Higher Ed Funding

It’s undeniable that it costs more for Massachusetts’ public schools and colleges to operate in COVID times, but people at risk of losing their jobs, or those who already lost their jobs in these times, are looking for new jobs and training to recover from the crisis.

Now more than ever, students burdened by debt and facing a difficult job market need affordable public higher education.

State funding of public colleges and universities has declined dramatically over the past two decades, leaving the Commonwealth’s public colleges and universities deeply underfunded and increasingly unaffordable.

With already-bare-bones budgets, school districts and public colleges all across the state have been making budget cuts, shutting down educational programs, and laying off educators.

As a result, Massachusetts has the fastest-growing public college costs and the second-fastest growth in student debt in the nation. Tuition and fees at Massachusetts’ public colleges and universities are among the highest in the country. Costs are being shifted onto students and families, who are forced to take on enormous debt.

Our public colleges and universities must be accessible and affordable for students, especially older nontraditional students, who are looking to pursue a degree or certificate after losing their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We need to fully fund our community colleges, state universities, and UMass campuses, so that students and laid-off workers can access an affordable, high-quality public education. This can help people match their skills to a changing job market, and speed up our economic recovery.

Did you know?

👉 Massachusetts has the fastest-growing public college costs and the second-fastest growth in student debt in the nation.

💸 Among the highest tuition and fees at public colleges and universities in the country can be found in Massachusetts.

😱 Costs are being shifted onto students and families, who are forced to take on enormous debt. Accounting for inflation and changes in student enrollment, between 2001 and 2016, costs borne by students and their families increased from ~30% to 55%, due to budget cuts to in allocations for public higher education (Source).

About the Cherish Act

In 2019, following the passage of the Student Opportunity Act, we turned our efforts towards securing funding for Higher Education via the Cherish Act. While the funding landscape has shifted in response to the coronavirus pandemic, we are still fighting to stop cuts for higher education. Below are some of the proposed measures that were laid out in the Cherish Act.

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 in Massachusetts have endorsed the Cherish Act. Click here to view a map of all of the school districts and universities that have passed Fund Our Future funding resolutions. 

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.

Take Action

Urge your legislators to fully fund public colleges and universities!

Get the Facts

Download fact sheets on the Cherish Act: