Rep. Mark to talk education reform bill Monday 6 p.m. in Town Hall

 

Greenfield Recorder 03/07/2015, Page C03

By ANITA FRITZ Recorder Staff

GREENFIELD — The town’s Human Rights Commission will host state Rep. Paul Mark on Monday in Town Hall, where he will talk about his state education reform bill pending in the Legislature.

The meeting will be held in the meeting room on the second floor at 6 p.m.

Mark has filed a comprehensive higher education reform bill that addresses the issues of student debt, lower overall costs and enhanced funding to the state’s public colleges and universities.

Some of the bill’s major provisions include promoting student savings plans and loan forgiveness programs, as well as improving grant and scholarship opportunities and dual-enrollment opportunities for high school students.

The bill would also provide the University of Massachusetts and other state universities and community colleges with enhanced funding of $95 million per year for the next five years in exchange for the schools to freeze tuition and fee increases.

Human Rights Commission Chairman Lewis Metaxas said the bill seeks to address and avert the potential of a student debt crisis and the harmful impact that would have on the local and state economy and its students and families.

In the bill, Mark also calls for pilot public-private partnerships between state colleges and universities and private businesses.

One of the major provisions would give a business a 20-percent state income tax credit on the first $5,000 of tuition and fees paid by the business for a student and the student would agree to work in the state for the business.

The bill also encourages 529 savings plans — individuals and families would become eligible for tax credits worth $1,250 for individuals and $2,500 for a married couple contributing to a savings plan.

The bill includes a pilot program for low-income individuals and families at 250 percent of the federal poverty level. That program would seek a state match to prepaid savings accounts by low-income students as long as $150 was deposited by the student or his or her family in one year.

Mark would also like the state to add $4.2 million to the state dual-enrollment program, which enables high school students to take college courses while still in high school.

The commission has also invited representatives from Greenfield Community College and the Franklin CountyChamberofCommerce to attend.

“The bill filed by Rep. 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 education opportunities,” said Metaxas.

He said he would like input from Greenfield and Franklin County residents as well on Monday night.