PHENOM supports President Obama’s call for accessible, free community college


January 9, 2015

Contact: Natalie Higgins (978-227-8473,;

Max Page (413-219-7633,


PHENOM supports President Obama’s call for accessible, free community college


PHENOM (the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts) applauds President Obama’s proposal for free community college, which recognizes that college has become as necessary a building block to a successful career and life as high school was a century ago.  “We are thrilled that President Obama is proposing this dramatic investment in access to public higher education,”  said Natalie Higgins, PHENOM’s Executive Director.  “This is a watershed moment in higher education policy, making the idea of a college education for all citizens a right.”


“PHENOM’s guiding principles are centered around securing sufficient funding for public higher education in Massachusetts to guarantee affordable, accessible, and high-quality public higher education for all students,”said Max Page, Professor of Architecture at UMass Amherst and a PHENOM Board member. “PHENOM has long supported the idea of free higher education, including two free years.”  As a step in that direction, PHENOM has developed the Finish Line Grant which would provide low-income students with one free year at a Massachusetts public college or university after they have completed at least one year successfully.  Democrat Sean Garballey (Arlington) and Republican Bruce Tarr (Gloucester) are both filing the bill, attesting to the bipartisan importance of this issue.


We must rally behind President Obama’s proposal. Massachusetts should be a leader in public higher education, yet we currently rank 46th nationally in the average need based grant award per student. The value of the MASSGrant has decreased dramatically in the last two decades,  once covering 80% of tuition and fees at public colleges and universities in Massachusetts in 1988, but only 9% in 2013. Moreover, decreased state support has forced community colleges to rely heavily on part-time faculty, and currently less than ⅓ of all courses taught at Massachusetts community colleges are taught by full-time faculty. We must focus not only on access and affordability, but also quality of public higher education. Just yesterday PHENOM wrote an Open Letter to Governor Baker about investment in public higher education. We must all work together to ensure a college education becomes a public good and a right, not a privilege for a select few.