Commissioner Santiago Delivers End of Year Review to the BHE

Commissioner Carlos E. Santiago
June 18, 2019

This has been a busy and productive year for staff at the Department of Higher Education. As the academic year draws to a close, I want to share several developments I’ve highlighted in my annual 2018-19 End of Year Report to the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education. They illustrate some of the profound changes impacting higher education in the Commonwealth.

The New Performance Measurement System

This spring we were delighted to launch a new, interactive, transparent Performance Measurement Reporting System (PMRS) for our community colleges and state universities. While this is a statutory requirement, our public institutions have come to agreement on the metrics and measures that will inform the degree to which they are achieving systemwide and institutional goals. Powered by the Tableau data analytics platform, the system presents detailed institutional performance measures and offers comparisons to segmental and national peers. Every campus has its own page on the site, which will also feature four spotlight reports issued annually, covering progress made in Access and Affordability, Fiscal Stewardship, Workforce Development and Success and Completion (released in June 2019). I believe the use of our new analytical tools will provide a better mechanism for both internal and external stakeholders to gauge whether policy and programmatic initiatives are truly making a positive impact.

A Regulatory Response to College Closures

A second major development this year has been the completion of draft regulations to oversee the closure process in independent institutions in the aftermath of the Mount Ida College closure over one year ago. Our goal is to minimize the disruptions in a student's academic career that can result from sudden institutional shutdowns. These draft regulations will be put out for public comment at three hearings before being presented to the Board of Higher Education (BHE) for final approval in August 2019.

The Equity Agenda

The most significant development of FY19 is the BHE’s adoption of an equity-based strategic framework for the Massachusetts system of public higher education. This agenda will initiate conversations at all levels as to how to meet the academic and socio-economic needs of the growing number of multiethnic, multiracial, and multilingual students who arrive at our campuses seeking opportunity for advancement. It is both an economic and social imperative to increase the numbers of students of color who access and succeed in college, and it is imperative that we put racial inequities at the forefront of our agenda. While changes in demography are driving much of our response, there is no doubt that from a social justice perspective, we simply cannot continue to allow disproportionate numbers of black and brown students to enter college, only to be excluded from the promise of what public higher education can deliver. The equity agenda will be my top priority as Commissioner heading into the 2019-20 academic year.