Letter on “Vision Project” in Boston Globe

For higher ed, ‘Vision’ first, then follow-through

May 14, 2010

KUDOS FOR editorializing that “there is something fundamentally wrong with a state education system that puts so much attention on getting its K-12 students ready for college only to give short shrift to the state’s five public university campuses, nine state colleges, and 15 community colleges’’ (“A ‘Vision Project’ for higher ed,’’ May 5).

Short shrift is an understatement when we see that Massachusetts has cut its support for public higher education by more than any other state in the past five years, charges students far more than most states, and spends half the national average on financial aid.

The Vision Project of Richard Freeland, commissioner of higher education, will be worthwhile if, by collecting, comparing, and reporting various measures of quality, it persuades the Legislature to increase support. But it leaves out some key aspects of quality that are as important as the ones he plans to measure.

The public should know where we stand and which way we’re heading to with regard to:

  • Net cost to students (tuition plus fees minus financial aid)
  • Average class sizes
  • The proportion of classes taught by full-time teachers
  • Diversity in enrollment
  • The availability of support services to improve retention

Yes, these cost money. Our colleges and university can’t be expected to measure up without adequate resources.

Ferd Wulkan
Organizing director, Public Higher
Education Network of Massachusetts

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