Mass. has failed to make investment higher education needs to lift the community

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Re “The best route for moving up” (Ideas, July 26): The economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic laid bare persistent societal inequities that our public higher education system must play a central role in helping to address. Too many families are vulnerable to financial ruin because of low-wage jobs that barely enable them to get by week to week, never mind allow them to save money for prolonged periods out of work.

Many of the hardest hit during this pandemic lack the degree or credential they need to secure a position that better insulates them from economic disruption. Getting the state economy and our residents back on track depends on putting people on a stronger financial footing, and this is done by preparing them for work in jobs and fields that pay family-sustaining wages and that are the engine of our economy.

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That necessitates investments in higher education that Massachusetts has been failing to make and expanding access to programs, such as early college, that are improving college completion rates, particularly for low-income students. That is a critical goal in Massachusetts, where most jobs require a two- or four-year degree or credential. Meanwhile, only about 40 percent of ninth-graders go on to earn one and just about 19 percent of low-income students complete a post-secondary degree within six years of graduation, according to data from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. We can, and should, do better.

Edward Lambert Jr.

Executive director

Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education

Boston