income, up to $1,000 for single filers and up to $2,000 for married couples filing jointly. I would file legislation that would increase the deductible amount to up to $5,000 for single filers and $10,000 for married couples filing jointly.
- Expand on programs like those at Middlesex Community College and University of Massachusetts Lowell that allow students to easily transfer credits from community colleges to state universities.
- Understand why both public and private colleges and universities are charging such exorbitant fees and how that money is being spent. I would sponsor legislation that opens the books on public and private colleges and universities, requiring them to disclose this information.
- Reduce student loan interest rates, setting them closer to the prime rate. Students should not be paying interest rates higher than those they pay to borrow money to buy a house or a car.
- Establish public service loan forgiveness on a state level as we push for its expansion on a federal level. An education is good not only for the individual, but also for our society. We should be looking into a state-based program that allows students to reduce their debts if they go into specific fields—such as teaching, firefighting, law enforcement, or nonprofit work—or perform needed community service. A partnership, similar to what President Bill Clinton suggested back in the 90’s, could not only help our students, but improve the lives of citizens across the commonwealth.