Governor Calls for Major Investment in Higher Education

On January 15, Governor Patrick called for major new investments in education, and proposed a set of very progressive tax reforms to pay for them   This is potentially the biggest piece of good news for public higher education in many many years.

6 years of work by PHENOM and our allies has brought us to this critical juncture.  The next few months will determine how the Governor’s proposals will fare in the Legislature.  It is up to all of us to do what we can to see a final FY 2014 budget that includes these measures.

Together with major new initiatives in K-12 and Early Education and Care, the Governor acknowledged that “the rising costs of higher education in Massachusetts and nationally has forced too many of our students to carry higher debt levels than ever before or even forfeit higher education all together.”  He specifically called for an additional $152 million in FY14 by:

  • Significantly increasing funding to the MASSGrant program, which provides financial assistance for students demonstrating the greatest need
  • Furthering the Commonwealth’s support for funding at least 50% of the educational costs at the University of Massachusetts, state universities, and community colleges.
  • Expanding the Completion Incentive Grant Fund which allows students enrolled at certain campuses to receive a maximum of $8,000 over four years for credits earned towards their degree
  • Providing annual increases for the community college funding formula developed as part of the Governor’s community college proposal, totaling $20 million in FY14

A number of these proposals echo things PHENOM has been saying for some time now, and we are thrilled with the Governor’s proposals.  The Completion Incentive Grant Fund is similar to PHENOM’s Finish Line Grant proposal, and the last bullet echoes UMass President Caret’s convincing argument that the state must at least match what students and their families pay for public higher education.  A progressive tax increase has long been a centerpiece of PHENOM’s agenda.

In his State of the State address, the Governor made these concrete proposals about how to pay for his education and transportation initiatives:

*** Increase the income tax rate from 5.25% to 6.25% and allocate the increase to the education initiatives.

*** Double the personal exemptions so the increase is paid by people who can afford it.

*** Close various loopholes and deductions.

*** Reduce the sales tax rate from 6.25% to 4.5% and allocate sales tax revenue to transportation initiatives.

Both the funding proposals and tax reform will face major hurdles in the Legislature, which make it all the more important for everyone who cares about public higher education to come to the 2013 Advocacy for Public Higher Education Day at the State House on March 5, 2013.

For all who care about public higher education – THIS IS THE MOMENT…..LET’S SEIZE IT!