Report shows how deep cuts in state support for public higher education have contributed to some of the highest tuition and fee increases in the nation
In 2015, MTA Annual Meeting delegates embraced the policy goal of free, fully funded public higher education in Massachusetts. A recent report by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center documents how far the state has gone in the opposite direction.
“Educated and Encumbered: Student Debt Rising with Higher Education Funding Falling in Massachusetts” shows how deep cuts in state support for public higher education since 2001 have contributed to some of the highest tuition and fee increases in the nation. The report concludes:
- UMass graduates now leave with an average debt of $30,250, almost as much as the debt among graduates of the state’s private colleges and universities.
- State support for public higher education has been cut by about one-third — 32 percent — between fiscal year 2001 and fiscal 2018 when adjusted for inflation and changes in enrollment.
- From fiscal 2001 to fiscal 2016, tuition and fees at four-year public institutions in Massachusetts more than doubled when adjusted for inflation. That rate increase is higher than in two-thirds of all states.
- Massachusetts has cut scholarship funding by 32 percent since fiscal 2001.
- Massachusetts ranks 45th nationwide in higher education support as a share of personal income and in the bottom third in per-capita spending.
“The lack of state support for public higher education is a disgrace,” MTA President Barbara Madeloni said in response to the MassBudget report. “We need to reverse course in this year’s budget and in every subsequent year until we can promise all students free high-quality public education."
“Elected officials love to say that an educated citizenry is our greatest asset in Massachusetts,” she continued. “They need to prove they mean it through their funding priorities.”
Madeloni added that more funding is needed not just to reduce costs for students, but also to improve teaching conditions on the state’s public higher education campuses.
"We need to reverse course in this year’s budget and in every subsequent year until we can promise all students free high-quality public education."MTA President Barbara Madeloni
“We need to reverse the trend of replacing full-time faculty with part-time adjuncts,”she said. “And we need to provide adjuncts with fair wages, health insurance, retirement benefits and greater stability in their teaching assignments.”
The lack of state support for public higher education is bound to be a factor in the fight over the Fair Share Amendment, the constitutional amendment that would add a 4 percent tax to annual income over $1 million in order to fund public schools, public higher education and transportation.
“The people of Massachusetts value public education — we know that from the Question 2 campaign and from the conversations educators have every day,” said Madeloni. “When we knock on doors this summer and fall, we will be working for a win for Fair Share and a big win for students, communities and public education.”
This story initially appeared in the Spring 2018 edition of MTA Today.