Higher ed rallies against more cuts

Gov. Mitt Romney and his tightly controlled group of invited guests were greeted by dozens of professors and students chanting "Stop the cuts! Raise the revenues!" before Tuesday's State of the State speech at Suffolk University in Boston.

"Our public higher education system has been cut by more than $114 million -- 10 percent -- over the past two years, resulting in the loss of full-time faculty and elimination of many courses and services," said MTA President Catherine A. Boudreau, who joined the protesters. "These recent cuts are already hurting our education system, and deeper cuts in the coming years would do lasting damage that could take decades to repair."

Romney is proposing a privatization scheme for the state's system of  public higher education and a $232 million cut in local aid. He also seeks to eliminate "bumping rights" that protect senior state workers, classify state managers be as non-union and slash employees' benefits.

The higher education rally, organized by MTA, was covered by a number of television and radio reporters who turned out to hear the governor's speech. Among those interviewed were Pat Markunas, president of the Massachusetts State College Association, and Ted Ridout, chapter president at Bunker Hill Community College.

WBZ-TV reporter Beth Germano spoke with the participants about how the cuts have impacted the state's system of public higher education.

The University of Massachusetts has lost 15 percent of its tenured faculty, and library budgets throughout the system have been cut by 91 percent. Tuition and fees have increased by 28 percent, while university staff have not received promised raises for two years because the state has reneged on collective bargaining agreements.

But much of the attention has focused on Romney's unprecedented privatization push.

"The Massachusetts State College Association is unequivocally opposed to the privatization of any state college, including the College of Art and the Maritime Academy" said Markunas.  "These institutions have the highest admissions standards and the best-prepared students in the state college system, and their graduates have been enormously successful in the job market."