News & Announcements

  • Adult Learners at Massachusetts Public Colleges & Universities: Realities & Opportunities
  • Thousands of homes suffered varying degrees of damage while large swaths of vegetation were shredded by the hurricane's violent winds

    Massachusetts Board of Higher Education Extends Temporary In-State Tuition Rate to Evacuees from Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands

    “We are helping those who have been uprooted from their communities and need support as they begin to recover from significant losses,” said Chair Gabrieli

    “Hurricane Maria left a devastating impact on the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, causing major disruptions for students and families who have relocated to Massachusetts,” Governor Baker said. “Our administration is working collaboratively to provide critical resources and opportunities for our fellow Americans from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands during this difficult time, and I am pleased the board approved this important opportunity to provide in-state tuition to make education more affordable for these students.”

    To qualify for in-state tuition rates, students must provide documentation of their displacement and meet all the admission and transfer requirements of a public higher education institution. Although students will be still required to pay fees and other education-related expenses, the savings differential – in-state versus out-of-state - can be significant.

    For example, an evacuee enrolling at Holyoke Community College, where approximately 50 individuals displaced by the hurricane have already signed up for the spring semester, would pay an annual rate of $4,272 instead of an out-of-state tuition rate of $9,216. While students will continue to remain eligible to participate in federal financial aid, students will not be eligible for state financial assistance because they will not have established full residency in the Commonwealth.

    “Granting in-state tuition rates to students relocating temporarily to Massachusetts because of the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria is an important part of what the Commonwealth is doing to help people from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” Education Secretary James Peyser said.

    “While we expect the number of students who take advantage of the resident tuition rates to be modest, the Board’s vote today helps ensure that any student who wants to continue with his or her education here will find it easier to do so,” said Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education Carlos E. Santiago, who is a native of Puerto Rico. “Our goal is to make sure that no one’s college dreams are derailed by the roar of a hurricane.”

    “I’m very proud of the Board for taking action today to assist student evacuees,” said Chris Gabrieli, Chairman of the Board of Higher Education. “This is a gesture that aligns with the Baker-Polito Administration’s plans to request financial assistance for local school districts that are receiving an influx of evacuees. We are helping those who have been uprooted from their communities and need support as they begin to recover from significant losses.”

    In November, Governor Charlie Baker announced plans to request additional school funding to help local school districts pay for the education of children who have been evacuated. The number of evacuees fleeing the impact of Hurricane Maria has increased in recent weeks, and additional families are expected to arrive after the holidays.

    This is not the first time Massachusetts extended relief and humanitarian aid to students and families impacted by federally declared disasters. Students displaced by Hurricane Katrina were offered in-state tuition waivers in 2005-2006. The BHE also approved a 2001 tuition waiver for spouses and dependents of victims of the September 11th attacks.

    Photo credit:U.S. Customs and Border Protection - 170923-H-NI589-0007, Public Domain, Link

  • 2017 Enrollment at Massachusetts Public Colleges and Universities: Trends, Challenges and Opportunities
  • Education Secretary James Peyser speaks at a March 2017 BHE meeting

    MA Board of Higher Education Votes to Join Multi-State Agreement to Regulate Online Learning

    The unanimous vote follows an extensive review of what joining SARA would mean for the Commonwealth.

    October 31, 2017—The Massachusetts Board of Higher Education today authorized the state’s Commissioner of Higher Education to submit an application to join the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA), a multi-state approach to regulating the growing number of online learning programs offered by colleges and universities across the United States.

    The Board’s unanimous vote follows an extensive review of what joining SARA would mean for the Commonwealth. Last year, Massachusetts Education Secretary James Peyser chaired a legislative Special Commission on Interstate Reciprocity Agreements which issued a report that was reviewed by the Board of Higher Education as part of its decision-making process to join SARA.

    In December 2016, the U.S. Department of Education incorporated recommendations from the Massachusetts Board and Department of Higher Education, the Office of the Attorney General and the Executive Office of Education in final authorization regulations for postsecondary online education.

    “As we strive to make higher education more affordable and accessible for residents of the Commonwealth, adding online learning options is a critical step in the right direction,” Governor Charlie Baker said. “We are pleased to join SARA with the assurance that we would be able to continue vital consumer protections for our students and look forward to preparing our application.”

    “If Massachusetts’ application for SARA membership is approved, students in the Commonwealth will see a multitude of options in online education open up for them, and our state’s colleges and universities will find it less cumbersome and costly to offer online courses to students in other states,” Education Secretary James Peyser said.

    Massachusetts will be the 49th state to join SARA, if its application is accepted by the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements.

    Currently, the Board of Higher Education regulates the degree-granting authority of most post-secondary institutions with a physical presence in the Commonwealth, granting them the ability to offer specific credit-bearing programs of study and to use the terms “college” or “university” in their names. At present, it does not exercise oversight over out-of-state institutions that offer only online programs to Massachusetts students. With the proliferation of distance learning providers and modalities, the need for a new, more nimble regulatory approach that will allow for greater access and options for students – while maintaining robust student protections and safeguards – has emerged.

    “Massachusetts has a strong history when it comes to regulations and standards that benefit consumers, in this case, students, and we were willing to take our time in deliberating whether to join SARA rather than rush into an agreement that might shortchange them,” said Carlos E. Santiago, Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education. “Today’s vote paves the way for a series of important next steps, including the drafting of regulations and solicitation of public comment as we prepare to submit our application to join SARA in 2018.”

    As the only national reciprocity agreement to address state authorization, SARA requires each member state to allow online educational programs from other states to operate within its borders, based on the prior approvals that institution received in its home state. For Massachusetts-based colleges and universities, membership in SARA would eliminate the need to comply with individual states’ varying rules and approvals processes, which can be costly and time-consuming.

    If Massachusetts’ application to join SARA is accepted, institutions in the Commonwealth may be able to submit applications to begin operating under SARA as early as summer, 2018.

    The Board of Higher Education’s motion, a copy of the report of the Special Commission on Interstate Reciprocity Agreements, and other materials related to Massachusetts’ application to join SARA are available on the Department of Higher Education’s website.

  • Please Save the Date: Annual Statewide Trustees Conferece, Thursday, March 1, 2018, Westborough, MA

    Statewide Trustees Conference Planned for March 1

    Trustees & presidents are asked to save the date for a day of informative sessions, trainings and networking

    The date and location have been set for the Department of Higher Education’s annual Statewide Trustees Conference. All trustees and presidents are encouraged to attend the conference on Thursday, March 1, 2018, from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Doubletree Hotel, 5400 Computer Drive, Westborough, MA. The conference will feature:

    • A keynote and discussion with Commissioner Santiago and Chairman Gabrieli
    • Breakout sessions with topics to include Presidential Search & Evaluation, MA State Budget Process & Outlook, Strategic Planning, and Enrollment & Transfer Trends
    • An afternoon panel entitled “Campus Climate Change: From Free Speech to Hate Speech, and Back Again” (or How to Safeguard, Not Stifle Students) featuring representatives of MA public college and universities examining and reflecting on campus case studies
    • Opportunities to network with colleagues

    Immediately prior to the conference, beginning at 8:30 a.m., a training session for new trustees will also be held.

    Registration will open via email in January. Questions in the meantime may be directed to Matt Noyes, Director of Trustee & Governmental Relations, at mnoyes@dhe.mass.edu.

  • FAFSA Day Massachusetts 2018 — Over 30 Locations in November 2017, January 2018 and More — FREE Help Applying for Financial Aid for College!

    FAFSA Day Massachusetts Offers Free Help Applying for Financial Aid for College!

    Register for our FAFSA Day event in Malden on Sunday, November 5, or for another at over 30 locations around the state

    Every high school senior, college student, and adult student who will be attending college during the 2018–2019 academic year needs to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to apply for federal, state, and institutional financial aid. FAFSA Day Massachusetts provides free help statewide to students and families looking to complete the FAFSA.

    The 17th annual FAFSA Day Massachusetts programs are being held on multiple dates at over 30 locations across Massachusetts, including one at our Office of Student Financial Assistance in Malden on Sunday, November 5. Families are encouraged to visit www.FAFSADay.org to view locations, dates, and times, to register, and to see a list of what to bring.

    The services are free and available to anyone attending college for the 2018–2019 academic year; low-income, first-generation students are especially encouraged to attend. Many locations will have services available in various languages. FAFSA Day is staffed by volunteer financial aid and higher education experts available to provide families one-on-one assistance. FAFSA Day is a non-profit program sponsored by Massachusetts Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, MEFA, American Student Assistance, and the Massachusetts Office of Student Financial Assistance. Over 18,200 students have been served during FAFSA Day events.

    To register or find more information on FAFSA Day, please visit www.FAFSADay.org. For questions or additional information, please call 877-424-7627 or e-mail fafsaday@gmail.com.

  • Digital display mockup reading 'Free Yourself: Lower Student Debt. A Life Full of Possibility'

    Baker-Polito Administration Expands Commonwealth Commitment College Affordability Program for Fall ’17

    40+ Academic Programs at State Colleges & Universities Discounted for Incoming Students

    August 28, 2017 – Massachusetts college students enrolled in the Commonwealth Commitment program will now be able to choose from more than 40 majors, up from the initial six offered last year, to qualify for the discounts and rebates aimed at making a bachelor’s degree more affordable, the Baker-Polito Administration announced today.
     
    With the program’s expansion, greater numbers of students will be able to save an average 40% off the cost of a traditional bachelor’s degree by starting their course of study at one of the state’s 15 community colleges and then transferring to a state university or University of Massachusetts campus. They will have significantly more options to choose from in the “MassTransfer A2B” — Associates to Bachelor’s — degree mapped programs which guarantee that course credits transfer between community colleges and the state’s public four-year universities. Students who sign up for the Commonwealth Commitment can choose from a wide range of majors that collectively represent 75% of the majors chosen by current public college and university students. The programs include computer science, business, criminal justice, architectural, industrial and graphic design, communications and early education, as well as liberal arts and sciences.
     
    “This program is designed to make college more affordable for students and make it easier to earn a college degree in the Commonwealth,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “By expanding the number of majors available through the Commonwealth Commitment program, our administration believes more students will be encouraged to pursue an affordable degree and transition into strong career opportunities right here in Massachusetts.”
     
    “The Commonwealth Commitment program is designed to reduce cost and increase completion and graduation rates for students moving from the community colleges to state universities and UMass campuses,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “By opening this program to more majors, we expect more students to take advantage of this college affordability program, so they can go to school full-time and complete on-time.”
     
    All majors offered by the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, as well as six specialty programs offered by the Massachusetts Maritime Academy will also now be eligible for Commonwealth Commitment discounts.

    “We know that students who do not go to college full-time, largely because they cannot afford to, are less likely than their peers to complete their degrees," Education Secretary James Peyser said. “The Commonwealth Commitment is a new pathway we developed to make college completion a reality for more students by making it more affordable.”
     
    “What began as a small pilot program is now poised to expand dramatically to serve more students in the 2017–18 academic year,” said Carlos E. Santiago, Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education. “While many states have begun experimenting with ways to reduce college costs, the Commonwealth Commitment is unique in creating incentives for students to earn two degrees in four years. We're hoping that students who may not have thought they could afford a bachelor's degree will be convinced to continue on with their education.”
     
    In the spring of 2016, the Baker-Polito Administration launched the Commonwealth Commitment to provide Massachusetts students with discounts on tuition through transfer. Students first earn an associate degree at one of the state’s 15 community colleges and then complete bachelor’s degree at any public four-year institution. Once enrolled, students’ tuition and mandatory fees are frozen; they also receive rebates up to 10 percent at the end of each semester and a tuition waiver or credit during their junior and senior years. Students are required to go to school full-time and maintain a 3.0 grade point (“B”) average. Students can realize savings of 40 percent or more off the typical sticker price for a four-year degree, depending on the colleges they choose to attend, before other state and federal financial aid is factored in.
     
    Students who enrolled in the Commonwealth Commitment program last year reported using their rebates to buy textbooks, pay the interest on student loans or receive credits toward next semester’s bill.
     
    “As the Commonwealth's college of art and design, we're so pleased to help expand opportunities and accessibility for students who want to pursue their interests in the creative economy,” said David Nelson, President of MassArt. “This expansion of the Commonwealth Commitment program will give students who begin their studies at community colleges a clear path to a four-year program, where at MassArt they will find a strong academic foundation and a choice of 18 majors in art, design, and art education.”
     
    “This initiative is a great help to our students who will achieve their associate and bachelor degrees at a considerable savings, keeping their dream of a college education affordable,” said Patricia Gentile, President of North Shore Community College.
     
    Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, one of the largest Fortune 500 companies based in Boston, recently launched a Commonwealth Commitment scholarship program for students worth $2500 a year for four years. Applications are due December 15, 2017.

  • Framingham State University smiling while working on laptop

    Liberty Mutual Insurance Launches Scholarship Program for Massachusetts Community College Students of African-American Descent

    Liberty Mutual’s Scholarship to Provide Each Student $2,500 Per Year for Four Years to Supplement Commonwealth Commitment Incentives

    July 10, 2017 – Liberty Mutual Insurance has announced the launch of a new scholarship – the LEADA@Liberty Scholarship – designed to offset the cost of college for Massachusetts students who enroll in community college with the ultimate goal of completing a degree at a state university or University of Massachusetts campus. The scholarship will be awarded annually to four students of African-American descent who are enrolled in the Massachusetts Commonwealth Commitment program, with each student receiving $2,500 per year for the four years of his or her college career.

    “Paying for college and the resulting student loan debt are obstacles that prevent many students from pursuing higher education, which reduces the number of skilled workers,” said Kevin Gayle, Finance Committee Chair of Liberty Mutual’s Employees of African Descent and Allies (LEADA@Liberty) employee resource group. “We see investing in students at the beginning of their college career as a way to create a path for future Liberty Mutual employees. In addition to providing financial support, we will work closely with the LEADA@Liberty scholars through mentoring and offer them internship opportunities in our Boston office. Our goal is to reach this untapped pool of talent and we see this scholarship as a win-win for community college students, Liberty Mutual Insurance and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”

    The first of its kind in the nation, the Commonwealth Commitment is the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s innovative college affordability and completion plan that aims to help more Massachusetts students achieve the dream of a college career.  The plan commits Massachusetts public colleges and universities to providing a series of financial incentives to students who begin their studies at one of 15 community colleges, earn an associate degree within two and a half years, and then transfer to a state university or University of Massachusetts campus to earn a baccalaureate degree.  Liberty Mutual is the Commonwealth Commitment’s first private sector partner.

    “We were deeply grateful to receive a call from LEADA@Liberty employees, asking how they could support underserved students who need support to earn their college degrees,” said Carlos E. Santiago, Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education. “I’m especially pleased that LEADA@Liberty members are offering mentoring and professional development opportunities in addition to scholarship support. Liberty is leading the way in showing how the private sector can help students avoid burdensome debt, graduate on time and launch meaningful careers.”

    Administered by the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), the LEADA@Liberty scholarship is available to students of African descent attending community colleges in the metro Boston area. In addition to the scholarship, through the Commonwealth Commitment, students who attend college full-time and maintain a 3.0 GPA receive a freeze on tuition and fees, a 10% rebate at the end of each successfully completed semester, and a full MassTransfer tuition waiver in their third and fourth years at a university.  

    Photo courtesy of Framingham State University

  • 29 Who Shine
  • Commissioners Santiago and Chester jointly addressing the Boards of Higher Education and Elementary & Secondary Education

    Statement on the Passing of ESE Commissioner Mitchell Chester

    Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester passed away suddenly on June 26, 2017, following a battle with cancer

    “At the Department of Higher Education we are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of ESE Commissioner Mitch Chester,” said Higher Education Commissioner Carlos E. Santiago. “The staffs of our respective agencies have been steadily increasing their collaboration to help students transition more easily and successfully from high school to college, most recently by planning a new ‘early college’ initiative to allow high school students to earn credit for college coursework. Across the state, our colleges and universities are growing their partnerships with K-12 districts to make sure that students are prepared to succeed in post-secondary education, work that was embraced by Commissioner Chester and me. I know firsthand how deeply committed Mitch was to the success of every child. The best way for us to honor his legacy is to continue building our inter-agency and community-based partnerships to help students realize their dreams.”

  • On May 22, 2017, our financial aid office moves to Malden!

    New Location: Office of Student Financial Assistance (OSFA) Moves to Malden, MA

    MA Department of Higher Education’s Financial Aid Office to Close Thursday, May 18; Reopen Monday, May 22

    The Department of Higher Education’s Office of Student Financial Assistance (OSFA) will move from its current location in Revere to a new office location in Malden effective next week, Higher Education Commissioner Carlos E. Santiago announced today. The office will close for business effective noon on Thursday, May 18 and reopen for business on Monday, May 22. During the office move, no official business or public correspondence regarding state grants, scholarships or tuition waivers will be conducted.

    The new offices opening next week will be located at 75 Pleasant Street in Malden, in the same building that houses the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, as well as the Executive Office of Education’s IT and HR departments. It is a short walk from the Malden Center MBTA stop on the Orange Line, as well as the Commuter Rail station and multiple bus routes.

    “Our new location is much more accessible to the public, and our proximity to the staff at DESE will give us fresh opportunities to collaborate with our K-12 partners to improve public access to financial aid information,” said Clantha McCurdy, Senior Deputy Commissioner for Access and Student Financial Assistance. “We look forward to hosting FAFSA completion events and other activities for students and families at our new offices.”

    Please update your files to reflect:

    New OSFA Address: 75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148
    New OSFA Fax: (617) 391-6085

    Telephone numbers and email addresses for all OSFA employees will remain unchanged.

    Complete information on Massachusetts scholarships, grants and tuition waivers, as well as college affordability tools and resources, are available on the DHE OFSA website.

  • Screenshot of Commissioner Santiago on Comcast Newsmakers
  • Viewpoint: Patricia Meservey Barry Maloney
  • Massachusetts Early College Initiative
  • Framingham cohort of 100 Males to College poses under the words 'Bound for Greatness'
  • Mosaic of faces of students who attended Advocacy Day
  • Headshot of Lane Glenn
  • Students walk halls of Bridgewater State University

    Baker-Polito Administration Awards $1.25M to Launch New College Access and Completion Programs

    Public Campuses Awarded Grants to Support Innovation and College Readiness

    Boston, MA – February 23, 2017 – A select group of Massachusetts state universities and community colleges have been awarded a total of $1.25 million dollars through the Department of Higher Education’s Performance Incentive Fund to drive innovation throughout the public higher education system, the Baker-Polito Administration announced today. The largest share of the funds, totaling $695,000, will be used to launch new programs to allow high school students to take college courses before graduating from high school. 

    Exposing high school students to college-level material and allowing them to earn credit for their work is a worthy investment in both our students and future workforce,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “The Performance Incentive Fund grants will help our public higher education system continue its important development of highly skilled and educated workers.”

    Bridgewater State UniversityBunker Hill Community CollegeMount Wachusett Community CollegeWestfield State University and Worcester State University received the college access grants. All of the campuses plan to use the funds to improve the college-going rates of students typically under-represented in higher education, including African American and Latino students, low-income students, and those who will be the first in their family to attend college. National research demonstrates that students who take college courses before graduating from high school are more likely to avoid expensive, non-credit remedial coursework in their first year of college and to go on to earn associate and bachelor’s degrees, rather than dropping out before finishing their studies.

    “These grants support the broader workforce development efforts of the Baker-Polito administration,” said James Peyser, Secretary of Education.  “The programs they make possible constitute important elements in our strategy to offer high quality career pathways to our young adults and give them a solid foundation for college and career success.” 

    “These programs are among the smartest educational investments we can make,” said Carlos E. Santiago, Commissioner of Higher Education. “Every indicator demonstrates that exposure to college helps high school students build the self-confidence and the skills they need to succeed at the post-secondary level. I was very pleased to see a high degree of creativity imbedded in the campus proposals, which will strengthen the pathways from high school to college.” 

    Bridgewater State will team with Massasoit Community College and the Brockton Public Schools to create a 100 Males to College program for Brockton teens who will benefit from the opportunity to take college-level courses and engage in family outreach activities. A separate but similar 100 Males to College program will be launched in Central Massachusetts, where Worcester State will work with Quinsigamond Community College and the Worcester Public Schools to bring college-level courses and post-secondary success strategies to male students at area high schools.

    Bunker Hill Community College will team with the University of Massachusetts Boston and the Chelsea Public Schools to create an intensive professional development program for educators focused on “culturally relevant and inclusive practices,” and will also work to align the curriculum between Chelsea High and Bunker Hill.

    Mount Wachusett Community College will adapt science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs for students from Fitchburg and Leominster who are non-STEM majors.

    Additionally, Performance Incentive Fund grants were awarded to four campuses working to tackle academic challenges that often hinder degree completion.

    Northern Essex Community College will join with Middlesex Community College to develop innovative “competency-based pathways” that align accreditation standards, core competencies and courses taken by early childhood educators.

    Berkshire Community CollegeBristol Community College, and North Shore Community College and  will each be awarded grants to develop “co-requisite” course models designed to reduce the number of students placed into non-credit remedial classes. Co-requisite models offer an alternative approach to remediation; a student who is not fully prepared for college-level work receives supplemental academic instruction and support while also taking a for-credit course, in lieu of the typical requirement to take the remedial course first. 

    >> FY17 Performance Incentive Fund Grants [PDF]

    Photo courtesy Bridgewater State University

  • UMass Amherst Commencement
  • Early College A&A with Chris Gabrieli
  • FY18 Budget Request for Massachusetts Public Higher Education
  • Bridgewater State U students talk before class
  • Students work together outside

    MA Education Boards Prioritize Early College, Establish Early College Joint Committee

    Decision follows the release of report highlighting early college high schools as a means of improving college access and postsecondary completion

    Bridgewater, MA – January 24, 2017 – Today the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) and Board of Higher Education (BHE) voted unanimously to adopt a joint resolution to prioritize and advance the early college efforts in Massachusetts, including the creation of an Early College Joint Committee. Early college high schools are schools that combine the traditional high school experience with the opportunity to earn significant college credit on an intentional pathway in a rigorous, highly supportive environment.

    The Boards affirmed their shared commitment to helping students attain the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to succeed in college and careers, be engaged citizens and lead productive and fulfilling lives. The Boards recognized that early college programs that allow high school students to experience and complete college level academic work and reduce the time and expense of earning a college credential can be a powerful tool to achieve the Commonwealth’s overall goals for educational achievement.

    “The joint resolution adopted by the boards today is part of the Baker-Polito Administration’s larger strategic efforts to strengthen career pathways, including more opportunities for students to engage in early college programs, and to ensure students are on a path to succeed in school, in their careers, and in life,” said Secretary of Education Jim Peyser. “Today the members of both boards expressed our appreciation to Parthenon-EY and the Barr Foundation, the members of the Steering Committee, and the Working Group, and look forward to the Early College Joint Committee’s recommendations in helping us build a scalable statewide early college initiative.”

    “For all students, particularly first-generation and those traditionally underrepresented in postsecondary education, early college is an opportunity to engage in college-level work, develop a deeper understanding of the college experience, and get a jumpstart on their college degree,” said Chris Gabrieli, Chairman of the Board of Higher Education. “We are pleased to work with schools and communities to help create new programs to support students in early college and through high-quality career pathways by 2018.”

    “We are proud that local school districts, postsecondary institutions, and non-profit organizations across the Commonwealth have pioneered early college models and promoted their expansion for many years,” said Paul Sagan, Chairman of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. “Early college programs can help improve high school graduation and college completion rates, and allow students an opportunity to experience career-related activities in a high-demand field or industry.”

    “Massachusetts has traditionally focused on high performance and academic standards, and I am thrilled that we are now also addressing at a statewide level how high skills apply to a variety of careers,” said Nancy Hoffman, Senior Advisor, Jobs for the Future, and Chair of the Board of Higher Education’s Academic Affairs Committee. “We’ve learned lessons from around the country and are now able to build best-in-class early college programming.”

    The joint resolution approved today established a 5-member Early College Joint Committee comprising the chairs of the BESE and BHE or their designees, an additional member of each board designated by the chairs, and the Secretary of Education, to oversee the development of a process for designating Massachusetts Early College Schools, working with both commissioners and departments to develop a process for reviewing, approving, overseeing, and evaluating applicants for the new designation as well as helping to guide the growth of the effort. A full proposal will be brought back to both boards for final approval by June 30, 2017.

    The Early College Joint Committee is charged with designing, developing and coordinating the administration of a Massachusetts Early College program based on the process and key design principles set forth in Massachusetts Early College Schools. In January 2016, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and Board of Higher Education met together to discuss the topic of early college programming and to better understand the entire spectrum of early college models found throughout the Commonwealth. One result of the meeting was a joint expression of interest from BESE and BHE to further explore the early college landscape in Massachusetts. Through the support of the Barr Foundation and partnership with Parthenon-EY, a joint steering committee and working group was charged with exploring the role that early college pathways could play in helping improve college access and postsecondary completion in Massachusetts.

    Parthenon-EY presented their initial findings to BHE in September 2016 followed by a presentation at the BESE’s December 20, 2016 meeting. The report, entitled Breaking Down Silos to Put Students on the Path to Success: The Promise of Early College in Massachusetts, was also discussed at today’s joint board meeting. The Parthenon-EY report highlights a number of advantages to the state’s use of early college high schools as a means of improving college access and postsecondary completion, particularly for first-generation college students, including the strategy’s alignment with state goals, the strong foundation of local early college programs, and the ability to achieve improved outcomes at reasonable costs.

    This effort is consistent with a broader parallel initiative to define and develop high quality career pathways, for which the Commonwealth has just received a $2 million grant from the Council of Chief State School Officers and JP Morgan Chase.

  • UMass Amherst Commencement
  • Viewpoint: Commissioner Carlos E. Santiago
  • FY18 Budget Request for Massachusetts Public Higher Education
  • Bridgewater State U students talk before class
  • Performance Measurement Word Collage
  • 2016 Enrollment in Massachusetts Public Colleges and Universities
  • Governor Baker speaks to Springfield seniors at Go Higher Event on October 4th.
  • The bottom line is that sexual assault is not a rite of passage - Attorney General Maura Healey #CampusSafetyMA
  • Screenshots of the new MassTransfer website

    Baker-Polito Administration Launches State-of-the-Art College Pathways Portal

    Web Toolkit Highlights Transfer Options, Degree Savings up to 49% through New Commonwealth Commitment Program

    Boston, MA – September 6, 2016 – Starting today, Massachusetts students and families have access to a new, full-service web portal that will allow them to explore a wide range of academic offerings at the state’s public colleges and universities and chart a course to an affordable bachelor’s degree through transfer from a community college to a state university or University of Massachusetts campus, the Baker-Polito Administration announced today.

    The new MassTransfer web portal will, for the first time, allow the Commonwealth’s high school and college students to identify and compare a wide range of degree programs, transfer options, and college costs at all twenty-eight public undergraduate campuses. They will be able to see what is required to transfer seamlessly between campuses, including course-by course “degree maps” available for some majors. They will also be able to use a savings calculator to find the typical savings associated with earning an “A2B” – associate to bachelor’s – degree. The portal’s features also include a detailed description of the three different transfer options available to students, a course-to-course equivalency database to allow them to see exactly how various course credits will transfer, and an additional tool to view cost savings associated with an A2B degree earned through the Commonwealth Commitment program, announced in April by Governor Baker, Lieutenant Governor Polito, and the leaders within public higher education.

    “This new online tool will save students valuable time and money while completing their degrees, and I hope that many students take advantage of the Commonwealth Commitment as early as this fall,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Our colleges and universities are critical partners in ensuring a strong workforce pipeline and through this new program, it will be even easier for students to take the classes and earn the degrees they need to succeed.” 

     “The national research is clear that even a few hundred dollars can make a powerful difference in whether students stay on the path toward college completion or leave school because they cannot afford to continue,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “We are thrilled to offer the students in our Commonwealth substantial savings off an already great deal on college credentials.”

    “I am grateful to the leadership of all three segments of public higher education and the Department of Higher Education for stepping forward and collectively creating the Commonwealth Commitment to ensure we make college as affordable and transfers as seamless as possible for all students.” Education Secretary Jim Peyser said. “What’s incredible is that the savings a student will see in this new online tool could be even greater than what’s listed, with the addition of scholarships and other financial aid awards, which can lower the cost of an associate and bachelor’s degree even further.” 

    “With college costs identified as a chief barrier to college completion, we knew we needed a more seamless, efficient system to allow students to transfer from one campus to another and graduate in a more timely and cost-effective manner,” said Carlos E. Santiago, Commissioner of Higher Education. “The new MassTransfer portal provides all the information students need to complete their academic journey without delay and added debt. I think many students will be pleasantly surprised by the academic excellence, diversity of degree programs and affordability available at each of our public campuses.”

    Through the Commonwealth Commitment program, students who enroll full-time at one of the state’s 15 community colleges will be able to transfer to a state university or UMass campus and graduate with a bachelor’s degree in one of a number of select programs. They must maintain a 3.0 cumulative grade point average and graduate in no more than four and a half years. Students in the program will realize substantial savings off the “total sticker price” of a traditional bachelor’s degree, qualifying for a freeze in tuition and mandatory fees, 10% per-semester rebates, and a full tuition credit in their last two years of school worth an average of $1200.

  • Viewpoint: Commissioner Carlos E. Santiago
  • MCLA professor lectures to a small classroom

    MA Department of Higher Education Awards $910k in Dual Enrollment Grants to Public Campuses

    Funds Will Allow More Local High School Students to Take Early College Courses, Earn Credits Toward Post-Secondary Degrees

    Boston, MA – August 29, 2016 – Just in time for the start of a new academic year, the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education has awarded $910,000 in individual grants to 22 public colleges and universities to expand opportunities for high school students to get a jump start on college.

    Grants funded through the Commonwealth Dual Enrollment Partnership (CDEP) will allow students to take free or low-cost college courses at local campuses and, in some cases, attend classes taught on location at their high schools or on line. CDEP students earn college credit  toward an associate or bachelor’s degree, often saving thousands of dollars in the process. Along with cost savings, research shows that dual enrollment courses help prepare students for the rigor and expectations of college-level work, making the experience especially valuable for 1st generation students and economically disadvantaged students who may not have access to college preparatory experiences and opportunities. In Massachusetts dual enrollment students who enroll in community colleges are 50% less likely to require developmental (remedial) classes compared to their peers who had not taken a dual enrollment course.

    “We are thrilled to be able to help these students earn college credit as they start to develop their career pathways,” said Education Secretary Jim Peyser. “Dual enrollment is an important part of our administration’s broader commitment to expanding early college experiences.”

    “As a new academic year begins, we want to open the dual enrollment doors as wide as possible, serving as many students as we can,” said Carlos E. Santiago, Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education. “We know that this experience is a game-changer for young people, especially those who come from families where no one has attended college before. The program also strengthens the partnerships between high schools and local colleges, allowing for meaningful collaborations that support student success.”

    Last year, CDEP funding provided for the enrollment of slightly more than 2,000 students. This year’s projected enrollment is 3,380. The primary goal of the fiscal year 2017 funding is to “increase dual enrollment of underrepresented students, which may include first-generation college students, low-income or economically disadvantaged students, students of color, and particularly male students of color.”

    The following colleges and universities are among those chosen to receive funding:

    The University of Massachusetts Boston will give students in Boston and Quincy an opportunity to enroll in a 2-semester course sequence, allowing them to adjust to college-level math work in the familiar setting of their own high school before taking a second course at the UMass Boston campus.

    Fitchburg State University will expand its partnerships with area high schools to include Leominster High School, and will offer courses to groups (cohorts) of students in the late afternoon and on Saturdays to accommodate their schedules.

    The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts will partner with the city of Pittsfield and Berkshire  Community College to create a summer academy for students who will earn up to six college credits.

    Bristol Community College, which annually serves the largest number of dual enrollment students in the state, will include early college awareness activities, campus visits and financial aid workshops to raise the college aspirations of the students in Fall River and New Bedford, communities which have some of the lowest educational attainment levels in the U.S. for cities of their sizes.  

    Holyoke Community College will launch a new, three-tiered College Now program for sophomores, juniors and seniors at targeted local high schools. The college is one of 44 institutions participating in the U.S. Department of Education’s experimental pilot to allow use of Pell grants for dual enrollment coursework and related expenses.

  • Cover of The Degree Gap

    Massachusetts Facing Decline in College-Educated Workforce

    New Higher Ed Report Calls for Stepped-up Degree Production by Public Colleges and Universities

    Boston, MA – June 8, 2016 – The rate at which Massachusetts residents earn college degrees will pivot from growth to decline by 2022 unless the state’s public higher education system, which educates more than half of all undergraduates, is able to increase the number of students who enroll and earn diplomas, the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education reported today. 

    The Degree Gap, the Department’s annual Vision Project report on the status of public higher education in the Commonwealth, was released at an event held at The Boston Foundation this morning. The report suggests that employers who are already having difficulty meeting current workforce needs in high-demand fields will face even greater challenges in the next few years, as the state’s high school population continues to decline at the same time that an estimated 660,000 college-educated workers plan to retire.  Of those job openings requiring post-secondary education or training, two-thirds will require a college degree. Increasingly, the higher education system will also be called upon to leverage its traditional role of offering associate’s and bachelor’s degrees by also offering certificate and continuing education programs to ensure that students develop career skills needed to be successful.  The demographic challenges facing the state mean that public colleges and universities are likely to fall short of meeting the need for new associate and bachelor’s degrees by 55,000 to 65,000. The Degree Gap predicts that 80% of those “missing” degrees needed to fill the state’s talent pool in the next decade will be at the baccalaureate level or higher.

    The Degree Gap highlights important issues our Commonwealth must address to prepare our workforce to fill jobs which are currently going unfilled, and help employers find skilled employees in the future,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “It’s clear we need more degree earners and certificate program graduates, including those in the critical STEM fields, and I am pleased our administration has already taken steps to start tackling these challenges.”

    “Studies have shown that the vast majority of Massachusetts job openings in the next decade will require a degree or certificate beyond high school, and our administration is working hard to expand training and educational opportunities,” said Secretary of Education Jim Peyser.  “The higher education system is a critical partner in helping our students and workers meet the needs of our changing economy, and we are focusing on ensuring they are prepared to succeed in college and in their careers.”

    The Degree Gap affirms that the state’s public higher education system must redouble its efforts to help more students earn college credentials, especially those from underrepresented communities who are much less likely to earn degrees,” said Carlos E. Santiago, Commissioner of Higher Education. “I will urge the leadership of our system to focus on what we are calling ‘The Big Three’ priorities for the coming academic year: making college more accessible and affordable, closing achievement gaps, and improving completion rates.”

    The report’s findings align with several recent economic forecasts that project that a lack of available talent may constrain economic growth. Although the Commonwealth has more adult degree-holders than any other state—51.5 percent of adults ages 25–54—the state is projected to end the decade with fewer working age college-educated residents than it began with unless the rate of degree production improves.

  • Students hold up #ItsOnUs signs at the Student Leadership Retreat in Fall 2016

    Securing Our Future: Statewide Campus Safety and Violence Prevention Conference

    Convening of Representatives of Massachusetts’ Public and Private Colleges and Universities to Advance Best Practices in Preventing Campus Violence

    On Wednesday, September 28, 2016, the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, Executive Office of Public Safety & Security, and Attorney General’s Office will jointly present “Securing Our Future: A Statewide Campus Safety and Violence Prevention Conference.” The conference is intended to raise awareness of the findings and recommendations of the Board of Higher Education’s recent task force on campus safety and violence prevention, and to focus on a systemic approach to addressing campus safety and violence through governance, planning, protocols and communication. It will feature:

    • a keynote address by Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Education;
    • a closing plenary with homeland security expert Juliette Kayyem and former Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis; and
    • remarks from Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, Attorney General Maura Healey, Secretary of Public Safety & Security Daniel Bennett, and UMass President Marty Meehan.

    This event, to be held at the DCU Center in Worcester, is open to representatives of public and private colleges and universities including campus police officers, Title IX coordinators and campus administrators who work in this area. Invitations were sent to campus presidents. If you would like to attend, please contact your president directly.

    Earlier: June 2016 Task Force Report

    Massachusetts colleges and universities have made significant strides in their efforts to improve campus safety since 2008 when the Board of Higher Education first ordered a review, but will need to continue to develop new safety protocols and trainings due to heightened concerns about sexual violence, active shooters and other emerging threats. Securing Our Future: Best Practice Recommendations for Campus Safety and Violence Prevention, a 120-plus page report prepared by TSG Solutions, Inc. was presented to the Board of Higher Education at Worcester State University in June 2016. In formally accepting the report, the BHE directed the Commissioner of Higher Education to work with campus leaders to coordinate implementation of the recommendations and help secure necessary resources.

    The document does not offer a one-size-fits-all prescription for improving campus safety, but puts the focus on the need for “nimble and flexible capabilities” that allow campuses to integrate safety and violence prevention efforts into strategic planning, budgeting and other ongoing priorities addressed by campus leaders.

    “I thank the Department of Higher Education and the statewide task force members who came together to bring their expertise to bear on the important report on campus safety and violence prevention,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, Chair of the Governor’s Council to Address Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence. “I am proud that Massachusetts has taken the lead as the first state to order a comprehensive review of campus safety, which includes both active shooter threats and the prevalence of sexual violence, for all its public campuses.” 

    “The report makes clear that strong local governance and better statewide coordination are essential to building a safe foundation for teaching and learning,” said Carlos E. Santiago, Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education. “We cannot divorce campus safety concerns from academic or student affairs. I am pleased to see the level of progress that has been made to date, and am indebted to our team of consultants for identifying the need for a holistic and systemic approach to violence prevention in our campus communities.”
      
    “We know that one in four or five female undergraduates are sexually assaulted while in college, underscoring the urgency of this particular issue,” said Dena Papanikolaou, general counsel to the Department of Higher Education. “The status quo is unacceptable. I believe we have a moral obligation to promote the safety of students and staff on all of our campuses.”

  • Jim Peyser at BHE Meeting

    Board of Higher Education Votes Changes to Leave Policies Governing State Universities, Community Colleges

    Vote Impacts Employee Leave and Employment Contracts for Former Presidents

    Worcester, MA – June 14, 2016 – The Massachusetts Board of Higher Education voted today to amend the leave policies for non-unit professionals (NUPs) at the state’s fifteen community colleges and nine state universities in an effort to better align such policies with those governing University of Massachusetts employees, public higher education systems in other New England states, and Massachusetts state employees. The changes will impact approximately 1650 employees.  

    The Board voted to eliminate the current policy allowing employees to convert unused vacation days into sick time. Going forward under the new policy, any vacation days that remain over a 64-day balance would be forfeited by the employee if not used. The 64-day vacation balance would be reduced over the next two and a half years to a maximum of 50 days that can be “carried” by an employee.

    Additionally, the Board voted to:

    • Reduce the number of vacation days allotted to higher education employees to a maximum of 25, a reduction from a previous allocation of 30 days per year for the longest-serving employees.
    • Standardize the number of personal days allotted to employees across all three segments of the higher education system. All non-unit professionals employed at the state’s community colleges and state universities will receive a total of five annual personal days, effective January 1, 2017.

    “These changes will bring our employment policies for non-unit professionals at community colleges and state universities into alignment with those in place at the University of Massachusetts, at public colleges and universities across New England, and for state employees,” said Higher Education Commissioner Carlos E. Santiago, who ordered an expedited review of the policies in March. “They will allow us to remain competitive with other institutions in our bid to attract top talent, while also making good on our commitment to be effective stewards of state resources.”

    In addition to the policy changes approved by the Board, the Department of Higher Education staff will continue to offer training opportunities for local boards of trustees and will distribute “best practice” materials for their use in overseeing presidential leave time. Presidents will be expected to regularly report their leave time to their campus board chair, and additionally, to provide an annual summary of their leave to the Commissioner of Higher Education as part of the presidential evaluation process.

    The Board also approved a separate policy that prohibits campus boards of trustees from entering into contractual agreements with outgoing or former presidents without the approval of the Commissioner of Higher Education. The motion spells out a series of guidelines for trustees to follow in considering such post-employment contracts and reaffirms current BHE policy, which states that “no sitting state university or community college president shall be offered a severance agreement involving compensation to be paid subsequent to the time he/she no longer performs the duties of president.”

  • 29 Who Shine logo

    “29 Who Shine” Awards Kick Off 2016 Commencement Season

    Governor Baker, Education Leaders, Media Publishers Honor Community College, State University & UMass Graduates for “Contributions to the Commonwealth”

    Boston, MA - May 9, 2016 –The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education today announced the Class of 2016 winners of the 29 Who Shine awards, the Commonwealth’s annual ceremony honoring one graduate from each community college, state university and University of Massachusetts campus. The awards highlight students’ individual achievements and contributions of the civic and economic well-being of the Commonwealth, resulting from their collective efforts and public investment in their education.

    Today’s ceremony, taking place at 12 noon at the Massachusetts State House, will be attended by Governor Baker, Senate President Stan Rosenberg, Education Secretary Jim Peyser, UMass President Marty Meehan, chancellors, state university and community college presidents, students and family members. The Massachusetts Maritime Academy 7th Company Marching Band will also perform at the ceremony.

    Each one of Massachusetts’ 29 public college and university campuses selected its own honoree for the 29 Who Shine awards based on criteria established by the Department of Higher Education. Students are required to be state residents who have strong academic profiles and a record of civic engagement.

    "Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito and I congratulate all 29 of the 2016 award recipients and thank them for their substantial contributions to their campuses and local communities," said Governor Charlie Baker. "Each of the 29 Who Shine honorees represent our future citizenry and workforce and have already made a positive impact on the Commonwealth.”

    “It’s exciting to see how this exceptional group of student leaders have chosen to put their brainpower and civic engagement to work in so many different ways that benefit our state -- through STEM, through the arts, and through teaching, and medicine,” said Secretary of Education Jim Peyser. “We wish all of them well in their next steps, whether in their careers or additional scholarly pursuits.”

    “Each of these students is a shining example of what our public higher education system can produce,” said Carlos E. Santiago, Commissioner of Higher Education. “The outstanding students on this year’s list of 29 Who Shine honorees have come from many countries and overcome many obstacles. I am so proud of what they have achieved and look forward to seeing how they continue to put their talents to work on behalf of us all.”

  • Governor Baker announces the Commonwealth Commitment agreement in a crowd of hundreds on the steps of Middlesex Community College

    New Commonwealth Commitment Plan to Increase Affordability, Drive Degree Completion

    “2+2” Plan Based on Transfer from Community College to UMass or State U’s Offers Per-Semester Rebates, Freeze Costs for Qualifying Students

    Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito joined public higher education leaders today to announce the Commonwealth Commitment, an innovative college affordability and completion plan to help more students achieve the dream of a college degree.

    The Commonwealth Commitment commits every public campus to providing 10% rebates at the end of each successfully completed semester to qualifying undergraduate students, in addition to the standard MassTransfer tuition waiver received upon entering a four-year institution from a Community College. Students who meet the program requirements will, depending on the transfer pathway they choose, be able to realize an average savings of $5,090 off the cost of a baccalaureate degree.

    This plan is the first agreement of its kind in the nation and was signed by University of Massachusetts President Marty Meehan, Worcester State University President Barry Maloney and Middlesex Community College President James Mabry, representing the three segments of the public higher education system, and Higher Education Commissioner Carlos E. Santiago at a ceremony held this morning at Middlesex Community College.

    As part of the Commonwealth Commitment’s goal to increase cost savings and predictability, tuition and mandatory fees will be frozen for program participants as of the date they enter the program. Students will begin their studies at one of the state's 15 community colleges, enrolling in one of 24 Commonwealth Commitment/Mass Transfer Pathways programs that will roll out in fall 2016 (14 programs) and fall 2017 (10 additional programs). They must attend full-time, and must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0. After earning an associate's degree in two and a half years or less, students will transfer to a state university or UMass campus to earn a baccalaureate degree.

  • Headshot of Secretary Jim Peyser

    Q&A with Education Secretary Jim Peyser

    Secretary Peyser talks about the budget, priorities for his tenure and new approaches going forward

    Can you give us a clear snapshot of your focus areas for higher education, at this point in your tenure?

    Peyser: Number one: College access and success, which includes students being ready for college-level work.

    Can you give us an example of budget or system-level initiatives that you think will support access and success?

    Peyser: Dual enrollment and Vision Project Performance Incentive Grants would be two examples. The Governor’s budget proposes doubling our investment in dual enrollment from $1 million to $2 million. What we’re trying to do is not simply increase the number of students taking advantage of the existing dual enrollment program but rather focus those additional resources on strengthening early college programs, where our public colleges work with cohorts of students, rather than individual students, especially in the STEM fields. We want to build or expand on existing relationships with high schools, and in particular, focus on those students who are under-represented in college. We are still working out the details of that expansion initiative, so stay tuned. Similarly, the performance management grants available to our public colleges and universities are supporting system-building initiatives, like the creation of common course offerings to ensure that students can transfer credits earned at one public college to any other college in the system.

    Any other priorities you’d like to touch upon?

    Peyser: Affordability. One of major reasons students don’t finish college is because of money. This is a knotty problem, because the cost of higher education—in both public and private schools here in Massachusetts and nationally—seems to be on conveyor belt that’s moving higher and faster than inflation. No one has yet figured out how to change the trajectory or bend the curve.

    So even though we need to keep working on efficiency measures that produce real savings, it’s clear we need to add a new focus on creating alternative pathways through college that are at a significantly lower cost. I’m very encouraged by the work that the campuses and the Department of Higher Education have been doing on a more affordable four-year degree option and I expect we’ll have an announcement on that new program soon.

    And there are other approaches like three-year degrees, or more aggressive use of online competency-based programs that can be delivered at much lower costs, approaches that not only reduce the overall cost of completing a degree, but also make it possible for students to do it faster and on a flexible schedule that meets their unique needs.

    But many educators have expressed concern that these competency-based models may be creating a two-tiered higher education system where those who can afford it still have the option of a bricks-and-mortar on-campus experience, while poorer students may be relegated this cheaper, online path.

    Peyser: A four-year residential experience is not for everyone, regardless their economic circumstances. Moreover, we simply cannot afford to address the college access challenge through construction of new buildings. The fact is we have billions of dollars in deferred maintenance for the buildings we already have. Pretending that we can address the challenge of college access and affordability by expanding our bricks and mortar campuses is simply an expensive mirage, which would likely have the effect of putting a college degree even further out-of-reach for working class students. If we are going to get more people access to higher education and get them the credentials and skills they need to be successful, we are going to have to come up with alternative ways of doing that. Online education is not a silver bullet, but it is an increasingly promising path for some students – and not just because it’s cheap. And frankly, the world is moving in this direction. Massachusetts will be left behind if we don’t move with it.

    You are very focused on public higher education’s role in serving different regions of the state. Talk about what that means.

    Peyser: My observation is that communication and collaboration happens quite a bit on an ad hoc or programmatic basis, but not systemic. As a result, we are not adding as much value as we are capable of and we are wasting resources. At the same time, we are making it harder for students to navigate their own unique paths through our higher education and workforce development system. Deepening the regional integration of our college campuses and strengthening their connections to K-12 and local employers is a top priority of the Governor’s Workforce Skills Cabinet.

    What do you mean? Many campuses would argue that they have great relationships with K-12 schools and local businesses.

    Peyser: True, but what’s frustrating is that if you go to any college, they will tell you about all of their partnerships with K-12 and employers. Then if you go to the surrounding schools and the employers and ask them about their relationships with the local community college or state university, too often you get blank stares. That says two things to me:

    First, a lot of the partnerships are transactional or episodic, without much buy-in or engagement at the institutional level. That means that these relationships often lack a real strategic purpose and therefore miss the opportunity to add greater value.

    Second, in any given region, you might have three or four different colleges, each with their own separate relationships with the same businesses or industry sectors. This piecemeal approach can be confusing to employers and wasteful to the colleges. One of the things Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) and Holyoke Community College (HCC) are doing through their Training and Workforce Options program is to say, we are serving the same region so let’s work together to develop employer partnerships as a team. That means that if there’s a business in the hospitality industry you direct them to HCC’s culinary arts program, and if you have a partnership with an advanced manufacturing firm, you point them toward STCC. What STCC and HCC are doing demonstrates how campuses can merge their resources in a way that allows us to maximize the value of the assets we have, increase the number of strategic partnerships, and simplify the network of relationships between higher education and employers.

    Isn’t the current structure of higher ed in Massachusetts a barrier to the kind of regionalization you envision?

    Peyser: The highly decentralized structure we have means we need to place a premium on communication, collaboration, and integration. Is it a barrier? It doesn’t make it easy, but we hope that it provides the opportunity to have the best of both worlds: day-to-day decision-making that is close to the ground and regional or statewide coordination to leverage the distinctive strengths of each campus. Given the proximity of these institutions to one another, and the fact we are a pretty small state anyway, it is actually quite possible for us to be networked tightly, especially within regions.

    Thinking regionally also relates to the capital budget. One of challenges that I have in my role as an advisor to the Governor with respect to the capital budget is being able to rank order campus proposals for capital funding. Unfortunately, we have many more construction proposals than we have capital funds to support them, so we have to make some tough choices in the near term and probably over the next several years, as well. I am hopeful that this constraint will encourage and enable the campuses within the various regions of the Commonwealth to work more closely together to align and integrate their strategic plans in order to make the best use of the Commonwealth’s limited resources.

    Are you suggesting that as the process of reviewing these projects goes forth, taking a regional approach is something the campuses are or will be encouraged to do?

    Peyser: The new regional planning process that is being launched as we speak is intended to be bottom up. Starting in this fiscal year, we are providing resources and support for the campuses to get together in each region to look at each other’s strategic plans and to think about their programs and priorities in order to align and integrate them more effectively. Where it makes sense these plans might bring pieces together or enable campuses to divide and conquer to make sure they are not duplicating efforts. To the extent they are able to maximize the use of existing resources, we might be able to avoid investing in bricks and mortar when we don’t have to. Those regions that put forward the most compelling and coherent plans that take maximum advantage of their collective assets will certainly have a leg up when it comes to allocating the capital budget in the future.

  • 100 Males to College: Brotherhood for College Success logo

    100 Males to College Launches in Framingham

    February 26th Kickoff of New Initiative Aimed at Closing the Opportunity Gap Among Male Students

    A new statewide initiative aimed at closing the opportunity gap among male students by partnering local school districts, community organizations and public colleges will launch on Friday, February 26, 2016 at Framingham State University.

    100 Males to College will provide a comprehensive support structure to a cohort of 100 young male students to help them successfully graduate from high school, gain entry to college and earn a post-secondary degree. The support structure is an asset-based youth development model that embraces culture, identity and community.

    One hundred male sophomore and junior students from Framingham High School and Keefe Tech have been identified and selected to participate in the program, which is funded by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education. The students will meet at Framingham State University’s McCarthy Center (100 State Street, Framingham) at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, February. 26th, for a special kickoff event with Department of Higher Education Commissioner Carlos Santiago, Framingham State University President F. Javier Cevallos, MassBay Interim President Yves Salomon-Fernandez and representatives from other community partners.

    "We're launching 100 Males to College programs here in Framingham and in communities across the state because we need all students, regardless of race, gender or economic status, to see college as an essential part of their future," said Carlos E. Santiago, Commissioner of Higher Education for the Commonwealth. "At a time when Massachusetts employers face critical shortages of college graduates, it is both an economic imperative and a matter of social justice that we help more young men achieve the dream of a higher education and the chance to pursue a career of their choice."

    “Every child deserves the same opportunity to attend and succeed in college,” said Framingham State President F. Javier Cevallos. “These students represent the future for their communities, which is why we are so excited to take part in this important initiative.”

    “Achievement gaps are generally outcomes of opportunity gaps,” said MassBay Community College Interim President Yves Salomon-Fernandez. “This collaboration reflects the strength of the regional partnership among the vocational/technical and traditional K-12 school districts, two-year and four-year higher education partners in MetroWest.”

    Other partners in the program include the MetroWest College Planning Center, MetroWest Boys and Girls Club, Metrowest YMCA, Jewish Family Services and Chyten Test Prep and Tutoring Framingham.

  • Commissioner Carlos Santiago

    Commissioner Santiago Addresses "Educational Divide"

    Santiago highlights the need to graduate more students with degrees from our public institutions

    I want to highlight a serious issue we are presently grappling with in this country: what is known as the “educational divide,” or the differences experienced by those with a postsecondary degree and those without one. Our students understand the importance of earning these degrees, and many of them are also aware of the public benefits that flow from a highly educated citizenry and workforce. At campus visits this year I have faced the following question from students: “If the state benefits from us earning degrees, why don’t our colleges get more funding?” The answer I provide to such questions comes in the form of a history lesson.

  • Commissioner Santiago Statement on PARCC/MCAS Recommendation
  • Campaign poster that reads 'If I see the potential for sexual assault, I'll be an active bystander. Do Something.'

    Task Force Seeks to Update 2008 “Best Practice” Recommendations on Campus Safety

    Campus Safety and Violence Prevention Task Force seeks to enhance response to campus sexual violence

    At its first meeting of the 2014-15 academic year, the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education declared a “zero tolerance” for sexual violence, including “stalking, dating violence, domestic violence, harassment and sexual assault, which can have devastating effects on individual victims, as well as serious negative consequences for colleges and universities.”

    The zero tolerance statement was a follow-up to a 2008 campus violence prevention initiative which included the establishment of a campus safety and violence prevention work group.  With the assistance of a consultant, the work group conducted a study and prepared a report entitled, Campus Violence Prevention and Response: Best Practices for Massachusetts Higher Education (June 2008).

    The 2008 best practices document, though a solid document for its time, has its shortcomings.   Drafted in the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting, it focuses almost exclusively on active shooter violence and does not fully address campus sexual violence, including the risks of assaults of minors on campus. 

    The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (DHE) has now issued an RFP for consultant services to support an assessment of existing state policies and procedures on campus violence prevention and response. Working with a Campus Safety and Violence Prevention Task Force, the consultant will make recommendations to help enhance public and private higher education institutions’ efforts to properly identify, prevent, and respond to campus violence, with a special focus on campus sexual violence.


    PHOTO: A poster from the “UMatter at UMass” campaign encouraging students to learn to be “active bystanders” who take action early—before a situation escalates—to help ensure the safety of their own campus.

  • Massasoit Community College student working at a food bank

    Massachusetts Public Colleges and Universities Open Food Pantries, Expand Services to Assist Students in Need

    Some Public Campuses See Increase in Food Insecurity, Homelessness among Students

    Massachusetts’ public colleges and universities are expanding their outreach to students experiencing food insecurity, according to the results of an informal campus survey conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (DHE).

    With mobile food markets, vouchers good for free meals in the dining hall and the establishment of both on and off-campus food pantries, the state’s community colleges, state universities and University of Massachusetts campuses are stepping up their assistance to students in need, the Department’s second annual questionnaire on student food insecurity shows.

    “I am very proud to see faculty, staff and fellow students mobilizing on campuses across the state to assist students, especially during this holiday season,” said Carlos E. Santiago, Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education. “Even during the busy end to the fall semester, we are seeing our campus communities conduct food drives and stock pantry shelves  to support students at risk of going hungry.”

    Results of the 2015 DHE questionnaire on food insecurity showed that 25 of Massachusetts’ 28 community college, state university and University of Massachusetts undergraduate campuses have opened food pantries or have begun to direct students to nearby off-campus food pantries, up from 19 campuses in 2014. Twelve campuses have begun tracking the use of food pantries to gauge whether food insecurity is a growing problem. Additionally, 20 campuses answered “yes” when asked “Are you aware of any homeless students enrolled at your campus?” Thirteen of those campuses said the number of homeless students was on the rise in 2015.

    “This qualitative information from our campuses is important for us to track, as it has implications for our work to improve students’ academic outcomes,” Santiago said. “We cannot expect to students to excel in their studies or graduate on time if they are experiencing hunger or homelessness.”

    In addition to food pantries, a number of campuses said they were expanding other types of non-academic support services to meet student needs. Anecdotal accounts from campus staff indicated that some students, trying to curtail loan debt, may be forgoing meal plans as they try to curb living expenses.

    “We call this ‘the new normal’ in the student support arena,” said Shirley Fan-Chan, Director of the University of Massachusetts Boston Office of Urban and Off-Campus Support Services (U-ACCESS) and Chair of the Massachusetts Post-Secondary Homeless Students Network. “This new generation of students is working to support themselves and going to school full-time, but the cost of living has increased for them and in order to pay their bills, something must be compromised. Too often, that ‘something’ is food or shelter.”


    Photo courtesy Massasoit Community College

  • Commissioner Santiago Statement on PARCC/MCAS Recommendation

    On ESE Board Vote for ‘Next-Generation MCAS'

    Commissioner Santiago Commends Board Vote for MCAS-PARCC Hybrid

    November 17, 2015 – Boston, MA

    Statement of Higher Education Commissioner Carlos Santiago on Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Vote to Create “Next Generation” Student Assessment Program:

    As Commissioner of Higher Education in Massachusetts I am pleased to commend Commissioner Chester and the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on today’s vote to begin work on a next-generation, computer-based assessment program that builds on the best elements of both PARCC and MCAS.  Today’s vote reflects our shared commitment to college readiness and the depth of higher education’s involvement in the PARCC assessment work.

    Speaking before the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education last month, I reiterated that, since 2008, higher education has been deeply involved in all aspects of this collaborative process to advance readiness for college and careers for all high school graduates. Far too many Massachusetts high school graduates begin their college experience in non-credit developmental (remedial) education, which represents a broken system for many students, some of whom fail to move forward into credit-bearing coursework.

    A new, jointly developed and adopted college readiness assessment, together with our shared definition of college and career readiness, will not eliminate the need for remediation but will send a clear message of what constitutes college knowledge, skills and practice. Together they will also drive more rigorous instruction, allow us to addresspersistent “readiness gaps” in high school and most importantly, provide a pathway into entry level credit-bearing college coursework for high school graduates.

    Our public colleges and universities will continue to contribute expertise through both theK-12 and higher education Technical Advisory Committees and Expert Review Panels to assist inmoving the Commonwealth toward its goal of administering a next-generation assessment that is squarely focused on academic success for all studentsbeyond high school.


  • Students from Springfield High Schools pose with signs that read '#GEARUPMass' '#GoHigherMA' 'Future Sports Agent' and 'I'm Ready'

    MA Dept. of Higher Education Announces Massachusetts College Application Celebration Beginning November 16

    GEAR UP Access Program to Help Students Fill Out 5,000 Applications to College

    October 28, 2015 – Springfield, MA – The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s GEAR UP college access program announced today that it is spearheading a statewide effort to increase the number of college applications from Massachusetts students in low-income and underrepresented communities, with the goal of helping 5,000 students submit at least one college application before the end of the calendar year.

    GEAR UP is partnering with the Massachusetts Educational Financing Agency (MEFA) and Your Plan for the Future, Massachusetts’ public college planning portal, to provide staff and volunteers, college admissions representatives and financial aid counselors to help students at more than a dozen high schools apply to the college of their choice. Students will get assistance at workshops and tutorials held throughout the school day. GEAR UP Director Robert Dais announced the statewide application drive at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield,  where he hosted the Department of Higher Education’s “Go Higher!” event to promote opportunities at the state’s 28 public undergraduate campuses. At the event, which included a student speaker program and an admissions fair, students from Springfield and Holyoke High Schools had the chance to apply for on-the spot acceptance to Springfield Technical Community College and Holyoke Community College.

    “At ‘Go Higher!’ events across the state, we are reaching 1st generation students who may feel that college is not for them,” said Carlos Santiago, Commissioner of Higher Education. “Our message is that in Massachusetts, where brainpower is our most precious resource, every student needs to develop a plan for education after high school.”

    GEAR UP, a federally funded program, provides support for the college-going process and scholarships worth up to $4,000 in East Boston, Holyoke, Lowell, Lawrence, New Bedford, Springfield, and Worcester. In addition, GEAR UP is bringing the Massachusetts College Application Celebration to Athol, Chicopee. Fitchburg, Ludlow and Monson, with more communities expected to join.

    “Whether applying to a two-year or four-year college, a public or private university, we know that students need and deserve help with their applications,” said Robert Dais, GEAR UP MA Statewide Director. “We see too many seniors begin the application but then get stuck, especially those students who do not have outside support. Our Massachusetts College Application Celebration is a real community effort, with so many folks from different organizations stepping up to help students ‘Go Higher’ in their journey beyond high school.”

    "GEAR UP,  you changed my life by helping me apply to college,” wrote Lauren Brouillard, a graduate of the New Bedford High School Class of 2014 who applied to and is now enrolled in the pre-med program at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. “As I begin my pre-med studies to pursue my dream of becoming an anesthesiologist, I would like to thank you for helping me and believing in me.”  

    EXCEL Download the complete list of Massachusetts College Access Celebration event.


  • Fall Undergraduate Enrollment 1988-2015 shows decrease in enrollment from 2012-2015

    Fall 2015 Enrollment Estimates Reported to Board of Higher Education

    Community Colleges, State Universities See Cyclical Declines; UMass International Student Enrollments Rise Sharply

    October 27, 2015 -- Fall River, MA -- A new enrollment report presented today to the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education shows that overall undergraduate enrollment at the Commonwealth's public colleges and universities has declined by 1.8% since fall 2014, while increasing at three University of Massachusetts campuses and at one state university.

    The Fall 2015 Early Enrollment Report, based on enrollment estimates provided by 28 public undergraduate campuses, shows an overall 4.3% decline in open enrollments at the state's community colleges in the last year (representing a loss of 4,181 students); a slight 0.8% decline at the nine state universities (representing a loss of 320 students) and a 1.7% increase in overall enrollments at the four undergraduate campuses of the University of Massachusetts (a gain of 952 students).

    Massachusetts is one of fifteen states located in the Northeast and upper Midwest whose populations of high school students are projected to shrink by more than five percent within the next eight years. Many of the community college enrollment declines correspond to population losses in certain regions of the state, such as Cape Cod and the Berkshires.

    "These enrollment trends are part of a boom-to-bust cycle that is normal and reflective of both demographic changes and economic trends," said Carlos Santiago, Commissioner of Higher Education for the Commonwealth.  "Still, the overall enrollment dip does give us cause for concern because the Commonwealth is already experiencing significant shortages of college-educated residents needed to fill jobs in high-demand fields. With a shrinking high school population and looming retirements, we will need to work harder and smarter to increase the pool of potential college graduates in the coming years."

  • MCLA students in a lab

    Baker-Polito Administration Urges Massachusetts Students to Take Four Years of High School Math

    College Students Spreading Word of New Math Admissions Standards at “Go Higher!” Events

    Fitchburg, MA – September 24, 2015 – Education Secretary Jim Peyser today joined Higher Education Commissioner Carlos E. Santiago and students from across the state’s public higher education system to remind high school seniors that beginning next fall, four years of high school math - including math taken during the senior year - will be required for admission to any state university or University of Massachusetts campus.

    The new minimum standard for admission, approved by the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education in 2011, will apply in 2016 to all in-state and out-of-state applicants hoping to attend any of the four UMass undergraduate campuses or nine state universities. Freshman applicants will be required to complete Algebra I and II, Geometry or Trigonometry, (or comparable coursework), and must complete a mathematics course during their senior year. A two-year Algebra I course will be counted toward the fourth-year math requirement; a Pre-Algebra course will not. The new minimum admissions standards do not apply to the community colleges, which use “open” admissions and enrollment policies.

    There are no state-level requirements to complete a particular sequence of academic coursework in the Commonwealth; such mandates are set by individual districts. According to a recent survey by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 65.7% of Massachusetts school districts do require four years of mathematics for all students, while the remaining one-third of districts do not.

    Additionally, beginning in fall, 2017, all students applying for admission to a UMass campus or a state university will need to have three years of science, including at least one lab science, in addition to four years of math. Computer science courses may be credited as a science or math elective, according to the new standards, “based on the inclusion of rigorous mathematical or scientific concepts and topics.”

  • Students walking on the Bunker Hill Community College Campus

    Baker-Polito Administration Launches “Go Higher!” Event Series, Web Portal

    New Campaign Urges High School Students to Prepare for College & Career Options After High School

    Boston, MA – September 9, 2015 – The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education is launching a new campaign to promote student access and awareness of opportunities across the public higher education system, with a slate of events for high school students and a new web site to help them prepare for college and career choices after high school.

    The “Go Higher!” campaign reminds students that by 2020, 72% of the jobs in Massachusetts will require some post-secondary education. At high school events across the state, students from the University of Massachusetts, state universities and community colleges will speak directly to more than 8,000 high school students to share their experience choosing a college and a major, adjusting to campus life, and preparing for careers through internships and research opportunities.

    “I am really excited about the chance to present my experience as a community college honors student moving on to a four-year university,” said Micah Klayman, a graduate of Quinsigamond Community College who has transferred to Worcester State University to earn his bachelor’s degree. “What I really want high school students to know is that our public colleges and universities are not only affordable but also amazing places for students to grow as leaders and scholars. After my experience, I am steadfast in that belief.”

    The campaign was developed in accordance with Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 15A, Section 5, which mandates the Board of Higher Education to conduct “a sustained program to inform the public of the needs, importance and accomplishments of the public institutions of higher education in the Commonwealth.” It is produced by the Department in collaboration with the GEAR UP college access program and the 29 campuses of the public higher education system.

  • Students walking on the Bunker Hill Community College Campus

    Baker-Polito Administration Awards $2.4 Million to Boost College Access, Student Success

    Two grant programs expand college opportunities, allow high school students to earn college credit

    BOSTON, MA – September 3, 2015 – As nearly 300,000 students return to Massachusetts' community colleges, state universities and University of Massachusetts campuses this week, the Department of Higher Education (DHE) awarded $2.4 million in competitive grants to increase access to college by students across the Commonwealth.

    Twenty-five campuses were awarded grants through the Commonwealth Dual Enrollment Partnership(CDEP) to expand the state's dual enrollment programs, which allow high school students to take college courses and earn credit for free or at a reduced cost.  CDEP funding increased from $750,000 in FY15 to $1 million in FY16. The DHE has set a goal of increasing dual enrollment from 2,000 to 3,400 students and is using a new dual enrollment video, outreach to high schools, and social media to promote opportunities on campuses.

    Also awarded were Vision Project Performance Incentive Fund (VP-PIF) grants to support partnerships aimed at increasing the college-going and college completion rates of under-represented, low-income and first-generation students. Seven campuses were awarded a total of $500,000 in new funding, with continuation grants going to 16 additional campuses to support ongoing projects.

    “Increasing collaboration between high schools and higher education is important to making a college education more affordable and creating more opportunities for students across the Commonwealth to succeed in college and their careers,”  said Governor Charlie Baker. “These awards also present opportunities for college campuses and their regional partners to focus creatively on boosting college completion rates and advancing more students from diverse and underserved populations.”

    "Together, our competitive Dual Enrollment and Performance Incentive Fund grant programs help growing numbers of students realize the dream of obtaining a college degree," said Commissioner of Higher Education Carlos Santiago. "It is terrific to see UMass, state university and community college faculty and staff working together and also with local school districts to widen the pathways from high school to college. This is at the core of the mission of public higher education, which is to strengthen Massachusetts families, communities and industries by educating our future citizenry and skilled workforce.”

    Photo courtesy Bunker Hill Community College