We applaud the Sun-Times’ focus on addressing the debt burden faced by too many of our college students and the ripple effect it has across families and communities.

Nivine Megahed, president of National Louis University, has rightly called for radically rethinking tuition structures and the business model for higher education. Larger public investment in our students is equally important.

A key factor contributing to increased student debt has been the decline in state investment in higher education by the General Assembly and governors of both parties. Thus, the burden of financing a college education has now been largely shifted to students and their families.

We must reverse the decline in the number of students receiving Illinois’ need-based student aid program, the Illinois Monetary Assistance Program award, and commit to funding the MAP award at a level that ensures that every student who qualifies receives the award. Funding must also ensure that the award covers the cost of tuition at the state’s public universities, as it did as recently as 2002.

While the recent budget passed by the Legislature is an important first step in reversing over a decade of disinvestment in higher education, much more is needed from our elected officials in order to lessen the financial burden of higher education on the state’s low-income and working class students. The health of our students and our state depends on it.

Kyle Westbrook, The Partnership for College Completion

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Reckless attacks

Re: “U.S. clings to health coverage gains despite political drama [May 22], the Trump administration’s efforts to destabilize the Affordable Care Act will result in many of Illinois’ small businesses paying more for health insurance next year. The Congressional Budget Office said premiums for health care plans purchased through the ACA exchanges will rise by an average of 10 percent in 2019, thanks to the administration’s efforts to undermine the ACA as much as possible by proposing rules to expand association health plans and junk insurance plans, and by repealing the individual mandate. This news is devastating for small firms since more than 60 percent of ACA marketplace enrollees are small business owners, self-employed or small business employees.

This alarming rise also represents a reversal of the gains made under the ACA. Small businesses saw annual premiums grow by more than 10 percent on average from 2008-2010, but that rate dropped by half under the ACA. Small businesses and solo entrepreneurs can’t stay in business or retain quality employees if they can’t afford health insurance.

The administration must stop its reckless attacks on the ACA and do everything it can to stabilize the marketplaces to protect our small businesses.

Geraldine Aglipay, West Loop

Wisdom of the ages

I have been alive for the presidencies of Truman through Trump. Granted, in the early years I wasn’t interested in politics as much as a bottle. Now I have come to realize that I need my pacifier back.

Robert Mitchell, Northlake

Crucial step

Senate Bill 2546 [to treat graduate students as employees with all associated protections] is a critical step forward in the fight to secure the rights of all Illinois working people — and to ensure that our work is regarded with the dignity and respect that it demands. If Gov. Bruce Rauner can discover within himself even a modicum of respect for a full day’s work, he will sign this legislation and extend that respect to the graduate researchers delivering groundbreaking innovations and boosting our state’s academic reputation.

Michael T. Carrigan President, Illinois AFL-CIO