Our 2021 Agenda

The current system of financing college through student loans isn’t working anymore. 

As the cost of attendance at colleges keeps rising steadily, students are borrowing twice as much money to pay for college than they did in 2000, and graduating with debt that prevents them from investing and saving for their future. 

We are also facing a non-repayment crisis, with almost half of those with student debt either in default or behind on their loans.

As we emerge from the pandemic and rebuild our economy, we cannot continue to saddle future generations with more student debt. Student debt burden has become a racial, gender, and social justice issue as it disproportionately falls on our most vulnerable populations, mainly students in under-served communities, students of color, and women. 

At Hildreth Institute, we are committed to fixing this broken system by creating innovative policy solutions that invest in higher education and reduce student debt burden.

  1. Reduce Student Debt Burden
  2. Protect Students’ and Borrowers’ Rights
  3. Transform Financial Aid to Achieve ZeroDebt College

1. Reduce Student Debt Burden

  • Reinvest in Public Colleges and Universities in MA: State disinvestment in higher education has resulted in unprecedented tuition hikes which are increasingly financed by students and families taking on larger amounts of debt. 

In 2019, Hildreth Institute successfully advocated to restore the Public Higher Education Endowment Incentive Program, which is intended to leverage private donations by providing 50 cents in matching state funds for every dollar raised by the public campuses for endowments. The program has been successfully leveraged by our public higher education institutions, as they report having attracted new private donations to support their efforts to better serve their students and provide them with additional financial aid. We support the allocation of additional state dollars to this successful matching program, as it multiplies the effect of state investment in our public colleges at a time when it is sorely needed

  • Cancel Student Debt: The burden of existing student debt is causing lasting financial harm to far too many Massachusetts residents by preventing them from saving and investing for the future, and by harming their credit scores. Student debt can prevent young people from living independently, buying a home, choosing a dream career, and more. It’s a major drag on our economy. We support several policies that help eliminate existing student debt and relieve this financial burden.

2. Protect Students’ and Borrowers’ Rights

  • Student Loan Borrowers’ Bill of Rights: Too many student loan borrowers experience difficulties with their student loan servicers — the companies responsible for sending bills and making sure payments are properly processed. We need to ensure that borrowers are protected when servicers mistakes lead to errors on credit reports, late fees, penalties, and other headaches for borrowers. 

After years of advocacy, the Student Loan Borrowers’ Bill of Rights became law in Massachusetts in 2020. This bill provides a set of basic consumer protections for all student loan borrowers, requires student loan servicers to be licensed by the state, and establishes a student loan ombudsman to monitor servicers and protect borrowers. Hildreth Institute will continue to work with a coalition of over 50 organizations ensuring that the bill is implemented and fully funded.

  • End Professional Penalties for Borrowers in Default: Existing state law requires state licensing boards to deny issuing professional certificates, occupational certificates, registrations, and licenses if they are notified that the applicant is a borrower in default. This is not only unnecessarily punitive, but it is also counterproductive, possibly keeping new graduates from getting the job they need to repay their loans and get out of default. We support ending this unjust requirement immediately.

3. Transform Financial Aid to Achieve ZeroDebt College

At Hildreth Institute, we like to think outside the box and generate innovative ideas to finance our higher education system. We are exploring innovative ideas to finance our higher education system. Specifically, we are looking into how pension plans, both private and public, could provide a useful model to invest in our students to eliminate the need to borrow for college.

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