Facts about the Cherish Act
It’s undeniable that reopening Massachusetts’ public schools and colleges safely this fall will cost significantly more than in pre-COVID times. But due to uncertainty about the state’s commitment to funding public education, school districts all across the state are making budget cuts and laying off educators, and our public colleges are slashing their already-bare-bones budgets.
In the upcoming academic year, many students will need enhanced educational opportunities, technology, health and guidance services, and more. Students need social and emotional support, reliable access to healthy food and housing, and the time and space to focus on learning.
Our public colleges and universities need to be accessible and affordable for a new set of potential students, especially older nontraditional students, who are looking to pursue a degree or certificate after losing their jobs in recent months.
Now more than ever, we must fund public education in order to fully recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, restore our economy, address longstanding racial disparities, and build a better society. This will require new revenue at the federal, state, and local levels.
Tell your elected state officials to commit to fully funding public schools and colleges in Massachusetts, and ask Governor Charlie Baker to use his relationships with fellow Republicans to push for the passage of the HEROES Act.
An independent report on higher education has found that, accounting for inflation and changes in student enrollment, allocations to public higher education in Massachusetts have been cut by 31 percent since FY01. The same report found that the share of higher education costs borne by students and their families shifted dramatically over this same period, from approximately 30 percent in FY01 to approximately 55 percent by FY16.
The impacts of this chronic underfunding are keenly felt by both our students and our dedicated faculty and staff. The Cherish Act, filed by Sen. Jo Comerford (D-Northampton) and Reps. Sean Garballey (D-Arlington) and Paul Mark (D-Peru), would reaffirm the state’s commitment to public higher education by:
- Implementing the core finding of the 2014 Higher Education Finance Commission, resulting in more than $600 million in additional funding for public higher education. These new funds must supplement — not supplant — existing funding.
- Establishing in statute a fair and adequate minimum funding level for public higher education at no less than the FY01 per-student funding level, adjusted for inflation.
- Freezing tuition and fees for five years, as long as the Legislature appropriates the funds required to reach FY01 per-student funding levels in five years.
The presidents of all 29 public colleges and universities have endorsed the Cherish Act.
Passing the Cherish Act means:
- Ending the downward spiral in state funding for public higher education. Investing in public colleges and universities improves the quality of life in Massachusetts and benefits the state’s overall economy. Employers are increasingly turning to state universities and community colleges to provide a skilled workforce.
- Addressing the crushing debt placed on students and families who rely on our public colleges and universities. The average student debt in Massachusetts is $37,172, and the cost of attending a public college in Massachusetts rose faster than in any other state. The public option is becoming as out of reach as private colleges for working families.
- Hiring more full-time educators and improving working conditions for poorly paid adjuncts and professional staff, who have no access to benefits. Adjunct faculty members are not only exploited, they also cannot participate in student advisory or campus governance roles, to the detriment of colleagues and students.
- Improving the physical condition of our campuses, which have undergone the deferral of maintenance for years, and relieving some capital debt.
- Reversing cuts made to professional and classified staff on our campuses.
- Funding programs that support students from traditionally underserved populations, as outlined in the state Board of Higher Education’s “Equity Agenda” adopted in 2018.