Deval Patrick for governor of Mass.

by Beacon Staff • October 18, 2006

Our view: Patrick will do most for college students.

College students make up a demographic often ignored by politicians. Since young people vote in underwhelming numbers, there is a noticeable lack of dialogue on the issues important to college students, such as the rising costs of tuition, transportation and housing.,At Issue: Endorsing a candidate for governor.

Our view: Patrick will do most for college students.

College students make up a demographic often ignored by politicians. Since young people vote in underwhelming numbers, there is a noticeable lack of dialogue on the issues important to college students, such as the rising costs of tuition, transportation and housing.

While these issues do not garner the same attention as the more divisive subjects of the day-abortion, immigration policies, income taxes-college-aged voters are wise to consider the topics that directly affect students.

It is in this spirit that The Beacon endorses Deval Patrick for governor of Massachusetts.

The most pressing issue facing college students today is the escalating cost of higher education, where Massachusetts ranks an embarrassing 47th in affordability.

The National Report Card on Higher Education, which was released in September, gave Massachusetts an "F" in college affordability, concluding "colleges and universities in Massachusetts have become less affordable for students and their families. If these trends are not addressed, they could limit the state's access to a competitive workforce and weaken its economy over time."

According to the non-partisan Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, the typical Massachusetts family spends 34 percent of its income on education, up 6 percent since 2003.

Even the cost of community college can average more than $8,000 annually, crippling low-income residents.

The costs account for more than 60 percent of the average income of the bottom 20 percent of Massachusetts residents.

Under the leadership of Governor Mitt Romney and Lt. Governor Kerry Healey, the Republican nominee, the state government has been woeful in addressing this trend, with state appropriations for higher education falling 25 percent in 2005 alone.

Christy Mihos, the independent gubernatorial candidate, has many proposals to reform public schools, such as eliminating the MCAS statewide test program and fees for sports and activities, but offers little insight in how he would reform higher education.

Patrick, however, places a much higher priority on higher education than Healey or Mihos.

"It is a scandal that Massachusetts ranks 47th in U.S. spending on public higher education, " he said in a June 4 speech.

Patrick also proposes instituting bonds to invest in the expansion and development of public colleges and universities-a welcome proposal given that many residents cannot realistically afford the high costs of the state's private colleges.

Patrick also supports investing in the research facilities at our public universities, specifically earmarking for stem-cell research.

This not only benefits college students, but also could boost the Massachusetts economy and save lives.

Patrick, also unlike Healey, opposes the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) fare increase planned for January, which will raise the cost of a monthly T pass by $22 a month.

Due in large part to the high cost of housing, Boston now ranks as the most expensive city in the country to live in, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Patrick, to his credit, has made easing these costs a major priority of his campaign.

He supports a more sustained relationship between state government and the non-profit housing developers that, according to his campaign Web site, "have developed thousands of low- and moderate-income housing throughout the Commonwealth."

If Patrick is elected and follows through with his plans to lessen the cost of housing, the financial burden of living in Boston could become less daunting for college students while encouraging smart graduates to remain in Boston to pursue their careers.

It would be na've to assume that any of these candidates would be able to fix all of the extensive problems that face college students in the Commonwealth. But Patrick's commitment to higher education and the issues that matter most to students is by far the most commendable.