In a significant step towards making the Massachusetts public higher education more responsive to the workforce needs of employers, the Fiscal Year 2014 approved by the House and Senate and signed by Governor Deval Patrick today includes funding and language carrying forward reform of the state’s 15 community colleges.
The centerpiece is a $20 million performance-based funding component, allocated according to a new formula that measures each college's performance on a set of metrics that includes graduating students who have the skills needed by the key sectors of the Massachusetts economy. In addition, the budget restores $5 million to the Department of Higher Education for performance management initiatives at community colleges to promote higher completion rates, the adoption of common course numbering, and consolidation and coordination of administrative and procurement processes.
For Commissioner of Higher Education Richard Freeland, who persuaded the college presidents to support the initiative, the legislative action represents important progress towards realization of his vision, presented to AIM's Public Affairs Council last year, of a public higher education system that responds effectively to the Commonwealth's economic needs.
It is also a victory for the 18-month reform push of the Coalition FOR Community Colleges, in which AIM participates along with other business and civic organizations and number of employer members.
"We remain more convinced than ever that our community colleges are a vital tool for the social and economic betterment of our Commonwealth, and now they have the funding, tools, and accountability measures to move forward," commented Mary Jo Meisner of The Boston Foundation, who coordinates the coalition.
AIM's view has been that improvements in funding strategy, more than adjustments to mission statements and governance structure, would drive needed change in the community college. We thank the Legislature and especially the conference committee, led by Ways & Means Chairmen Sen. Stephen Brewer and Rep. Brian Dempsey, for taking this important step.