January 28, 2016 Contact: Natalie Higgins
For Immediate Release 978-227-8473
PHENOM Condemns Baker Budget for Public Higher Education; Result will be higher tuition and fees for students
January 29, 2016 — The Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts (PHENOM – www.phenomonline.org) decried Governor Baker’s FY17 budget, which level-funds public higher education. While the Baker administration argues disingenuously that its budget includes a 1% increase for public higher education, the budget includes nothing to pay agreed-upon contracts with faculty and staff, thereby effectively cutting campus budgets.
“The result of this budget,” said Natalie Higgins, Executive Director of PHENOM, “will be a significant hike in tuition and fees or cuts to programming integral to keeping our students on the path to completion, simply to keep public higher education campuses level-funded. Because of two decades of declining funding, Massachusetts already has some of the highest tuition and fees in the country, leaving our graduates shackled to tens of thousands of dollars of debt for decades.”
“Baker’s budget relies on the tired argument that public higher education can be just fine if they wring ‘efficiencies’ out of their budgets, said Kim Selwitz, PHENOM’s President. “Here’s what “efficiency” has meant over the past decade: hiring adjuncts with low pay or benefits and no job security; making campuses pay for most of their construction projects out of the regular operating budget, something no other state does; continuing the decline in the number of full-time faculty and campus services that help low-income and minority students get through to graduation.”
Baker has committed himself to no tax increases, making weak budgets almost inevitable. “The fundamental problem, which many in the legislature and citizens across the Commonwealth are recognizing,” said Max Page, UMass Amherst professor and PHENOM’s Treasurer, “is that we simply do not have enough tax dollars to provide what our Commonwealth deserves – and that includes, fundamentally, high-quality, debt-free public higher education. Other states are providing it, to our competitive disadvantage.”
Governor Baker’s Secretary of Education recently figured out a way to defend multi- millionaires when he criticized a call to increase taxes on the wealthiest ½ of one percent in order to fund education. “By speaking out against the Fair Share Amendment, a highly progressive tax on multimillionaires, Secretary of Education Peyser betrays his role as an advocate for funding for public higher education,” said PHENOM board member Ken Haar.
PHENOM is a member of the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition, which gathered 157,000 signatures to pass a progressive tax constitutional amendment, asking people netting more than a million dollars per year – about 15,000 individuals in total – a small amount in taxes more in order to raise nearly $2 billion that must be dedicated to transportation, quality public education, and making public higher education more affordable. PHENOM is pleased that the Fair Share Amendment was reported out favorably of the Revenue Committee this morning.