BOSTON, Mass. (SHNS)–Higher education advocates are escalating their calls for a large portion of the more than $1 billion in new income surtax revenues to go to Massachusetts’ public colleges and universities.
The state Board of Higher Education voted last month to recommend doubling the amount of state-funded financial aid for public higher education students, but the board chair said Wednesday that with record-high revenues coming in, they should aim higher. The board proposed two possible options to reform and invest more in public financial aid, both of which would double the current $200 million investment to about $400 million.
The first proposal is to give $2,000 to every Pell Grant eligible student as a cost of living stipend and $1,000 for moderate income students — which would help an estimated 100,000 students in Massachusetts — at a cost of $193 million for the state. The other proposal is to eliminate expected family contributions for aid for all students whose family income is below $125,000, with the state covering all family contribution amounts.
This plan would cost an estimated $218 million, on top of the current $200 million investment in student financial aid. The first option would help the state’s lowest income students, while eliminating expected family contributions would help moderate income students, board chair Chris Gabrieli said at a higher education finance forum in Boston on Wednesday morning.
Gabrieli said his personal vote — though not the official vote of the board — would be to pursue both options, which would cost the state $335 million on top of its current $200 million financial aid investments. The board chair’s enthusiasm for pursuing aggressive financial aid investment is driven by the expected revenue from a new surtax on household income above $1 million per year.
According to the text of the constitutional amendment that voters approved in November, the surtax is intended “to provide resources for quality public education, and affordable public colleges and universities, and for the repair and maintenance costs of roads, bridges and public transportation.”
“The current system is not adequate to the goals we have. Let us not miss this moment of opportunity to make real change happen,” he said Wednesday.
The recommendations are just one of a mounting pile of requests as competing interests angle for a stake of the income surtax funding, with early and K-12 education stakeholders also vying for a share as well as myriad interests in public transportation. The surtax kicked in on Jan. 1 so much of the anticipated revenue is not expected to flow into state coffers for many months.