Facts about the Cherish Act
As students and families stay home to stop the spread of coronavirus in our communities, and public schools and colleges close, we are all adapting to the new reality we face. With the rapid changes happening daily, we need to act now to Ensure Equity and Resources in Learning in our schools and colleges, and Cancel Student Debt for college students who need financial support more than ever.
- All public schools and colleges must have their budgets maintained at a minimum of FY2020 levels for the duration of the health and economic crisis.
- As decisions are made regarding curriculum and online learning, equity and addressing the widening achievement and opportunity gaps caused by online learning must be at the center of any decisions. We can’t allow students in schools with resources and privilege to move ahead while students in schools without resources and privilege fall behind.
- All college and university students must be allowed to take courses on a “pass or fail” basis. College and university students must not be penalized for lack of access to safe learning conditions, required technology, or comparable and adequate learning accommodations.
- We must have an open conversation about how the 2020-2021 school year will look different from a normal year and ensure any decisions reflect the harm to students, families, and teachers caused by the coronavirus crisis.
- Canceling student debt in response to the Coronavirus crisis will help the 45 million people with student loans and stimulate the economy when it is needed most. It will allow borrowers to purchase the necessities their families depend on: food on their table, a roof over their head, and critical healthcare.
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.