hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

October 25, 2012

High school students, their parents learn about public college options

The Haverhill Gazette

---- — They wanted to know how how to make college affordable.

They asked what programs local universities offer that students cannot find elsewhere.

They sought advice on the fields that will best suit them.

Students and their parents asked those questions and more at the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education's Go Public event, held last week at Haverhill High School. More than 300 students and their parents attended the event.

Brian Dempsey, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and a graduate of UMass Lowell, hosted the event, which was designed to raise awareness of opportunities available at state colleges and universities.

Dempsey said that by 2018, 70 percent of all jobs in Massachusetts will require at least some college education.

"When I look into the crystal ball, I see that the commonwealth is headed for trouble if we don't get more students into college and completing college,'' Dempsey said.

He also addressed the issue of student debt, saying, "I believe our students deserve excellence in higher education at a cost that won't leave them drowning in debt for years to come. None of you should have to choose between buying a home and paying off your student loans.''

Dempsey's remarks were followed by a student panel featuring: Yahaira Campusano of Lawrence, UMass Lowell; Brian Kibler of North Andover, Salem State University; and April Anamisis of Methuen, Northern Essex Community College. The students shared their experiences at their respective colleges and offered advice for high school students considering where to go to college.

Each of the college presidents — including: Martin Meehan, UMass Lowell; Patricia Maguire Meservey, Salem State University; and Lane Glenn, Northern Essex Community College — had two minutes to answer the question "what surprises students when they arrive at your campus?''

Meehan said UMass Lowell's new academic buildings draw new students' eyes. Meservey talked about Salem State's faculty/student ratio and variety of program offerings. Glenn described a vibrant campus life at Northern Essex, featuring sports, student clubs, and performing arts opportunities.

During a question-and-answer period, the college presidents were inundated by parent questions regarding college debt, faculty-to-student ratios, and career placement rates.

Representing his dual roles as a member of the Haverhill School Committee and co-chair of the Massachusetts Workforce Investment Board, Joseph Bevilacqua echoed the thoughts of many students and parents when he closed the program.

"Kids today have to go to community college and beyond in order to succeed,'' he said. "We need to make sure college is accessible and affordable and that a college degree leads to a job.''

After the formal program, parents and high school students were invited to attend financial aid sessions in upstairs classrooms. The standing-room-only crowds spilled into the hallways.