A View from the Hill
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 21, 2001
CONTACT: Tommy Voltero (617) 722-2240
THE VALUE OF A MASSACHUSETTS EDUCATION
p>A couple of months ago, moms and dads across the Commonwealth had to engage in one of the more difficult parental duties: finding something for their children to do during the holiday vacation. Well, that time has come and gone, but the return to normalcy was short-lived. It was late February, and last week our children were once again freed from the classroom and paroled for a five-day vacation.
Right now, hundreds of thousands of Bay State high schoolers are waiting for responses from their first choice of colleges. The anxiety that arises (not just for the seniors, but for the parents as well) is, of course, well founded. After all, what arrives in that envelope from the admissions office represents the next echelon in a young adult's development.
Post-high school is a major part of life. For the hundreds of high school seniors in Winchester, Stoneham and Reading who will graduate this spring commencement marks the end of adolescence. For those who wish to go on to college, they must choose from a seemingly endless list of places the institution that best suits their goals in life
Fortunately, we live in a state that contains a wide range of educational possibilities. There are over 60 four-year colleges and universities and over 30 two-year colleges and community colleges in Massachusetts. With such a huge selection from which to choose, it is hard not to find a school that meets a student's desired educational setting. Prospective students might prefer a large school like the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, with its 19,000 undergraduate student body. Other young men and women might seek a smaller school, like Stonehill College, with a cozier student population of just over 2,000. Looking for a school located in the heart of the big city? One may then select Boston University or Northeastern University. If you prefer a quieter, more secluded area in which to study you might find Williams College, tucked away in the Berkshires, more suited to your tastes.
There are many students who seek a worthwhile education while at the same time pursuing a career, and others who might not be sure whether a four-year college is for them at all. Massachusetts can provide for these individuals as well. North Shore Community College, in nearby Danvers, offers exceptional classes in a variety of disciplines. The same can be said for Bunker Hill Community College, just a few miles down I-93 in Charlestown. Middlesex Community College, another well-known institution, has several campuses near Winchester, Stoneham and Reading.
Massachusetts does not just offer quantity. The Bay State's colleges and universities are some of the highest quality schools in the nation. Nine Commonwealth institutions ranked among the top 100 national universities, according to the US News and World Report's 2001 listings. Seven more are listed among the top 100 national liberal arts colleges.
Most parents, myself included, are concerned not just with the availability of undergraduate colleges and universities. The cost of attendance is a major consideration as well. We all cringe at the ever-increasing price tags attached to some schools. Taking into account tuition, books, room and board, a four-year college education in the United States can cost nearly $100,000!
Still, there are several ways to cut costs and still receive a top-notch education. Massachusetts schools do their part to accommodate the high price of undergraduate education. Five Commonwealth liberal arts colleges are ranked among the "best values" in the nation. Financial aid and need-based aid packages are readily available at all of our schools. Harvard's average financial aid package is approximately $22,000, nearly two-thirds of the cost of attending that prestigious university. Of the students who enroll at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, 40% reported that the university fully met their financial needs.
There are literally thousands of scholarships that are available for undergraduates to help pay for college. Many endowments are sponsored by corporations, foundations, national or local organizations. The federal government also offers a number of low-interest loan, scholarship and grant programs. In addition, the Commonwealth's university system offers a wide range of similar programs. Furthermore, the Massachusetts state government, through its Board of Higher Education, administers many scholarships, fellowships and grants. These packages are often administered to students who pursue a particular professional field. One such scholarship is the state's "Tomorrow's Teachers" program, which provides tuition reimbursement and financial aid to exceptional incoming freshmen who seek to become teachers. For more information about these programs, visit the Board of Education's website at www.mass.edu or call 617-994-6950.
The ancient philosopher Epictetus once pontificated that "only the educated are free." It is true that education is an extremely liberating experience; it frees the mind and fosters endless possibility. Post-secondary education allows an individual to expand his or her intellectual potential and become extensively conversant in the concepts of the professional field he or she chooses. Everybody should be able to utilize the intellectual resources that abound in our nation's institutions of higher education and to enjoy the vocational advantages that our colleges and universities impart upon their graduates. Unfortunately, while the educated might be free, higher education is not. Still, there are ways to absorb, if not circumvent altogether the high price of a college education. If we "do our homework" and learn about all the opportunities available, the only real challenge we'll have left is teaching our college-age kids how to do their own laundry!