[act-ma] 4/8 Rally for Public Higher Education 10:00AM (Wed)

Alex Kulenovic alex.kulenovic at gmail.com
Tue Apr 7 09:54:21 PDT 2009

*Now, More than Ever, Is the Time to Invest in Public Higher Education!*


* *

*PHENOM supporters will be rallying, marching and lobbying April 8 in
support of public higher education.  JOIN US at 10 AM on the Boston Common
(near the Park Street subway stop) to make these points to politicians, the
media, and the general public:*

1.         Applications to our public colleges are up dramatically this year
just as state support and numbers of full-time faculty and staff are
shrinking.  The state must provide our schools *adequate resources* to
educate, support, and retain this influx of students.  Massachusetts does
not have much in the way of natural resources or manufacturing.  Our economy
relies on brainpower, and especially on the 300,000 students in our public
colleges, the vast majority of whom remain in Massachusetts after completing
their degree or certificate programs.

2.         Students are continually being forced to pay more to make up for
the deficiencies in state funding.  This effective *privatization of our
public colleges* is a public policy disaster that needs to be stopped before
it is too late.  If more and more poor and middle class students are
squeezed out of higher education, at a time when college is becoming
increasingly necessary for their well-being and for the economic future of
the state, their futures and the economic stability of the state are

3.         There are significant funds in the State Fiscal Stabilization
Fund of the *federal stimulus package *going to public higher
education.  Restoring
public higher education funding to Fiscal Year 2009 levels (before the
mid-year cuts) should minimize the need for faculty and staff layoffs and
student fee increases.  But we still need to make sure the Legislature
integrates these funds with the FY 2010 budget so that these goals are met
and the proper amount of funds go to public higher education.

4.         *President Obama gets it*:  As he said in his speech at the joint
session of Congress on February 24, 2009, *“In a global economy where the
most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no
longer just a pathway to opportunity -- it is a prerequisite.  Right now,
three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high
school diploma. And yet, just over half of our citizens have that level of
education…This is a prescription for economic decline, because we know the
countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow.”*  Politicians
in our state need to get it too!

5.         *Shameful Statistics*

· Massachusetts ranks 46th of the 50 states in per capita appropriations,
and 49th in appropriations per $1,000 in personal income.

· Only 6 states have higher average tuition and fees at public 4-year
colleges than Massachusetts (and this was before the $1,500 fee increase at
UMass).  Only 12 states have higher average tuition and fees at public
2-year colleges than Massachusetts.

· Massachusetts ranks 32nd of the 50 states in total financial aid grant
dollars per population age 18-24.* *

· From 1988-89 to 2007-08, funding for the MASSGrant, the state’s main
need-based financial aid program, declined by 53%.



* *


*SPRING 2009*

* *

*1.         Revitalization of MassGrant*

            MassGrant is the state’s largest need-based financial aid
program.  Funding steadily declined for 20 years until PHENOM won a small
increase last year.  Where MassGrant used to cover an average of 80% of
student costs, it now covers 14%.  Besides being insufficiently funded, the
program has suffered by not having its own line item.  As student fees are
raised, we need to restore need-based financial aid.  We call for:

            a) An additional $14.1 million to the MassGrant account, as
proposed by the Department of Higher Education

            b) A separate line item for MassGrant in the financial aid

* *

*2.         Funding for the Educational Rewards Grant program *

            Unlike MassGrant, this need-based program, established as part
of the 2006 Economic Stimulus bill, provides funds to part-time students and
allows students to use a portion of their grant for living expenses.  We
support the Workers Pathways to Self-Sufficiency Act of 2009 (sponsored by
Sen. Eldridge and Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry) which would:

            a) Allocate $3 million to the Educational Rewards Grant program

            b) Allocate $1.5 million for pilot funding for student success
programs to help Educational Rewards students stay in school and succeed.

* *

*3.         Increasing Campus Operating Budgets    *

            This is exactly the time for a major investment in public higher
education.  Applications are up dramatically and our colleges are being
recognized as drivers of economic activity.  There is a clear need for
workers with the ability to reason, research, collaborate and communicate to
help Massachusetts transition to a new, greener economy.  The Governor has
appropriately allocated funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment
Act to higher education, making a small increase in campus operating budgets
completely realistic.  We support the Department of Higher Education’s FY
2010 budget proposal for a $986,614,720 allocation.  This represents a 1.3%
increase over last year’s legislative allocation.  It is premised on closing
the revenue gap in 10 years.

*4.         Education Equality for Immigrant Students*

            It is high time that Massachusetts stops discriminating against
children without permanent residency status.  The Equal Access to Higher
Education legislation would allow all students who have attended at least
three years of high school in Massachusetts to pay in-state tuition rates at
our public colleges.  California, New York and Illinois are among the 10
states that have passed similar legislation.

*5.         Increasing State Revenues
*            PHENOM believes strongly that to achieve the public higher
education system our residents deserve will require additional
revenues.  Massachusetts
residents pay lower overall tax rates than the national average.  The
overwhelming defeat of Question 1 last November shows that voters know that
in order to have good public services we must pay for them.  We can no
longer accept the “lack of appetite” to seriously consider additional taxes.
Massachusetts ranks 47th in higher education support as a proportion of tax
revenue.  This is the time to launch a discussion not about whether new tax
revenues are needed, but about what is the fairest, most progressive

Alex Kulenovic

Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts

Student Trustee
University of Massachusetts Boston

100 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, MA 02125
Campus Center 2404
Fax: 617-287-7978
Cell: 617-291-5362
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