The CHERISH Act promises to reinvigorate Massachusetts’ public colleges with more workers’ benefits, student support and debt-free college.

By passing the CHERISH Act (“An Act Committing to Higher Education the Resources to Insure a Strong and Healthy Public Higher Education System”), we can inject new life into Massachusetts’s public higher education system.

The main pillars of this bill are more benefits and protections for higher ed workers, ample increases in funding for public universities, expanded aid to underprivileged students through more mentoring and tutoring programs, assisting campuses with their debts from new construction, and debt-free college. 

After decades of continued cuts to state funding for Massachusetts public colleges, ballooning tuition and housing costs, and neglect of critical buildings, these changes are long overdue. While there will still be much more work to be done, the passage of this bill could create the momentum we need to pass even more ambitious improvements in future legislative sessions.

Policies improving everyday experiences of students and staff alike include the creation of a “Commission on Wage Equity and Working Conditions” (focused on combating discrimination-based inequality), guaranteeing long-needed healthcare and retirement benefits to part-time staff, and expanding the SUCCESS program.

This program has provided targeted mentoring and advising to underprivileged community college students at risk of dropping out, and thanks to its success (no pun intended) the CHERISH Act would expand it to all public colleges in Massachusetts.

Last but certainly not least, the Cherish Act establishes the creation of a “last-dollar” debt-free college program, which would pay whatever amount of tuition that students cannot pay. In effect, no student would be mired in debt again at a Massachusetts public institution of higher education. 

At a time of growing job insecurity for the workers keeping our universities running as well as aging buildings and ever-rising college tuition, the Cherish Act has the potential to revolutionize Massachusetts public higher ed and set it on the path towards being more equitable, accountable and accessible for all.