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October 21, 2013

Massachusetts public colleges and universities are making progress in increasing their graduation rates, according to a new report released on Monday by the Department of Higher Education.

“The University of Massachusetts Lowell and Framingham State University have achieved impressive increases in graduation rates; UMass Lowell's six-year graduation rate for first-time, full-time freshmen increased 9.8 percent between fall 2007 and fall 2012, while at Framingham the rate increased 8.9 percent during the same time period.”

The report, however, also finds systematic failure of developmental education in Massachusetts. More than 80 percent of community college students who must take remedial coursework before they’re deemed ready for college-level work never make it into a credit-bearing course:

“While Massachusetts leads the nation in the number of young people it sends to college, one in three students who enroll in a public campus place into costly remedial programs during their first semester on campus.”

Higher Education Commissioner Richard Freeland said that’s because many students are discouraged to be stuck in “educational quicksand.”

"The whole remedial effort in Massachusetts - and really across the country - is a colossal failure," Freeland said.

Still, Freeland said Massachusetts is among those states beginning to score impressive results with new approaches to developmental coursework.

By 2020, more than 70 percent of jobs in Massachusetts will require some level of higher education.

Meanwhile, as the cost of public higher education has increased dramatically over the past ten years, Massachusetts has seen significant increases in student loan debt. Over the past three years, new data show a 27 percent increase in loan debt for public college and university students.

"The burden of student loan debt could derail us from achieving our goals, with far-reaching consequences for the Commonwealth," Freeland testified before the Joint Committee on Higher Education's Student Loan and Debt Subcommittee. "Massachusetts cannot compete effectively in the global marketplace without a well-educated, well-trained citizenry and workforce."

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confronting cost, college completion, increasing access and success

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