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Beacon Hill must keep door to higher education open

IT IS heartening that Robert L. Caret, the new president of UMass, calls our attention to the staggering debt that American students carry, including students from public universities like UMass (“An age of demoralizing debt; As financial burdens on college students grow, the social strain is showing,’’ Op-ed, Dec. 24). When I began teaching at UMass Boston in the 1970s, tuition and fees were $658 per year. Now they are about $11,800.

Not only do students graduate with unsupportable debt, but many students drop out - they can’t keep up with the tuition because the cost is so high. And there are thousands of students whom I taught in the 1970s whose counterparts today just do not even contemplate their local public university because of the cost.

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As Caret says, the Massachusetts legislature must remind itself that a “public university’’ does not simply mean one that is cheaper than a private one, but one that is accessible to all. If Massachusetts could afford to provide genuine equality of opportunity in the 1970s, we can do it now too.

Lawrence Blum

Professor of philosophy, University of Massachusetts Boston

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