Degrees of Urgency

admin ., Financial Aid Industry News

Posted:  November 10, 2014
In a report released on October 28, 2014, the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education predicted that by 2025 public campuses will produce 55,000 to 65,000 fewer degrees than employers need.

“This report is intended as a wake-up call to the state,” said Richard Freeland, commissioner of higher education. “It is not tenable for Massachusetts to underfund public higher education as it has forever because we believe we can rely on the great private universities we have. That’s not going to be sustainable. Within six years, Massachusetts’s high-school population will shrink by 9%, a shift from the previous decade, which saw a 31% increase in the number of high-school graduates. The prior growth helped fuel record enrollments at Massachusetts’s community colleges, state universities and UMass campuses, a boom which has now ended. This fall the public higher education system posted its first decline in enrollment in a decade.”

Outlined by Commissioner Freeland at the Boston Foundation report release event, the “Big Three Completion Plan” to address the state’s need for more graduates focuses on 1) helping more students succeed in and complete college; 2) redoubling efforts to close persistent achievement gaps that keep too many African American and Latino/a students from graduating; and 3) attracting and retaining students who are not being served by the system, including those who currently can’t afford to attend college, those who are choosing to attend college out of state, and adult students who need to finish their degrees.

Despite recent investments by the Patrick Administration, decades of insufficient funding to Massachusetts public higher education have resulted in the Commonwealth ranking no better than average (currently, 26th in the nation) in state support for its public colleges and universities. A report released on October 28 by the Commonwealth’s Higher Education Finance Commission recommended that the public campuses receive significant additional funding, $475 million over five years tied to performance improvement, and called for such support to be linked to campus efforts to achieve greater operating efficiencies.