Rep. Sean Garballey (D-Arlington and West Medford) is among the sponsors of the “Cherish Act,” which aims to implement the core findings of the state Higher Education Finance Commission – that state investment in public colleges and universities has dramatically declined from a peak in fiscal 2001.
So far, 83 state representatives and 29 state senators have endorsed the legislation.
With declining public investment in state colleges and universities, costs have shifted to students, as campuses are more easily subject to privatization, staff cuts and elimination of programs that support students, a June 29 news release from Garballey's office says.
State Sen. Jo Comerford (D-Northampton) is the lead sponsor of the bill in the Senate, while Garballey and Rep. Paul Mark (D-Peru) are the lead sponsors in the House.
Garballey called the act “landmark legislation” and said, "Our public higher-education system has been in critical need of funding for too long. The 'Cherish Act' is an investment in the young people of our Commonwealth and will provide hundreds of millions of much-needed dollars to our colleges and universities over the next several years.
“Ensuring access to higher education is a matter of equity and justice,” he said, adding that, in Massachusetts, when adjusted for inflation and enrollment changes, state appropriations for public higher education dropped by more than 26 percent between fiscal 2001 and 2020.
Comerford said in the release that the act “offers us one way to do better, and that’s why a majority of the Legislature has now signed on in support of this bill. Together, we can deliver the reinvestment in higher education that we know is needed.”
MTA President Najimy
Massachusetts Teachers Association President Merrie Najimy said that passing the “Cherish Act: is one step for the Legislature to take in dismantling structural racism in the form of disinvestment in public higher education, just as legislators did when passing the “Student Opportunity Act.”
“Students have been incurring more and more debt to attend our public colleges and universities, with those financial barriers being even more onerous for BIPOC students,” Najimy said. “The pandemic made it worse as we witnessed an alarming decline in BIPOC student enrollment, particularly at our public community colleges. The state must act now to make public colleges fully accessible and equipped with the staff and resources to meet the needs of a diverse student population.”
Mark said that the act is vital to the overall well-being of the state.
MTA Vice President Max Page said that investing in public higher education is a vital way to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Making higher education more accessible will strengthen our workforce and create more opportunities for people to earn higher incomes and improve their quality of life,” Page said. “Those attending Massachusetts public colleges and universities tend to remain in the state, so spending on public higher education becomes a long-term investment in the quality of our communities.”
This news announcement was published Saturday, July 3, 2021.