MA Dept. of Higher Education
Student Advisory Council Public Relations Chair
For Immediate Release
December 15, 2020
Budget signed by Governor Baker allows part-time college and university students to represent peers on campus Boards of Trustees
Boston, MA – December 15, 2020 – On Friday, December 11, Governor Charlie Baker signed the Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) budget into law, making a change in state law that will allow the growing number of part-time students on public college and university campuses to serve as representatives of their student bodies. The outside section removed the requirement that students must be enrolled full-time to run for the elected position of student trustee, and this change creates new flexibility for public higher education institutions and the Department of Higher Education (DHE).
The change, championed by the Student Advisory Council (SAC) to the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, will ensure equitable representation of student bodies, especially at the Commonwealth’s 15 community colleges where nearly 70% of students attend part-time.
“This change to the Massachusetts General Laws is a remarkable achievement for the Student Advisory Council and for the public higher education students of the Commonwealth,” said Jorgo Gushi, Chair of the Student Advisory Council and Community Colleges Segmental Advisor to the Board of Higher Education. “Part-time students, coming from diverse backgrounds, bring a wealth of experience that other members of the board of trustees might not have. Their input will help institutions and the BHE shape policies and programs that can better reflect and address the changing nature of the student population. Our students’ leadership is not related to their enrollment status.”
“I want to congratulate the Student Advisory Council for taking on this issue and succeeding in their efforts to advocate for this change,” said Carlos E. Santiago, Commissioner of Higher Education. “SAC’s hard work will be enormously beneficial in the years ahead, as it will allow a much broader population of students to become civically engaged in their college communities.”
The student trustee is a representative of the student body, elected annually, who serves on a public higher education institution’s board of trustees and helps make important decisions, including those pertaining to budget and personnel, which impact students and the community as a whole. Previously, a student hoping to run for the elected position was required to be a full-time undergraduate student. These part-time students were neither eligible to run for student trustee nor able to continue serving in their role if they dropped a course and were no longer enrolled full-time. Full-time status is 12 credits, or four courses on average.
“As a working mother and a student leader who was denied the opportunity to run for student trustee this fall due to part-time status, I am immensely proud to be part of this progressive action,” said Monica Bliss, Secretary and Public Relations Chair of the Student Advisory Council and President of Berkshire Community College’s Student Government Association. “Women can be wonderful mothers and successful student leaders. I am proof of that.”
The change to Massachusetts law will also increase opportunities for civic engagement among students of color who are more likely to attend part-time. Community colleges serve the largest population of students of color in the Massachusetts higher education system, with 66% of African American students, 62% of Latinx students, and 64% of Native American students attending on a part-time basis. The Student Advisory Council to the MA Board of Higher Education prioritized these issues surrounding equity and appropriate student representation for students on the Board of Trustees with the goal of achieving more equitable representation of public higher education’s increasingly diverse student bodies.
In December of 2019, Student Advisory Council members Caitlin Marotta and Lindzie White, respectively President and Vice President of Cape Cod Community College’s SGA, presented the Student Advisory Council with the idea of changing the law after struggling to find a student trustee who met the requirement.
"We are immensely proud of our student leaders at Cape Cod Community College and throughout the Commonwealth for working with our state legislators and addressing the eligibility of part-time students to serve as trustees," said John Cox, President of Cape Cod Community College. "By changing the law we are solving a significant equity issue. Many of our students are balancing the challenges of life with finances, family obligations and full-time jobs. We are now able to welcome these voices to the decision-making bodies of our colleges and universities. Their voices, at long last, will now be heard loud and clear."
The Massachusetts Student Advisory Council is composed of the SGA/Student Senate President and the student trustee from each of the 15 community colleges, nine state universities, and five campuses of the University of Massachusetts. The SAC, as a deliberative and recommending body to the Board of Higher Education, is empowered to make studies, reports and recommendations advocating for the rights, needs, interests and welfare of all students enrolled at public institutions in the Commonwealth.