Posted on September 8, 2011

A Shift in State College Grants

Mary Carmichael, Boston Globe, September 6, 2011

Governor Deval Patrick is expected to announce today that for the first time in decades, Massachusetts is awarding some money to public colleges and universities based on their plans to boost academic performance, rather than on how many students they enroll.

The money will go mostly to schools that proposed strategies to raise graduation rates, strengthen science instruction and career development, and close achievement gaps among minorities.

The grants are relatively modest–$2.5 million in total, taken from the 2012 state budget finalized in July–but they signal an important shift in the state’s approach to higher education funding. {snip}

“This is a sea change in the way we think about higher education funding and a harbinger of important changes to come,” said Paul Reville, secretary of education, comparing the competition to the federal Race to the Top contest for states reforming their public school systems.


Eight of the state’s 13 schools that offer four-year undergraduate degrees–including three of the University of Massachusetts campuses–will receive a total of about $1.1 million.


The largest grant, $233,417, will go to five projects at Worcester State University. [Higher education commissioner Richard] Freeland said he was especially impressed by an initiative that sends college students into the Latino community to work as teachers’ aides. The program is 10 years old, but Vision Project money will give it a shot in the arm.


Another grant will go to North Shore Community College. The school has developed maps, modeled on the Washington, D.C., subway system, that illustrate the courses and tests students need to take in order to pursue specific careers. Freeland said the maps were a good example of how schools could align their programming with the state’s workforce needs.

Sixteen of the eighteen winning schools are trying to improve graduation rates. “The community colleges were especially focused on the issue. I think that’s why they did well in the competition,” said Stan Jones, one of the five judges and president of the national nonprofit Complete College America. “They could have chosen not to focus on completion, but this is an issue whose time has come.”