April 14, 2016 Contact: Natalie Higgins
For Immediate Release 978-227-8473
PHENOM Disappointed in House FY17 Budget for Public Higher Education; Result will be higher tuition and fees for students
April 14, 2016 — The Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts (PHENOM – www.phenomonline.org) is distressed by the House FY17 budget, which level-funds public higher education. State funding for public higher education remains 20% below FY01 levels. While the legislature made progress to restore that funding over the last three years, the House FY17 budget suggests public higher education is no longer a priority.
“For the past three years we have seen the Massachusetts Legislature recommit to public higher education,” said Natalie Higgins, Executive Director of PHENOM, “but this budget is definitely a step in the wrong direction. As is stands, there 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.”
Like Governor Baker’s budget, the House FY17 budget includes nothing to pay agreed-upon contracts with faculty and staff, thereby effectively cutting campus budgets. 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.
While PHENOM is encouraged by the House FY17 budget’s increase to MassGrant scholarship and its commitment to maintain funding for the High Demand Scholarship Program, it is only a bandaid on the crisis of mounting student debt in Massachusetts. The cuts to the Dual Enrollment program, which increases access and allows high school students to earn college credit, setting back affordability and accessibility in public higher education.
“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.”
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 unites students, faculty, staff, alumni, and others from community colleges, state universities, the UMass campuses, and the broader community to advocate for better funded, affordable and accessible public higher education in Massachusetts. The 500,000 people who make up the Massachusetts public higher education community are the sleeping giant of Massachusetts politics. By mobilizing a large and engaged grassroots network, PHENOM is waking up this sleeping giant so we can get the resources to create the public higher education system we and our children deserve.