Kicking off the annual state budget process for public higher education, the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education endorsed its budget recommendations on December 11, 2018 for the fiscal year that begins on July 1, 2019.
The Board of Higher Education’s Budget Recommendations for FY20 includes strategic investments in programs that support the primary goal of closing opportunity and achievement gaps, as well as increasing college affordability and promoting student success.
These investments are funded in part by new revenues enabled by the Casino Gaming legislation enacted in 2011 which sets aside a portion of the tax on gross gaming receipts at the resort casinos for public higher education. Specifically, the law calls for:
With this additional funding, the Board approved a substantial increase of $14M in need-based financial aid for in-state students attending Massachusetts state universities and community colleges. MASSGrant Plus is a last-dollar aid program launched in FY19 to support full- and part-time community college students; the additional funding in FY20 would enable expansion to state university students. The grants cover unmet need for tuition and mandatory fees after accounting for all other public and institutional grant aid as well as expected family contribution (EFC).
The rationale for this proposed increase has been well documented. The demand for need-based assistance for low- and moderate-income students has continued to increase while the cost of attending college has continued to rise. As a result, the buying power of an average MASSGrant award—at approximately $750—has diminished significantly. In 1988, a typical MASSGrant was sufficient to cover 85% of the average public college or university student’s tuition and fees; by FY18, however, the buying power had decreased to only 8% of these costs.
The Board recommended $4.5M for the Performance Incentive Fund, a $1.9M increase over FY19. PIF funding continues to support competitive grants to campuses and consortia, as well as certain systemwide initiatives, to make progress on the goals articulated by the BHE. This program rewards cross-system collaboration, innovative thinking, and evidence-based practices at the campus and system levels.
For FY20, the Board is requesting full funding for the incremental costs of collective bargaining contracts, including the APA and AFSCME contracts which have been approved and funded during the current fiscal year. In addition, the BHE is requesting funding for the anticipated incremental costs of the MSCA state university faculty contract. In total, the requested funding amounts to $34 million. Funding these costs through the budget avoids having to shift the cost burden onto students in the form of higher tuition and fees.
These recommendations will be considered by the Executive Office of Education and the Governor’s Office as they prepare the Governor’s Budget Recommendation for all of state government.