Massachusetts Tightens Control of Two-Year Colleges

To help improve oversight of the state's system of two-year community colleges, Massachusetts legislators have decided to link budgets to academic performance and give education officials greater say in the selection and evaluation of community college presidents, the Boston Globe reports.

The changes, which are supported by Governor Deval Patrick and the state's business community, are intended to boost the performance of the fifteen-college system, which has suffered from low graduation rates and lax standards. Two-year colleges, which educate nearly half of all students who attend public college in Massachusetts, are seen as important training grounds for many professions and a key step on the road to economic self-sufficiency for many low-income students.

Although leaders of the colleges resisted the effort, arguing that what they needed was additional resources rather than more scrutiny, the plan does provide additional financial support. Indeed, the state will boost spending on two-year schools by $11 million, including $5 million for a program focused on raising graduation rates and consolidating administrative tasks across campuses. Another $2.3 million is earmarked to help schools develop or enhance job-training programs to meet changing workforce needs.

According to Paul Grogan, president of the Boston Foundation, which lobbied for the changes, the support of business leaders was critical to the bill's passage just five months after Patrick highlighted the issue in his State of the Commonwealth address. "This is a real breakthrough," Grogan told the Globe. "In exchange for these changes, there's every likelihood of more support....The colleges have had near total autonomy. A lot of people were pessimistic a change like this could be made."

Peter Schworm. "State Tightens Control of Two-Year Colleges." Boston Globe 07/03/2012.