Community College Remarks

By John Cox, President, Cape Cod Community College

Tuesday, May 9, 2017 Board of Higher Education Meeting

Once again a very hearty Cape Cod good morning.  Chairman Gabrelli, Secretary Peyser, and Commissioner Santiago, and members of the Board, on behalf of the Commonwealth’s community college students, I am delighted to be here.  I too want to add my appreciation and admiration of President Gail Carberry.  She’s been a mentor to many, with an uncompromising focus on her students. 

This morning I am going to address three points.  First, the funding for the collective bargaining agreements with our faculty and staff.  As you are aware, the inclusion of this year’s increase in next year’s base budget, along with the agreed to increase next year, is not included in the current budget proposal.  Like our State University colleagues, this $6.8 million unfunded obligation requires our colleges to further cut services, and supplant state funds with student fee increases.

Across our 15 colleges, some institutions are preparing to reduce positions, both through attrition and retrenchments.  Six institutions are in various stages of completing comprehensive evaluations of all degree and certificate options, which already has resulted in the consolidation and closure of programs.
Institutional investments in technology upgrades, and workforce training programs, have been delayed.  And while we have NSCC’s trying to eak out the North Shore Promise Award to eligible students with financial needs, our model becomes less sustainable in providing affordable and accessible higher education – our core mission – particularly for part-time students.

Additionally, as we sit here at QCC, while colleges have seen a decrease in the number of FTE students over the past few years, today, part-time enrollment here has topped 70 percent.  Part-time students require the same amount of institutional resources as full-time students when they’re meeting with advisors and financial aid counselors.  And there may be equally similar demands in tutoring and other support services.  While we have reduced adjunct instructional budgets, increasing demands for direct support services continue to impact the budget at many of our schools.

On behalf of my community college colleagues, we really need your advocacy with the Baker Administration and the legislature to provide funding for the FY2018 collective bargaining obligations at this time, as we build next year’s budgets for our institutions.

My second point, stems from my participation in the Strategic Framework Work Group to redefine the process of how major capital investment is vetted and ultimately approved.  The new framework does present an improved process that reduces the up-front level of detail and accompanying costs to develop project proposals. The priority towards projects that address deferred maintenance and regional collaboration is very clear.  While there are details that remain about how this process will interface with the current or future bond bills, there is clearly a need to advocate for shifting the priorities for debt service funding available to adequately increase the State’s general obligation borrowing in support of Massachusetts Public Higher Education.

As we saw in the work group, $190 million of funding towards $5.5 billion of DM raises questions of sustainability.  Engaging partners in our efforts, and raising private funds, works to a certain extent.   For institutions that have significant projects that address Deferred Maintenance issues and regional collaboration, the ability to self-fund multi-millions of dollars of capital costs is limited; and borrowing or leasing options present a very different scenario for future generations of students, since those debt service costs or rental costs must be passed on directly to them.

Again, as the 2018 Capital Investment Plan is being developed, we are looking to the Board’s advocacy in terms of making MA public higher education a higher priority for the bond funding provided to address the long standing needs of our institutions.

Finally, my third point.  This past weekend Cape Cod Community College’s Aviation Maintenance Program partnered with the Plymouth Municipal Airport and the Cranberry Harvest District of the BSA to host Scouts in the Sky.  The Camporee was actually held inside the fence at the airport and the Scouts spent the weekend working on Aviation-related merit badges.  The perfect education and marketing opportunity for the college.

As an Eagle Scout, I can’t begin to tell you how delighted I was to see 300 middle and high school students taking advantage of our open house.  I was really honored to see our aviation maintenance students helping suit up the scouts and Adult leaders in the proper safety gear, and then providing them hands-on instruction on airframe repair. 

The co-ed Civil Air Patrol also participated in the event.  When you see the level of excitement, and you talk with students who had no idea this profession even existed, and when seniors and juniors are asking about enrollment, you really appreciate that so many rose to the occasion to make this educational opportunity happen. 

That’s why we ask for your advocacy with collective bargaining funding and capital funding.  It’s about enabling our community colleges to continue to meet the needs of our communities and the future of the Commonwealth.