2015-16 State Legislative Session Priorities

The 2015-16 State legislative session is very exciting for public higher education. Here are PHENOM’s priorities and supported legislation for this session. We will continue to develop this page and provide additional resources and action items as we move further into the session. If you are interested in working on PHENOM’s Legislative Advocacy, please contact us at phenom@phenomonline.org.


Bill H.1068 – An Act relative to strengthening and expanding affordable, quality higher education opportunities for residents of the Commonwealth 

  • §1 – HIGH PRIORITY – ensure adequate funding for quality PHE
  • §2 – SUPPORT – credit transfer system
  • §3 – SUPPORT – uniform student financial aid info
  • §§7-9 – SUPPORT – TAFDC Career Pathways Trust Fund and Program
  • §12 – SUPPORT – 529 plan deduction
  • §13 – SUPPORT – 529 plan deduction
  • §14 – SUPPORT – electronic tax refunds can go into a 529 plan
  • §15 – SUPPORT – tax credit for employer contribution to 529 plan
  • §17 – SUPPORT – increased funding for dual enrollment program
  • §20 – SUPPORT – budget amendments
  • §21 – SUPPORT – Establishes the LCSW Student Education Loan Repayment Program
  • §24 – SUPPORT – Establishes a Lower Income Family Postsecondary Education Savings Incentive Matching Grant Pilot Program
  • §26 – HIGH PRIORITY – increased funding of $95mil per year to PHE ed institutions for 5yrs
  • §27. HIGH PRIORITY – increased funding for MASSGRANT ($42mil/yr)
  • §§31-33. HIGH PRIORITY – $4.2 billion in state bond funds to undertake capital improvements and maintenance at these institutions for the next 10 years
  • §34. SUPPORT – college readiness programs

Bill H.1070 – An Act Making Community Colleges in Massachusetts Free for Residents of the State

  • Requires that no tuition or mandatory fees shall be charged to any resident of the state at any community college.  The commonwealth, not the community colleges, shall bear the cost of providing free community colleges for residents of the state.

Bill S.1465 / Bill H.2668 – An Act to Support Educational Opportunity for All

  • 1% excise tax on the 9 private, non-profit university endowments over $1 billion in MA. Creates a trust fund to help subsidize the cost of higher and early ed and child care for lower- middle-class residents of MA. Would earn $544 million annually. FACT SHEET. 4/22/15 Article in The Crimson.

Bill H.1042 / Bill S.683 – An Act to Establish a Finish Line Grant Program to Encourage College Completion

  • There shall be a Great State of Mind Scholarship Program to provide scholarships to cover the entire cost of tuition and fees for any year after the first leading to an associate or bachelor’s degree at a Massachusetts public college or university to residents of the Commonwealth in need of financial assistance.

Bill S.654 – An Act Regarding Higher Education Opportunities for High School Graduates in the Commonwealth

  • Would allow children of undocumented parents who have attended high school in the Commonwealth for three or more years, have graduated or attained the equivalent thereof in the commonwealth, have a Taxpayer Identification Number, and who have registered for the Selective Service where required, to be eligible for in-state tuition rates and fees and for state-funded financial assistance at Mass. state colleges, universities, or community colleges.

Bill H.1046 – An Act Supporting Access and Excellence in Public Higher Ed

  • In a time when higher education is becoming economically exclusive, this bill ensures a state policy whereby public higher education budget appropriations must account for no less than 60% of operating costs; the focus being the streamlining our public higher education system to promote affordability, access, and completion.

Bill S.1452 – An Act to Invest in Our Communities

  • Would restore the state income tax to 5.95 percent and set the tax rate on investment income to 8.95 percent. It also includes significant exemptions to protect low- and middle-income taxpayers and seniors. Projected to raise approx. $2 billion a year when fully phased in.

Bill H.1055 – An Act to Invest in Higher Education Faculty

  • Increases the number of undergraduate courses taught by full-time tenure and tenure-track faculty at public higher education institutions to at least 75 percent. Increases per-course pay for adjuncts so compensation is in line with full-time non-tenure track faculty. Adjuncts who work half-time based on a cumulative workload at one or more public higher education institutions would be eligible for the same health care and pension benefits as tenure-track faculty members. Adjuncts to receive consideration for teaching assignments and tenure-track positions.


Resolve S.658 – Resolve providing for an investigation and study into expanding targeted student loan forgiveness programs

  • Would require the Board of Higher Education to conduct an investigation and study of expanding targeted student loan forgiveness programs in MA. BHE shall explore the potential of establishing state-funded loan forgiveness programs which would incentivize students to pursue occupations where there is both great need and a lack of financial compensation.

Bill H.2301 – An Act Rel. to MA Employees Taking Public Higher Ed Courses

  • Active employees of the Commonwealth with over five years of state employment will be allowed to take courses on a space available basis at any state college or public university with a reduction in cost of fifty percent on tuition and fees.

Bill H.1043 – An Act Relative to College Tuition and Fees for Veterans

  • In recognition of the sacrifices made by members of our armed forces serving in the field of battle and their families, this bill mandates that the commonwealth shall bear the costs of tuition and fees from institutions of public higher education institutions for combat veterans and the children of combat veterans killed during service.

Bill S.661 – An act providing uniform financial aid information

  • Requires all institutions of higher ed in MA to provide a uniform financial aid information shopping sheet (created by DOE). Each institution shall provide this sheet prior to the institution’s enrollment deadline to allow each applicant sufficient time to make an informed decision about enrollment.

Bill S.675 – An Act Relative to Open Textbooks

  • Creates a MA Digital Open Source Library to serve as a statewide repository for high-quality open source textbooks and related materials. With an open source library, students will have access to textbooks and materials at little to no cost and faculty will be able to adopt and modify the most appropriate course materials for their class.

Bill S.677 – An Act Relative to Public Higher Education Transfers

  • For the past 3yrs, the Legislature has funded a project to establish a system-wide set of course equivalencies and a common course numbering system. This legislation requires that by December 31, 2015, all public institutions of higher ed shall permit students to transfer from one public institution of higher ed to another without loss of credit.

Bill S.679 / H.1041 – An Act Concerning Sexual Violence on Higher Education Campuses

  • This legislation complements the federal requirements of Title IX by: adding additional information on sexual violence to a higher education institution’s annual crime report; appointing a Public Safety Officer to the BHE to review of all campus safety policies; requiring campus websites to include information for and resources available to sexual assault victims; requiring that sexual assault policies be emailed to all students each semester; requiring campuses, subject to appropriation, to establish an MOU with sexual assault crisis services; requiring campuses to form an MOU with law enforcement; requiring the option for anonymous reporting and creating a trained confidential advisor for students to report an assault to; requiring mandatory annual sexual violence training for students; requiring sexual violence training for employees; requiring institutions to integrate a Threat Response Program to be used for emergency communications for students on and off campus; and updating statutes to permit law enforcement to share information with Title IX coordinators as required by federal law and eliminating the requirement for a separate campus crime log that is not subject to public record  and instead requiring all entries to be placed in the daily log without names and addresses.

Bill H.376 – An Act Concerning Unfunded Education Mandates

  • This bill places a moratorium on new unfunded education mandates (including new education programs as well as testing and reporting requirements) and establishes an  educational mandate task force to examine, consolidate, or eliminate existing laws and regulations in the interest of curbing the financial burdens they place on schools.

Bill H.2395 – An Act to further regulate the right to strike of public employees

  • Amends the current law by allowing public employees the right to strike free from interference, restraint or coercion should the Department of Labor Relations determine that the action of the public employees has been caused in whole or in part by unfair labor practices committed by the employer.

Bill H.1762 – An Act creating a living wage for employees and contracted employees of the Commonwealth

  • Creates a living wage of $15 per hour for employees of the Commonwealth and its contractors/subcontractors and includes indexing for inflation and enforcement provisions based on both the Massachusetts minimum wage and Boston’s living wage ordinance.

Bill H.2302 – An Act relative to increasing the COLA base

  • Increases the current base used to calculate the annual cost-of-living adjustment for retirees of the MTRS and MSERS from 3 percent of $13,000 to 3 percent of $16,000.