THE PRICE OF HIGHER EDUCATION IN MASS.


 Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

In a state filled with high performing, world-renowned ivy-league universities, you’d think the outcomes for students who attend public institutions in Massachusetts would be remarkable as well.

Despite Boston boasting some of the most prestigious institutions in the country with countless colleges and universities at every corner, Boston residents are increasingly less likely to be able to afford even public institutions. The reality is Massachusetts has one of the highest state college costs in the country, coming to about 25% higher than the national average. Living in this city overflowing with expensive colleges and having the highest economic disparities between Latinos and Whites nationwide can be intimidating for first-generation students growing up in Boston.

As many of you know, our state was recently named the 'Worst State for Latinos' by 24/7 Wall Street and USA Today in terms of socio-economic factors, with Latino households making only $39,742 a year compared to $82,039 for White households. But what I find even more crushing than these disparities and the cost of public schools in Massachusetts is a finding from Education Reform Now’s recent study, ranking Massachusetts with one of the largest White-Latino public college graduation gaps in the country, coming in at 37th in the nation out of 50 states plus Washington D.C. For perspective, the White-Black graduation gap in Massachusetts ranks as 3rd best in the nation.

So why is this the case?

For one, Massachusetts public four-year institutions charge the 8th highest tuition and fees in the nation and these costs have risen 12% in just the past 5 years, making these experiences unattainable for much of the city’s Latino population.

Two, the college preparation gaps between White students and students of color are larger in MA than in nearly all other states. Public institutions in Massachusetts require that students take MassCore Track* courses during high school before applying to colleges. However, not all public schools provide MassCore, leaving our students unable to attend a four-year public institution with no fault of their own. Latino students are also less than half as likely to take an AP test in Massachusetts compared to Latino students elsewhere in the nation.

In addition to the lack of college preparation gaps, language barriers can also leave students taking remedial courses in college, which can be costlier in the long-run. One in three MA public school graduates attending state institutions is required to enroll in at least one remedial course (74% higher nationally). This phenomenon greatly affects the time to graduation, and increases costs for families who already have a hard time paying for student tuition. The high costs of schooling also leave some students from lower-income families to work while going to school. Because of this they are more likely to drop to part time school hours or drop out completely.

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Working at Sociedad Latina has opened my eyes to the difficulties that students face in this state, which came at a surprise to me considering Massachusetts’ reputation for high quality schools. Before moving here, I hadn’t realized that Massachusetts was one of the hardest states for young Latinos like myself. Fortunately I had the opportunity to get my Bachelors degree with scholarship funds, which allowed me to take extra classes and frivolously change majors. Although I took out a loan for graduate school, I realize how lucky I am to have gotten an education and grow up in Miami, in an environment where everyone is Latino.

Students from Sociedad Latina’s target communities (low-income, English learner, Mission Hill/Roxbury neighborhood) are eager to succeed, but under-performing schools, racism, poverty, violence, and linguistic barriers often prevent them from achieving their dreams of college and career success. At Sociedad Latina we do more than just provide quality higher education access programming (click here to find out more about the Academy for Latino Students Achieving Success program). We advocate for students and more importantly we provide a platform for our students to advocate for themselves.

Our Youth Community Organizers (YCOs) are currently creating surveys for BPS students on student-centered-learning initiatives that include AP courses, dual-enrollment, high school internships, individualized learning plans, college and career readiness workshops, and workforce development trainings. They feel as though Boston Public Schools could do a better job at preparing them for college and are determined to do something about it. With these surveys from students and the community, our YCOs hope to create a report with identifiable areas for improvement and share their findings at Boston Public School Committee Meetings, the Massachusetts State House, and with other BPS administrators. Sociedad Latina and our Youth are determined to create change, are you?

You might be asking what you can do to help change the outcomes for Latino youth in Massachusetts?

  • Become a mentor for young students
  • Speak to your local official about increased student-centered learning for Latino and English Learner students
  • Support academic and nonprofit programs that provide college access and success coaching (like Sociedad Latina)
  • Request that your child’s school offer MassCore
  • Tutor English to a student who speaks another language
  • Encourage your friends and family in their studies, make them aware of the price difference in graduating on time

Massachusetts still has a long way to go. There are major racial and socio-economic gaps that are preventing youth from reaching their full potential. Help be a force of change within your community and support young Latino youth in Boston. Together we can create change.

- Written by: Tiffany Yancey, Development Manager at Sociedad Latina


To Read more about “No Commencement in the Commonwealth: How Massachusetts’ Higher Education System Undermines Mobility for Latinos and Others & What We Can Do About It.” by Education Reform Now click here.

*Mass Core is essentially a group of courses designed (and required) for entry into a MA public four-year college. It demands four years of English, our years of mathematics, three years of lab-based science, three years of history, and two years of the same foreign language, alongside other core electives”


Tiffany Yancey