BOSTON - Free college for students in Massachusetts? There's a plan working its way through Beacon Hill to make that a reality.
A hearing was held at the state house Thursday and House Bill 633 has already passed the first test.
This would be huge for many families in Massachusetts, since the average student debt here is about $30,000. The bill's sponsor says it's about time for public colleges to be free for students.
“I had a fellow I know who went to local university, undergraduate his loans are $160,000. You could buy a house in a lot of communities in Massachusetts for that,” said Rep. Carmine Gentile, bill sponsor.
Gentile is sponsoring a bill that would make all state public colleges free for residents in Mass. That includes community colleges and public state universities.
He says higher education has become a basic right and is now necessary for most people to get jobs, but Republican Representative Jay Borrows says not so fast.
He questions how the state would pay for this new law.
“We spend $1.2 billion a year on higher education. Now, and quite frankly, we have a pretty big hole in the budget as we move forward because of MassHealth, I don't know how we would afford to do that,” said Rep. Jay Borrows.
Gentile says the change would cost the state between $300 and $400 million a year and he believes there will be a way to pay for that.
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