Kicking off the state budget-setting process for public higher education in FY2018, the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education issued its funding recommendations to the Executive Office of Education on December 6, 2016.
Key investments in the budget recommendation are focused on the DHE’s “Big Three” priority areas: Improving College Access & Affordability, Closing Achievement Gaps and Raising College Completion Rates.
The Board recommended $4.25M for the Performance Incentive Fund, a $1.5M increase over FY17, to support the “Big Three” through:
The Board also recommended $1.5M for the Commonwealth Dual Enrollment Partnership, a $450K increase over FY17, to allow 60 percent more high school students the opportunity to take free or reduced-cost college courses through the partnership. National research on dual enrollment concludes that such programs drastically increase the likelihood of students attending and graduating from college.
In financial aid, another important component of Improving College Access & Affordability, the Board recommended an increase of $1.1M to expand funding for MASSGrant, which provides grant support to Massachusetts students in the lowest income brackets. With an average value of $750 today, funding for MASSGrant has not kept pace with higher education cost increases of recent decades. For a student enrolled today at a Massachusetts public college or university, a $750 grant would cover approximately 9 percent of projected annual costs; in 1988, the average MASSGrant covered 85 percent of these costs.
FY18 will mark the sixth year of performance-based formula funding for the community colleges, and the third year for the state universities. The funding formulas take into account operational factors such as enrollment, ensuring that funding increases are proportionate to campus growth, as well as performance metrics, awarding additional funding to campuses who are proving effective at increasing retention and graduation rates and other key success measures. The Board recommended a pool of $5.5M for community colleges and $5.0M for state universities to be awarded as budget increases through the funding formulas.
Funding recommendations for the community colleges and state universities also place an emphasis on the impact of salary increases negotiated by the Commonwealth through collective bargaining but not funded in the current state appropriation. There is currently an $18.3M shortfall between the personnel costs the Commonwealth negotiated and the costs funded in the FY17 state budget. This shortfall is accounted for in the Board’s FY18 budget recommendation. Full funding of these costs is critical to maintaining affordability for students.
These recommendations will be considered by the Executive Office and Governor’s Office as they prepare the Governor’s Budget Recommendation for all of state government.