MA Community Colleges See Critical Investments in FY2021 Budget

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 1/15/21

MA Community Colleges See Critical Investments in FY2021 Budget

BOSTON – The Massachusetts Association of Community Colleges announced that all the organization’s priority investments were included in the FY2021 state budget finalized by lawmakers in recent weeks. With the Legislature voting to override many higher education-related vetoes, the investments in the state’s community college segment were officially included and will play a major role in supporting the institutions and students across the state.

“We owe our gratitude to the Legislature and Governor Baker for their support of the fifteen community colleges and our students in this strongbudget. The community colleges are the engine of equity for the Commonwealth, and this investment is a powerful statement about the importance of fulfilling that mission” said Tom Sannicandro, Director for the Massachusetts Association of Community Colleges. “At a time when Massachusetts residents will be searching for ways to recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, these resources will go a long way. The community colleges’ localized approach is the most effective way to build regional economies in Massachusetts, providing affordable, accessible higher education and workforce training opportunities statewide.”

“COVID-19 has presented unique challenges for community colleges and the students and communities we serve. This crisis has really taken our economy apart from the bottom up, disproportionately impacting low-income and communities of color throughout the Commonwealth,” said Dr. Jim Mabry, President of Middlesex Community College and Chair of the Community College Council of Presidents. “Funding higher education is an investment in the future of the Commonwealth’s economy. That is why now is the exact time, more than ever, to invest in our institutions to meet our unique mission and fuel the economic recovery.”

Of note, $7 million was included for a new SUCCESS Fund (Supporting Urgent Community College Equity through Student Services) created specifically for community college students. The resources allocated for the SUCCESS Fund would invest in wraparound supports and services to improve outcomes for the most vulnerable populations at community colleges. Wraparound support services could include peer mentors, academic skills workshops, field trips to four-year colleges, and targeted academic, career, transfer, and scholarship advising, among others. There are national models that have proven success in this area, and many of the state’s community colleges have similar programs that will be scaled and expanded accordingly.

Campus operating line items were funded at a total of $307.7 million, which incorporates fixed incremental costs for the colleges from collective bargaining agreements, the Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) reserve, and FY2020 formula funding. $5.88 million was included for the community college funding formula, representing a roughly two percent increase for the segment overall. This formula funding continues the investments committed to the community colleges in return for past reforms of the 15-college system.

Funding was allocated for programs that will go towards the community colleges’ collective mission of providing comprehensive, localized workforce training at the fifteen institutions statewide. $1.5 million was included for the Training Resources and Internship Networks (TRAIN) program for the long-term unemployed at Massachusetts Community Colleges. Even with the abrupt disruption in face-to-face learning this spring, the program is currently addressing the Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) healthcare workforce challenge by transitioning to online delivery and successfully accommodating student and employer needs. Additionally, the budget included $1.45 million for the Community College Workforce Incentive Grants, which provide funding to the community colleges to design customized workforce training initiatives for local business and industry in Massachusetts.

Also within a focus on workforce was $4.75 million allocated for the STEM Starter Academy program, which provides funding to the community colleges to prepare students for college-level courses that lead to career pathways and job readiness in STEM fields. A recent evaluation found that these programs have dramatically increased the success, completion, and persistence rates for students of color at community colleges compared to their peers. $10 million was also included for Early Education and Care (EEC) Provider opportunities at community colleges, which will be invested in professional development and higher education pathways to meet the needs of this integral workforce.

Importantly, $2.5 million was included to support grants for the development and implementation of Early College programs in the Commonwealth. According to an August 2020 report from MassINC , nearly half of the students participating in the state’s designated Early College programs are Latinx and close to one in five are black, with 45% coming from low-income families. Early College has helped students enroll in college at higher rates and complete more rigorous programs in high school.

Finally, the approved budget included language allowing for part-time students to be eligible to serve as community college student trustees. MACC worked in coordination with many community college student leaders and the Department of Higher Education to push for this important change. Previously, full-time status of 12 credits per semester was required for students to represent their peers on their college’s Board of Trustees. This change is particularly impactful for community college students in Massachusetts, who mostly attend part-time.

MACC works on behalf of the presidents and trustees of the fifteen community colleges in Massachusetts, currently representing more than 136,000 students in every region of the Commonwealth. The organization now prepares for the FY2022 budget cycle and the 192nd legislative session, where further investments in community colleges are needed to aid the economic recovery in the Commonwealth.

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