A Message from Kim Selwitz and Natalie Higgins

From PHENOM’s 2015/16 Newsletter:

PHENOM is about to celebrate its 9th anniversary as an organization, and we sure have come a long way in those nine years! What started as a burgeoning organization nine years ago now is a diverse non-profit with involvement among faculty, staff, students, alumni, and those passionate about public higher ed all across Massachusetts.

Our work with PHENOM is very personal. Kim found out about PHENOM in the spring of 2010, as an undergraduate at Framingham State University, active in student government. As a student with mounting student debt at a public university, she connected with PHENOM’s message. Elected to the Board three years ago, she was excited to take on the role of President.

Natalie discovered PHENOM when she was fresh out of law school in the summer of 2014. As a proud first generation student and graduate of UMass Amherst, PHENOM was the perfect way for her to pay forward the opportunities she got as a public university student, and to take on the student debt crisis. With extensive debt herself, Natalie understands the dilemma many students face.

For years, PHENOM and its activists were considered too progressive, too radical, too caught up in unrealistic goals. And then we hit a major turning point. President Barack Obama announced his America’s College Promise Proposal. He even used the same approach PHENOM’s leaders have been using for years—let’s make college free and universal, just like public K-12.

To say our Fall Agenda was ambitious is an understatement. We gathered 1,500 signatures for the Fair Share Amendment, hosted a Forum on the Crisis of Affordability in Higher Education with Congressman Jim McGovern and Higher Ed Not Debt’s Maggie Thompson, and brought back PHENOM’s Access Conference. This brought together more than fifty activists from fifteen of our public colleges and universities, and the support of Senator Elizabeth Warren. Throw in our most successful fundraiser to date, new grant funding, and ten active campus chapters and PHENOM is finally becoming the real powerhouse we both knew it could be: an organization that can truly energize the “sleeping giant” of public higher education and win battles against the corporatization of the system.

We hope you will join us in 2016 as we prepare for our fifth Public  Higher Education Advocacy Day with the Public Higher Education Summit Group, get ready to launch our multi-year campaign for free public higher education in Massachusetts, and celebrate 10 years fighting for public higher education in the Commonwealth!