|Co-Chair of the Public Higher Education Legislative Caucus
Senator Stan Rosenberg is co-chair (with Rep. Sean Garballey) of the Legislature’s new Public Higher Education Caucus. At its first meeting on February 10, the Caucus heard from Commissioner of Higher Education Richard Freeland, UMass President Jack Wilson, and PHENOM Vice President Max Page (find Max’s remarks under News and Commentary/Press Releases at http://www.phenomonline.org). At its second meeting, the Caucus heard from PHENOM member Nancy Folbre, author of the book Saving State U: Why We Must Invest in Public Higher Education.”We caught up with Sen. Rosenberg in the midst of a busy budget week in the Senate to ask him about the Caucus.
Phenomenal News (PN): Why did you help start the Public Higher Education Caucus?
Sen. Rosenberg: We are trying to broaden the active participation of members of the Legislature in the issues relating to public higher education. About 6 or 8 years ago, we created the Higher Education Committee, separate from K-12, allowing a group of legislators to focus on issues of public higher education. But that’s only about 16 people and we wanted to broaden it.
PN: What do you hope the Caucus will accomplish?
Sen. Rosenberg: We’re trying to create a coalition that cuts across the three segments that can work with groups like PHENOM, the Board of Higher Education, and the state and community college associations to form an achievable agenda and try to move it forward. We want to create an agenda we can all get behind that will advance the interests of public higher education and those it serves.
PN: How has the Caucus been received in the Legislature?
Sen. Rosenberg: I would say it’s a slow but positive start. It takes a couple of terms usually for a caucus to build momentum. I think we’re making progress attracting members and starting to do some work that suggests it’s worth being part of the Caucus.
PN: What is the Caucus thinking about doing in 2011-12?
Sen. Rosenberg: We’re interested in the Vision Project that the Board of Higher Education has created as long as it doesn’t cut into the base budgets of campuses because it’s a way to knit together the 3 segments of the higher education community and to show people that we have an efficient, productive system that’s worth investing in.
PN: How do you see PHENOM and the Caucus working together?
Sen. Rosenberg: PHENOM is trying to do the same thing outside of state government that we’re trying to do inside. There is enormous potential to work together to create a mass of public support. I’ve said before that on a given day there are a million people in Massachusetts who have a vested interest in public higher education. The problem is they don’t speak with one voice and they have no coordinated strategy for securing support for their interest from government. And that’s what we want to change. That’s what PHENOM wants to do and that’s what the Caucus wants to do. ۩