Stay informed about COVID-19 and the latest health and safety guidance for higher education.

Stay informed about COVID-19 and the latest health and safety guidance for higher education.

our data insights

Performance Measurement Reporting System

Performance Measurement Reporting System

A new data tool to prompt constructive conversations about performance and accountability between and among DHE, our public colleges and universities, legislators and others, and to contribute to the discovery of insights that point to actions that lead to results.

our policy work

Strategic Initiatives and Programs

Strategic Initiatives and Programs

Our portfolio of projects and programs designed to transform Massachusetts’ higher education landscape and deliver benefits for our stakeholders.

our next move

A New Vision: Equity

A New Vision: Equity

Collaboration and research is underway to produce a new systemwide strategic plan, launching in 2020, that places equity for underrepresented populations as the top performance and policy priority for Massachusetts public higher education.

Quick Links
Meetings & Events

Feb 9

Student Advisory Council Meeting

Feb 14

Board of Higher Education Meeting

Mar 14

Academic Affairs and Student Success Advisory Council Meeting

What’s New

  • strategicplanracialequity

    DHE Strategic Plan For Racial Equity

    Released in June 2022, the Strategic Plan for Racial Equity becomes the roadmap for fulfilling the DHE’s top policy and performance priority of significantly raising enrollment, attainment, and long-term success outcomes among underrepresented student populations.

    In collaboration with over 7,000 stakeholders across the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education released the Strategic Plan for Racial Equity 2022-2033 (“The Plan”) as part of the Equity Agenda adopted by the Board of Higher Education in 2018. The Plan sets forth a roadmap for the Board of Higher Education, the Department of Higher Education, and institutions to work together to transform the Commonwealth’s public higher education to focus on racial equity and eliminate racial disparities for Students of Color across the system.

    “The Massachusetts Board of Higher Education was pleased to vote to receive the plans developed by the DHE, its consultants and its process of stakeholder engagement. The Board endorses the goals and objectives and looks forward to the work ahead for the Department to work with campuses on their specific plans, to set overall quantitative goals for this work and to consider significant specific policy changes to bring forward to the Board in priority order that can spur on our overall Equity Agenda,” said BHE Chair Chris Gabrieli.

    “A more complete democracy requires racial reconciliation and, by providing true educational opportunities to students historically denied them, we will be closer to that goal. Only an educated, civically engaged, and equity-minded citizenry will create a society that can live up to democracy's ideals. That is precisely what this document aspires to do,” said DHE Commissioner Carlos Santiago.

    The impetus behind the Plan is clear: data show that for generations the system has failed its Students of Color. The system has produced large disparities over time in admission, enrollment, retention, and graduation rates when comparing averages for Students of Color with the averages of all students. As such, the Plan’s vision is bold: a system of student-ready, race conscious public colleges and universities that are equitable and racially just, embrace the critical assets of Students of Color, and prepare Students of Color for success. The system aims to achieve this vision by continuing to transform programs, policies, pedagogies, and practices to be rooted in racial equity and responsive to the goals and needs of Students of Color.

    The Plan outlines goals pertaining to Students of Color’s journey within the public higher education system that will be achieved through the implementation of five key strategies. Each strategy includes two to three priorities and associated actions, owners, timelines, and milestones and metrics for tracking progress. The Plan will be reviewed and updated every two years based on progress against the goals and metrics to ensure relevance to the evolving needs of the system’s Students of Color.

    The Commonwealth’s public higher education institutions vary in their progress to date in addressing racial equity issues; the Plan is meant to support all of them as they continue the work that they are doing to achieve racial equity. To support accountability for the implementation of the Strategic Plan for Racial Equity, the BHE and DHE will measure and track progress on all of the Plan’s goals and strategies through the Performance Measurement Reporting System and establish other accountability mechanisms so that institutions continue to make progress on the goals. Institutions are also asked to establish their own accountability mechanisms so that the entire system can work cohesively towards the elimination of racial disparities.

    “The Strategic Plan for Racial Equity is an important next step in the Department of Higher Education's responsibility to racial equity and justice. Our colleges and universities have been working on addressing racial inequities to remove systemic barriers to student success for many years, and this plan outlines the needed collaboration, resources, and support to elevate our work at the institutional and state levels and fundamentally dismantle the policies, procedures, and practices that impede progress. It also shows a clear commitment from the state of Massachusetts, and our public higher education institutions that our Students of Color are a priority,” said Holyoke Community College President Christina Royal.

    The Strategic Plan for Racial Equity is a product of a broad and continuous stakeholder engagement process. A Strategic Plan Steering Committee consisting of 25 members representing higher education and industry leaders guided the work through strategic planning workshops and review sessions. Additionally, the DHE hosted review sessions to garner feedback on draft versions of the Plan with the BHE and 145 Institution presidents, administrators, faculty, staff, and students. The Plan is also influenced by an “Environmental Scan” of system-wide and institution-level data, a system-wide survey of institutions stakeholders, and the New Undergraduate Experience (NUE) Report which brought together a group of more than 60 diverse higher education practitioners and leaders from across the Commonwealth to clearly express Massachusetts education leaders’ and students’ collective vision for the cultural, curricular, pedagogical, and structural changes for the public higher education transformation needed to better serve Students of Color.

    “In education, there's a golden triangle of quantity, quality, and equity. You cannot ignore one while strengthening the others. We recognize that individual students are not responsible for the unequal outcomes of groups that have historically experienced discrimination and marginalization. This Plan is about applying justice and common sense to build the infrastructure, all students, but particularly students of color, need to thrive,” said Steering Committee member Jorgo Gushi.

    Achieving the goals outlined in the Plan will ensure that the Commonwealth’s higher education system remains competitive and meets the demands of the economy, workforce, and Massachusetts democratic institutions. More broadly, a successful Strategic Plan for Racial Equity will ensure that Massachusetts can truly claim its title as the “education state.”

  • CommissionerSearch
  • FARM

    BHE Proposed Amended Financial Assessment and Risk Monitoring (FARM) Regulations (610 CMR 13.00) Published for Public Comment

    At its June 21, 2022 meeting, the BHE authorized Commissioner Santiago to solicit public comment on proposed amendments to existing regulations 610 CMR 13.00: Financial Assessment and Risk Monitoring of Institutions of Higher Education. The public comment period will begin on Friday, July 22, 2022, and written comments will be accepted until 5:00 PM on Friday, August 12, 2022. In addition, a public hearing will be held on Friday, August 12, 2022 at 10:00 AM via Zoom.

    610 CMR 13.00 applies to private, independent institutions of higher education located in the Commonwealth and authorized to grant degrees. The regulation establishes standards to permit the Board of Higher Education (Board), through its executive agency, the Department of Higher Education (the Department), to: identify, through an annual screening and assessment process, institutions experiencing significant financial distress placing them at risk of imminent closure; monitor said institutions while they either improve their financial standing or transition to closure; and require contingency closure planning and timely public notification in the event of imminent closure.

    The proposed amendments to 610 CMR 13.00 establish new criteria for the furnishment of surety bonds or letters of credit by institutions identified as being at risk of imminent closure (M.G.L. c. 69 § 31B (3)) and establish criteria for the Department to issue fines for institutional non-compliances with legal requirements (M.G.L. c. 69 § 31B(c)). In addition, the proposed amendments codify existing procedures pursuant to which institutions currently certify compliance with the law, including their compliance with the posting of annual financial reports and summaries and training of institutional governing board members (M.G.L. c. 69 § 31B((e)-(g)).

  • Equity-Lumina Announcement
  • PublicCommentPeriod

    DHE/DPH Joint Task Force on Sexual Misconduct Surveys’ Draft Report Published for Public Comment

    The Task Force on Sexual Misconduct Surveys established by M.G.L. c. 6 § 168D and co-chaired by DHE and DPH has published a draft report for public comment prior to finalization by the Commissioner of Higher Education. The public comment period will begin on Friday, February 11, 2022, and written comments will be accepted until 5:00 p.m. on Friday, March 4, 2022.

    In January 2021, Governor Baker signed An Act Relative to Sexual Violence on Higher Education Campuses, (Chapter 337 of the Acts of 2020). The “2021 Campus Sexual Assault Law” established the DHE/DPH Joint Task Force on Sexual Misconduct Surveys to, “develop model questions for use by institutions in sexual misconduct climate surveys … [and to] provide the model questions to the commissioner of higher education with related recommendations respecting the content, timing and application of the surveys … [which] shall include, but not be limited to, recommendations on achieving statistically valid response rates and on addressing non-response bias.” M.G.L. c. 6 § 168D (d)(1).

    Pursuant to M.G.L. c. 6 § 168 (d)(3)(iii) and (v), the Task Force on Sexual Misconduct Surveys shall “provide opportunities for written comment from organizations that work directly with survivors of sexual misconduct to align questions with a trauma-informed approach and to ensure the adequacy and appropriateness of the proposed content [and] provide opportunities for written comment from advocates to ensure that the survey impartially addresses campus sexual misconduct.”

    Therefore, as part of the public comment process contemplated by the 2021 Campus Sexual Assault Law and to ensure the report, model questions and recommendations are trauma-informed and equitable, the DHE has opened a 21-day public comment period to collect public comments on the draft report for review and consideration by the Task Force on Sexual Misconduct Surveys to inform the Commissioner of Higher Education’s review, prior to the Commissioner finalizing the model questions and related recommendations.

    Written comments must be provided in electronic format via email to with the subject line “TF-SMS Draft Report” and in the form of tracked changes where applicable, by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, March 4, 2022.

  • Commissioner Viewpoint

    Massachusetts Higher Education Commissioner Carlos E. Santiago to step down at close of the 2021-22 academic year

    BOSTON – Wednesday, January 12, 2022 – The Department of Higher Education announced today that Higher Education Commissioner Carlos E. Santiago has informed the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education (BHE) that he will step down from his current position at the end of the 2021-22 academic year in June.

    He will assist the transition to new leadership of the Department, as well as the completion of the Strategic Plan for Racial Equity that was launched in 2021. The search committee process for his successor is expected to begin in February.

    “After forty years of engagement as a faculty member, researcher, and academic administrator, it is an opportune time for me to assist the BHE in identifying new leadership and ensuring the completion of the Commonwealth’s first 10-year strategic plan to achieve racial equity in higher education,”said Commissioner Dr. Carlos E. Santiago. “It has been an honor to work with the dedicated staff of the DHE and the exceptional colleagues, faculty, staff, and students of our higher education institutions in Massachusetts.”

    “Commissioner Santiago has been a visionary leader who has sharpened our strategic focus on closing gaps of access and success in higher education, especially for first-generation college goers and students of color. Under his leadership the Department and Board has received well-deserved national recognition for its work developing and launching the Equity Agenda,” said Education Secretary James Peyser.

    "For almost seven years, the Commonwealth has been most fortunate to have Dr. Santiago as our Commissioner of Higher Education,”said Chris Gabrieli, chair of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education. “Leveraging his deep academic and leadership experience and credibility, he has addressed two huge agendas at the same time. He has steadfastly helped our institutions weather the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic while also laying the foundation for a nation-leading agenda focused on racial justice, fairness, and opportunity through educational equity. The widespread recognition of this work positions our system for sustained progress in the years ahead.”

    Dr. Santiago was appointed Commissioner of Higher Education on July 1, 2015 by the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education. In this capacity, he has worked closely with the Board and with the leadership of the three segments of the public higher education system in the Commonwealth, including the community colleges, state universities, and the University of Massachusetts.

    Under his leadership, the Department of Higher Education has:

    • Launched a statewide effort to address racial inequities in public higher education, winning both national recognition as a TIE (Talent, Innovation, Equity) state and $1.2 million in Lumina Foundation funding to dismantle systemic barriers to student success;
    • Greatly expanded early college opportunities to enable thousands of Massachusetts high school students to enroll in college courses and accumulate college credit for free;
    • Worked to increase financial aid through the new MassGrant Plus program, which expanded assistance to thousands of public college and university students;
    • Developed a statewide, seamless system of transfer from community colleges to four-year universities, in part by creating over 13,000 course equivalencies;
    • Worked with public campuses to eliminate costly and ineffective developmental education programs that were barriers to students’ academic progression toward degree attainment;
    • Promoted a multi-agency approach to address college student homelessness, food insecurity, and other basic needs;
    • Created a new system of financial assessment of independent colleges and universities to identify and monitor institutions at risk of imminent closure.

    In recognition of these achievements and its commitment to racial equity, the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education was named the 2021 Exceptional Agency of the Year by the State Higher Education Officers Association (SHEEO) in November.

    "Commissioner Santiago has been an advocate for students throughout his career,"said Robert Anderson, Ph.D., President of the State Higher Education Offices Association (SHEEO). "His current focus on state policy levers as a means of improving student access, success and the closure of equity gaps has benefited all of Massachusetts and those it serves. Personally, I have turned to Commissioner Santiago numerous times for counsel during his tenure as Chairman of the SHEEO executive committee and will miss his service in this capacity. He has left an indelible impact through his service to students, state and nation which will benefit us all for years to come."

    Dr. Santiago previously served as the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM), becoming the first leader of Puerto Rican descent to lead a major U.S. research institution. During his tenure he was tasked with leading UWM into the ranks of Tier I research universities, which the university attained in 2015. Dr. Santiago also served as provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University at Albany, State University of New York (SUNY) and functioned as the chief operating officer of the campus. He was named a Collins Fellow for distinguished service to SUNY-Albany in 1996.

    Dr. Santiago was professor of economics at UWM and SUNY-Albany and holds a Ph.D. in economics from Cornell University. A labor economist, he is the author or co-author of six books and has published dozens of articles and book reviews, of which many focus on economic development and the changing socioeconomic status of Latinos in the United States. His most recent book, published in 2018, is entitled Puerto Ricans in the United States: A Contemporary Portrait (with E. Acosta-Belen).

    Dr. Santiago was recently selected to serve as the Chair of the Executive Committee of the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) and was named to the Board of the Council of Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Dr. Santiago also serves on the Advisory Committee of the Smithsonian Museum of African American Culture and History. On two separate occasions, in 1996 and 2011, Santiago was named one of the 100 most influential Hispanics in the United Stated by Hispanic Business.