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confronting cost

If you’ve been on a college campus lately, you might have noticed a few amenities - fancy welcome centers, golf courses, and saunas. Of course, these things cost money and therefore tuition and fees. But are they responsible for rising tuition?

As students are increasingly stressed about their finances, debt-free college is all the rage. Politicians are using the concept as an attractive campaign platform, but critics say it makes more sense in theory than in practice.

Corporate America is increasingly partnering with online higher education. First, it was Starbucks and Arizona State University. Then, it was Chrysler-Fiat and Strayer University in Virginia. Just this month, Chipotle got wrapped up in the movement. More businesses are paying for their workers to go to college, and employees are taking advantage of the opportunity.

The federal government is poised to forgive college loans for thousands of students who attended Corinthian Colleges, the now defunct for-profit giant under investigation for misleading students about graduation and employment rates. Many of these students not only have loans, but are also unable to find jobs.

It was almost impossible to escape the call for Massachusetts to “be great” during the campaign of now-Governor Charlie Baker last fall. The campaign slogan followed Baker right to a Yankee Candle facility in Whatley this May, where the company presented him with a specially branded “Let’s Be Great Massachusetts” jar.

But for Massachusetts to truly be great, the Commonwealth has to stop underfunding its public higher education system, starting with UMass.

Students at any one of the University of Massachusetts’ five campuses may have to pay more in tuition next year. The UMass Board of Trustees is recommending an increase of up to 5 percent for in-state undergrads. It would be the first tuition and fee increase in two years.

It's a stressful time of year for students who are preparing to send out their college applications. But the next step - figuring out how much it's all going to cost - can be even more stressful. Now there's a new effort to make that complicated process a little simpler.

In late October, the Massachusetts’ Department of Higher Education released its “Degrees of Urgency” Vision Project report. It addresses challenges for state colleges and universities as demographic shifts in the next decade will result in smaller student enrollments. In New England, colleges can anticipate a 9 percent or more population loss.   

A national organization representing thousands of university professors is criticizing program cuts and faculty layoffs at the University of Southern Maine in Portland.

In a letter addressed to President David Flanagan, the American Association of University Professors questions the severity of the university’s financial woes. AAUP says the actions being taken are in “blatant disregard” for tenured faculty.

Since the Great Recession, the amount of money states invest in public higher education has dropped dramatically. That, coupled with a steep drop in enrollment, has led some state university systems to cut faculty and academic programs altogether. In Maine, where Republican Paul LePage secured a second term as governor on Tuesday, those cuts are unlikely to be restored.

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