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November 1, 2013

President addresses Joint House-Senate Committee on student costs

Members of the Massachusetts House and Senate Joint Committee on Higher Education’s Subcommittee on Student Loans and Debt came to campus to hear testimony about the problems of rising educational costs. Several college and university presidents, senior officers and students from throughout the southeastern Massachusetts region offered testimony.

“We have found it to be most helpful to come out to the various regions of the state and to hear from all of you who are on the front lines of this issue,” said state Sen. Eileen Donoghue, co-chair of the committee. “This issue of student debt affects everyone in our society.”

President Dana Mohler-Faria was the first to offer testimony. “As someone who has not only spent a long time as an administrator in this system, but as someone who spent nine years as a director of financial aid and fifteen years as a chief financial officer, I’ve seen this issue close-up,” he said. “The financing of higher education, the cost of education, and the burden on students… are important to know in every detail and, specifically, what they mean for our students, and, equally significant, what it means for our commonwealth and our country.”

He said the current student loan situation is “a perfect storm” and is due in part because higher education is “labor intensive, so 85 percent of our budget is labor cost.” Even an incremental raise in salary has “a tremendous impact, on students” he stated. He added that other factors such as the economy contribute to the problem.

Dr. Mohler-Faria added that, “the decline in support, the decline in the economy, and the rising cost of education (have) all had a substantial negative impact on students. We must look at this in a very comprehensive way. There is a combination of things we must consider.”

The president also thanked committee members, “because for the first time in at least 20 years, the support we received from the state allowed us not to raise student fees, so the cost of education for students was not raised this year.”

See a video of the full hearing.

President Dana Mohler-Faria testifies.