PHENOM Convenes Advocates

by Ken Haar, Westfield State University

What began in January 2011 as an attempt to get all the advocates of public higher education in the same room to support the FY 2012 higher education budget evolved into regular meetings with those same advocates working together to fight for public higher education on a number of fronts.

The summit’s first legislative success was to amend the casino bill. In its original form, it produced no revenue for public higher education. The summit pushed to insure that 5% of the state’s annual casino revenues would go to support public higher education. This influx of approximately $20 million per year is in-tended to supplement, not supplant, the state allocations to public higher education.

The summit group has called for a supplemental appropriation to this year’s budget (fiscal 2012) that would provide for increased funding for critical needs: financial aid, deferred maintenance, funding collective bargaining agreements. These have been left to the campuses to fund with increased student fees.

Since August, this summit group has met monthly to work on proposals. As our trust has grown, so has our power—with representation from the Higher Education Committee in the Legislature, the Public Higher Education Caucus of legislators, the Councils of Presidents of the Community Colleges and State Universities, the UMass President’s office, the higher education unions, the Secretary of Education’s office, the Commissioner of Higher Education’s office, student groups and PHENOM’s Board.

In January, the summit group plans to launch a “Top Ten Reasons to Support Public Higher Education” public relations and organizing campaign to increase funding for public higher education in the fiscal 2013 budget.

Hopefully all PHENOM and public higher education supporters will join us in asking our legislators to back these funding efforts.