MA Higher Ed Commissioner: Student Loan Debt up 27% in Just 3 Years

Due to the rising number of higher education students in recent years, an increase in part-time study and rising rates of tuition, the leader of higher education in Massachusetts has said that the amount of student loan debt has risen 27% in the state in just three years.

Richard Freeland, the Commissioner of Higher Education told a legislative subcommittee that the amount of student loan debt for graduates of public colleges and universities in Massachusetts has increased by so much for a complex combination of reasons.

“Over the past 10 years, as the state has struggled with its own fiscal challenges, funding for our public colleges and universities has simply not kept up with growing enrollments and rising costs, which has resulted in a steady shift of the cost of education from the state to students,” Richard said, according to his weighed remarks.

The Subcommittee on Student Loans and Debt, an offshoot of the Committee on Higher Education, has been discussing educational borrowing around the state. Debt aversion among the children of immigrants and low-income college students is “linked” to lower participation in higher education, Richard said in his measured speech.

“My public college presidents tell me, for example, that more and more students are attending part time rather than full time, and stretching out their time to degree, in order to deal with increased costs,” Richard said. “Even more concerning, some students are almost certainly being priced out of our system because it has simply become too costly although we do not have hard statistics that show significant reductions in college participation among low-income students.”

According to Andy Metzger of The Lowell Sun, in the year 2011 the average University of Massachusetts student graduated with $26,800 in loans; state university graduates carried $22,400, according to Freeland’s testimony, which said community-college graduates “carry less debt” but also have less earning power. Students graduating from community college with an associate’s degree carried on average $7,200 in debt, according to data provided by the Department of Higher Education. According to Richards, the percentage of students requiring loans has also increased.

The subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Paul Mark, a Peru Democrat, and Sen. Eileen Donoghue, a Lowell Democrat.