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Wednesday, March 04 2015

Human Rights Commission Meeting Monday

Adapted from a Greenfield Human Rights Commission (HRC) press release:

The Greenfield Human Rights Commission (HRC) will welcome State Representative Paul Mark on Monday, March 9th, at 6PM, in the Greenfield Town Hall meeting room.   Representative Mark plans to speak about his state education reform bill that is pending in the legislature.  It's a comprehensive higher education reform bill addressing the issues of student debt, lower overall costs, and enhanced funding for the state's public colleges and universities.The Mark bill's major provisions seek to promote student savings plans and loan forgiveness programs and improve grant and scholarship opportunities, as well as dual enrollment opportunities for high school students in the Commonwealth. Further, the bill would provide the University of Massachusetts, other state universities, and community colleges with enhanced funding of $95 million per year for the next five years in exchange for the schools freezing tuition and fee increases. In this manner, the bill seeks to address and avert the potential of a student debt crisis and its potential harmful impact on the economy, students, and families.

The bill also calls for pilot public-private partnerships between state colleges and universities and private sector businesses. Businesses would receive a 20% state income tax credit on the first $5,000 of tuition and fees paid by the business for a student. The student would then agree to work in the state for the business. Also, the bill encourages 529 savings plans by providing tax credits worth $1,250 for individuals or $2,500 for a married couple for contributing to a savings plan. There would also be a pilot program for low-income individuals and families making 250% of the federal poverty level. The program would have the state match prepaid savings accounts held by such students on the condition that the student or family pays at least $150 toward the account in one year.

Also, $4,250,000 would be added to the state dual enrollment program enabling high school students to take college courses at state colleges, universities, and community colleges while still enrolled in high school.

The Human Rights Commission has invited major stakeholders in the community, including officials from Greenfield Community College (GCC) and the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, that may be impacted and interested to attend and be heard at the hearing.

Lewis Metaxas, chairman of the Greenfield Human Rights Commission, stated, "The bill filed by Representative Mark is one of the most comprehensive and exciting that I have seen on the issue of education reform and student debt relief, as well as enhanced higher educational opportunities, not only in Massachusetts, but nationally. We are pleased to host Representative Mark and other leaders of the community in an evening of conversation on this bill."

The Commission invites and seeks the input of all residents of Greenfield and Franklin County on the provisions of the bill.