Letter: We’re shortchanging our future by underfunding community colleges

Originally published in The Boston Globe

By President Patricia Gentile

As asked in the recent op-ed “Learning the true price of college,” by Daniel Block, Grace Gedye, and Paul Gastris, where exactly is the outcry over the extreme funding inequities at public institutions of higher education? Massachusetts has a 15-member community college system that is serving more than half the state’s undergraduate students — a population made up of largely low-income students and students of color — yet is provided with the lowest level of financial resources of all our public colleges and universities. We know from the critically important debate around K-12 education funding that there are nonnegotiable supports that vulnerable students need to thrive. The need for these supports does not disappear when these students enroll in college.

This situation doesn’t need more research — the data are there, and are quite apparent. We are shortchanging our state’s economic future if we continue to underfund our most accessible and affordable public higher education institutions and fall short of our moral responsibility to provide low-income students and students of color with the same opportunities as their more affluent peers.

As we watch the ripple effects of decades of economic inequality wreak havoc across the state and nation, we are naive if we don’t think this will impact the future of the workforce and our state’s economy deeply. Massachusetts should be a leader in working to end inequitable and harmful higher education disparities, rather than perpetuating them.

Pat Gentile

Chair

Massachusetts Association of Community Colleges

Boston

The writer is president of North Shore Community College

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