The Massachusetts House of Representatives and Senate have taken steps toward approving the FY2019 budget for the fiscal year beginning on July 1, 2018.
The Senate budget for FY19, approved just after midnight on Friday, May 25, includes an additional $16.5M in direct funding for the community colleges, state universities and the University of Massachusetts system. It also includes funding for the first-year implementation costs of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) and the Performance Incentive Fund, which helps to scale best practices across the system of public higher education.
The Senate budget followed the House version, approved in April, which included the $7.1M increase to the general scholarship line item proposed in the Governor’s budget, effectively doubling the funding from the MASSGrant program for degree-seeking community college students. Full funding was also included for Foster Care Grant and the Foster Care Adopted Tuition and Fee Waiver programs. In addition, the House budget included the additional $10M in funding proposed in the Governor’s budget to be distributed to public higher education campuses based on a formula that measures their progress on a number of goals and metrics.
A budget conference committee is expected to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions by mid-June.
On Wednesday, April 4, DHE Commissioner Carlos E. Santiago led a briefing for legislators regarding the importance of making college more affordable and accessible, one of the DHE’s “Big Three” priority objectives.
Commissioner Santiago’s message for the future of higher education: what has worked before is insufficient today. Representative Patricia Haddad corroborated this sentiment, reminding legislators about the importance of supporting education beyond K-12.
Addressing the need for greater access and affordability takes on extra significance when accounting for the Commonwealth’s economic demand for highly educated workers and the changing demographics and needs of the state’s population of potential college students. Per a 2017 report on enrollment at Massachusetts public colleges and universities, projections reveal that populations with historically lower college-going rates will increase to make up nearly 44% of new high school graduates by 2032. Consequently, the public higher education system’s policies and programmatic work need to look to the future to ensure college access and success for all students.
Commissioner Santiago spoke about the increase to MASSGrant funding in the Governor’s FY19 budget proposal which would double the funding for degree-seeking community college students. The Governor also proposed to broaden the eligibility criteria to include part-time community college students. With part-time students currently accounting for 59% of Massachusetts’ degree-seeking community college student population—having steadily risen in share from 51% in fall 2009—this would be the first time this group would be eligible for the grant.
Many of the innovative projects funded by the Performance Incentive Fund (PIF), for which Governor Baker proposed a $1.4 million increase for FY19, seek to implement specific solutions that would make college more accessible and affordable, putting, as the Commissioner said, “students first!”
Students and staff from various schools spoke to the effectiveness and necessity of four such projects.
Marco's story is an example of how affordability isn't just a matter of tuition - it also affects room & board, fees, BOOKS, food, transportation, clothing, enrichment, recreation & social opportunities, and more. @BridgeStateU #edjustice #socialjustice— BSU_MRISJ (@BSU_MRISJ) April 4, 2018