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College Planning in a Consumer Focused Higher Education Marketplace, featuring Congressman John Tierney

Suffolk University Law School, 120 Tremont Street, Boston

April 12, 2010 @ 8:00 am - 10:00 am

Building on our recent report, Planning for College , MassINC will host higher education leaders for a forum exploring the challenges families face as they decide how to save for college, choose a college, and pay for college. With Congress nearing approval of major student loan reform, Representative John Tierney, a senior member of the House subcommittee on Higher Education, Lifelong Learning and Competitiveness and a nationally recognized leader on the topic of college affordability, will deliver the keynote address. A panel discussion will follow focused on needed steps to address challenges consumers continue to face in the higher education marketplace. 

Sponsored by the Highland Street Foundation, the State Street Foundation, and the Cabot Family Charitable Trust 

College Planning in a Consumer Focused Higher Education Marketplace
April 13, 2010



BOSTON, APRIL 27, 2010…….Cuts to higher education funding, the labyrinth families must navigate when considering college, and benefits available under an expansive new federal law dominated discussion earlier this month when higher education experts sat down at Suffolk University to discuss college planning.


The April 12 event, hosted by Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth and backed by the Highland Street Foundation, the State Street Foundation, and the Cabot Family Charitable Trust, was held at Suffolk Law School and featured remarks from U.S. Rep. John Tierney, who helped develop the higher education law that was approved by Congress in connection with this year’s omnibus health care law.


Panelists at the breakfast forum, moderated by MassINC’s John Schneider, included:


— Thomas Graf, Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority Executive Director;

— Craig Powell, ConnectEDU CEO;

— Richard Doherty, Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts president and CEO;

— Mary Grant, president of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts;


The following is a summary, not a verbatim transcript:


GREG TORRES, MASSINC PRESIDENT: We have Congressman Tierney with us.  Thanks to Suffolk University, our hosts this morning.  Think about where Suffolk has come over the last 11 years.


WALTER CAFFEY, SUFFOLK UNIVERSITY: Welcome.  We are delighted to be hosting this family financial skills forum.  We are dealing with challenging economic times and the importance of a college-educated workforce has never been greater.  There are numerous benefits to providing families with tools to allow them to plan more strategically and to look to college and education with an eye towards a return on investment and to make better choices.  Twenty years ago as a young admissions counselor I talked with a parent and the student gushed about how perfect the institution would be for her and her mom pulled me aside and said you accepted her, now you find a way to afford it.  Clearly there was a disconnect there.  My role at that point was to determine admissibility.  As far as I was concerned, my job was done.  But there is more that needs to be done.  I have spent years helping students and families determine fit.  Factors have forced me to shift my thinking towards helping families make the best financial fit.  Thank you for attending this important forum.  Real change is possible if we can find ways to help families become more conscientious consumers.


GREG TORRES, MASSINC PRESIDENT: Some organizations step up to support our work.  Thanks to the Highland Street Foundation, the Cabot Family Charitable Trust and the State Street Foundation for their support.  Dana Ansel is here for ConnectEDU and she was responsible for the research program at MassINC for more than nine years.  Thank you for your work over the years.  If you think about who has a first class political and policy mind and grasp of the nuances of policy, Congressman Tierney is right up there.  He is a good guy and personal friend for many years and a friend of MassINC for many years.  He got his law degree from Suffolk University.  He was a major cosponsor of the student loan legislation that was included in the reconciliation bill and this gives families the largest increase in federal aid for college since the GI bill.  This got a little bit lost in the swirl around health care.   It was a brilliant political move on the part of the Democrats to deal with it this way.  A very controversial bill made it through.  Think about what the GI bill did in terms of the creation of the middle class.  This reinforcement of that effort is extraordinary and will be very meaningful to working class and middle class families.  We thank Congressman Tierney for that work.


U.S. REP. JOHN TIERNEY: Good morning.  When I was going off to college, my dad was a bookkeeper and my mom a telephone operator.  They basically said you got yourself in you pay for it.  That was my experience.  When I was old enough to go to college, the idea was you could get a job or two or three jobs and work and study and pay for public higher education and then borrow money to pay for law school.  Even that wasn’t so bad.  Things have changed a bit.  I agree with a lot of the premises in the report, which I read with great interest.  To raise awareness of families in higher education, we have to address it in a transparent manner and user friendly way.  Education is one more area where American families are really feeling pressure.  They feel it in their pensions – there was a time of defined benefit plans and an employer paid into a fund and you knew you would get a monthly check.  Now it’s a 401k.  You put the money in.  There is risk being shifted over.  You retire and you get far too little.  On health care, people always thought they would get a job and we took care of seniors and poorer people, and with a job employers would pay for it, but the floor started to fall out there.  The cost of care went up, and insurance.  Employers could no longer afford to cover it and didn’t and then we have higher co-pays and premiums and have 40 million people without insurance.  Sixty-six percent of bankruptcies in this country are due in part to health care.  Add to that the rising costs of education.  Rising tuitions and other costs and the shrinking value of Pell grants and confusing forms and higher rates associated with borrowing, states are retreating from their commitment to contribute to public higher education – all of this goes on and you see how families feel pressurized.  The report identifies the concerns.  We are lucky to have George Miller from California.  He is a good friend and very smart on education policy.  He agreed this has to be from the consumer end of things up.  We hear about how high school education is not enough.  We have to put our money where our mouth is and make sure students are not hostage to payments when they get out.  We have a lot more work to do.  We have a mix of public and private institutions and just plain out regulating is probably not going to work.  Still, it is a public policy matter and decision.  We invest huge amounts of money.  Families are right to demand that we address their concerns.  We tried to make sure there was better way to get information.  We tried to make Pell grants more toward their value where they used to be.  We wanted to bring interest rates on loans down and to have more simplicity in financial aid forms.  In the reconciliation bill you choose areas to make adjustments and claw back some money.  We started a path on education in 2007 that we completed recently.  We clawed back money from subsidies for lending institutions that were making money in a very lucrative market.   We did a bunch of things that really did help families like the income-based repayment plan.  For a long time you had to pay back over ten years and it was not economical.   We did the federal loan borrowers and the direct loan public service program.   The program is 15 percent of adjusted gross income over the poverty level – that would be the maximum payment every month – and what you have not paid off over 25 years, forgiven.  You could maybe go into a public service job.  It’s made substantial savings.  The direct loan public service portion says if you go into areas of public need we will cancel some of your debt and you could get out in 10 years.  A lot of kids are going to find that’s something they can and will do.  You have the Teach Act that gives you upfront assistance if you go into teaching, $4,000 a year for four years.  We have 17,000 students participating and I expect that to grow.  We have a loan forgiveness program associated with that.  That was the basis of moving forward.   In 2008 we reauthorized the higher education act.  It was long overdue.  We did it in a bipartisan way before a lot of this silliness happened now where people don’t seem to want to cooperate.  We worked hard on it and Sen. Kennedy worked hard on it.  We require the U.S. Department of Education to publish a consumer friendly page on their web site with tuition and fees for every institution and the net prices at institutions, recent price increases, graduation rates, the most popular majors.  They have to publish tools to allow families to estimate costs.   It will be pretty accurate on that.  They have to provide a calculator and a total estimate over a four-year period and then we have the transparency list – a list based on tuition and fees, and their net tuition by type of institution.  It lists the 5 percent most expensive and 10 percent least expensive institutions.  Families can sort through where they might want to go with their money and it also includes incentives for tuition. We say we will reward you if you keep your tuition and fees down.   We will encourage cost strategies and collecting best practices and we will increase need-based aid if you keep that cost down.  That is going to be a pretty good driver.  On public higher education, close to my heart, we have walked away from our state colleges.  State after state after state has decreased the amount of money they contribute for higher education.  It’s one of the first places people go and target.  I think this is idiocy.  I don’t envy any state Legislature or governor when making choices, but if we want to be competitive internationally and we all say we do, and we are conscious off how China is investing in technology, if we want the jobs of the future – the nanoscience and the robotics and biotech – then we had better be investing in that.  Most states are pretty crazy if they don’t make the proper investments so that it becomes affordable for their population.  They have been using the federal money and not giving the state money, supplanting it.  We put maintenance of effort language in to say if we give you more aid you cannot supplant it.  You have to maintain levels of spending.  Or we put some teeth into it to forfeit funds.  Colleges didn’t like it.  People fought it, like Sen. Alexander, the former secretary of education.  In the recovery and reinvestment act, Massachusetts got a billion dollars.  It’s been effective and it’s working.  We put $200 million into work study programs to provide jobs for students in a difficult economic time.  Since the economy has gone down, there has been an enormous increase in the number of people going back to school.  They want to increase their credentials.   We needed to fill a shortfall in the Pell grant to sustain it.  Since 1964 we have been subsidizing private lenders and guaranteeing 97 percent of the payback.  Not a bad deal.  In this act, we eliminate all the subsidies and guarantees and the money is directed to the students and we save $61 billion to restore the purchasing power of the Pell grant with $36 billion.  It’s $430 million alone in Massachusetts over the next ten years. We also streamline the application form and eliminate 50 questions.  The president is working hard to try to match the IRS forms with that.  We think we’ve transformed the loan process and we hope we’re making it easier for students.  We help out with income-based payments.  Everywhere we could we try to look at this from the perspective of the parents, the students and the schools.  I hope you can give us more ideas this morning.  We appreciate the efforts.


BEN FORMAN, MASSINC: I am the new research director at MassINC. I took over this project from Dana Ansel.  I am excited to welcome the author, Tony Broh, to give us a brief overview of his report.


REPORT AUTHOR C. TONY BROH: Thank you.  This project began over a year ago.  Many things Congressman Tierney talked about have come into being since Dana and I sat down and talked about the various decisions consumers are making in the process of applying for college.  We talked about a decision tree, a series of very complex decisions.  The college-bound decision tree was the metaphor we used.  The tree had four main branches and the main contribution of this report is to organize what’s a vast amount of literature on applying for college.  There are four large questions: how to save for college, where to attend college, how to pay for college and how to repay college.  Congressman Tierney hits on many of those points.  This report is not just directed at consumers.  It’s probably pretty difficult for the average consumer or family to read.  The audience was the institutions and trying to get them to think of the constituency they are dealing with.  I focus on net price and initially institutions themselves are reluctant to talk about it.  On most institution sites, on the financial aid page, you find the published price.  Institutions are reluctant to talk about the net price and don’t want to raise the expectation in many cases that financial aid policies will actually reduce the price.   Those surfing might find prices half of those published.  What is ironic about the institutions is they are reluctant to quantify a reduction in price in a way that is usable.  There will be financial aid estimators on the department web sites and by October 2011 institutions will be required to have net price navigators on sites, so some of that will begin and this will change really the language of financial aid and the way families think and talk about it.  On how should I pay for college, one argument I make is when you take out a loan the price for the family includes the interest payments that happen after the child has graduated.  They extend into the future.  If you think about saving, I was able to save when both my children were first born and if you think about loans going for 15 or 25 years after graduation, you are talking about a 40-year period in which a family is paying for college, a major chunk of a person’s life to be sure.  The interest payments vary of course considerably by the type of loan, from no interest loans all the way down to unsecured private loans which may be as high as 18 percent, essentially credit card loans.  A family for a $20,000 loan over a 15-year period could pay more than $35,000 in interest payments over the life of that loan.    On policy initiatives – many are moving forward at the government level but this is what I would like to see institutions doing.  The concept of net price as a concept of financial aid, when award letters go out I would love to see the focus more specifically on the net price that the family will have to pay.  That is part of overall transparency.  I am talking about tuition and fees minus grants and everything else is a loan that might be discussed.  But generally institutions themselves are often more focused on how can we help the family pay the bills to get to this institution rather than an overall financial planning concept of what is the price for the entire life of this education and is this an area the family can afford.  It may mean a financial officer saying this is not the place for you.  It’s difficult after recruiting but it’s the kind of discussion that may be in the family’s interest.  I would like to see parent and student loans all discussed together with a total interest amount and monthly payments being part of the financial aid policy.  I would like to see financial aid offices taking a proactive role in thinking about the family financial planning rather than the immediate short-term of paying the bill to get the family here.  Finally, a lot of this is in place, or at least pieces of it, and the devil is in the detail.  As the regulations are being written, some of the purposes intended by Congress may or may not be recognized as effectively as we would like.


MODERATOR JOHN SCHNEIDER, MASSINC EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT: I want to thank Dana Ansel.  We worked together for the last eight years.   As a father of a junior in high school, I had a very personal interest in this report.  I begin the discussion with a question for each of the panelists – when you look at Tony’s tree, what information do consumers need that they are not getting?


MARY GRANT, MASS. COLLEGE OF LIBERAL ARTS PRESIDENT: One thing I see in public higher education, we are up in North Adams and we are the smallest of the state colleges, navigating the higher ed marketplace can be confusing.  In public higher ed, we see first generation families coming in and have to work with them in a way that is accessible.  When I look at the work that we are doing, it is all about right now trying to make sure that parents and students understand that higher education can be in their future.  Sometimes just thinking it costs too much is a showstopper.   We have to help break that down so they don’t stop the discussion before it begins.  Then we can get into the specifics.


CRAIG POWELL, CONNECTEDU CEO: If families are in active decision-making, it is one of the few consumer processes of picking a product and not knowing what it cost.  We talked about net price, but it can be adjusted or moved year to year with little to no input.  So I need to know what I am buying and what it costs.  I also need to know what I am pre-approved for.  When we buy a home we don’t look at $3.5 million homes when we can afford a $500,000 home.  Not anymore.   The consumer is somewhat misinformed and misled in the purchasing process itself.  We heard the story at the outset of getting in and not having a financial fit – that those are mutually exclusive decisions is a major perplexity in this process.  The other issue is what is the value, perhaps the most perplexing.  The number one reason a family or a child is interested in pursuing an education is to either to further their education and ultimately to get a job.  What is your job placement rate?   That is the value on purchasing.  What is the payback of those jobs?  What is the salary of those jobs?  Give that to me in a statistical format.  Those are three real key data points in my mind whether I am buying an automobile or an education – how much it costs, what I can afford and what can I expect in return?


THOMAS GRAF, MASS. EDUCATIONAL FINANCING AUTHORITY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: The decision tree is a nice outline.  Something we came across five or six years ago in focus groups is that the number one place people go are their guidance counselors.  We went to the high school counselors and said what do you provide and they said we don’t do any of that.  That’s not our job.  Our job is to make sure their classes are lined up.  We ventured into how we as a state can support guidance counselors with information to gradually build a system where we are in the schools.  Now, with a lot of shoe leather, with Craig we are beginning to build an information system.  You see the confusion and anxiety when people get there – they say I just don’t know how I am going to do this, let alone the price.  The public mission is to calm people down and let them know the options here.  It doesn’t start just when you arrive on campus to look at schools.  We need to start thinking as early as possible, beginning to save for school and to aspire for school and plan for school, both academically and financially.   There is a bizarre array of federal programs presented to students that can confuse more than help.  There is not a lack of information out there but a lack of focused information.  We need to hone that down.


RICHARD DOHERTY, AICUM PRESIDENT AND CEO: There is an awful lot of information out there and it does need to be simplified for parents.  Much of what the Congressman articulated at the start of the session is about to become a reality for families and guidance counselors.  The private colleges nationally saw this coming down the pike and put together something to try to take some of Craig’s points and to address key markers for families to get information on schools and try to reduce that information to two pages online to allow apples to apples, school to school comparisons on graduation rates.  There is that perception that all private colleges are fifty thousand.  About a third of our schools are in the 50s, a third in the 40s and a third in the 30s, and then from those public prices there is the discounted price that varies tremendously based on family income.  If you continue to say that schools cost $50,000 you are sending a very misleading message out to families.  We are going to see a whole new generation of students coming up where the parents perhaps have not gone to college – they are perhaps new immigrants and they don’t have a culture of information access and we have to do an even better job informing those parents and exposing both kids and parents to college at a much earlier age.  Part of that disclosure is figuring out what we have to do to encourage families to start saving.  If folks start saving and when they create a fund, they are perhaps having a conversation with kids and a sort of raising of aspirations for students.


MODERATOR JOHN SCHNEIDER, MASSINC EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT: When the Globe gets everyone worked up about the $50,000 pricetag, what opportunity does that create for you Mary and your colleagues who market what you are doing and try to establish a place as a more affordable alternative?


MARY GRANT, MASS. COLLEGE OF LIBERAL ARTS PRESIDENT: You can’t always control the headlines.  Public higher education, we are about 80 percent lower than the typical private institution.  I graduated from two public higher education institutions in Massachusetts and went to a private for my doctorate.  It provided me with an excellent foundation for what I’ve done.  We have to talk to families about what you get in exchange.  So much is what students put into it.  We see our students going in great numbers into graduate programs, the workplace, extraordinarily well prepared.  We see a high percentage of them staying in Massachusetts to work.  That is an important piece of the equation.  The notion that you can be at home and graduate with lower indebtedness – we do see our students with less debt. This push on increased Pell grants is going to be a big winner for our students.  That is true across the public system.   Looking at where the aid is coming from matters a great deal.  A big shift in the publics is we are increasing scholarships through philanthropy.  In the marketplace we have a range of options, which are really important from great private institutions to a robust network of publics.  On the aspirational access point, we have a project in the Berkshires and we have a program of sixth graders going to college to expose those kids at an earlier age to college, and their families.  We are now starting to do it with third graders.  We have to get this conversation going earlier.  There is an opportunity.  People are worried about what they are spending on education.  And at the same time we are serving our students, our budgets are being cut.  So it’s a real push and pull.


MODERATOR JOHN SCHNEIDER, MASSINC EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT: Shouldn’t we worry more about the graduation rates?  It can be controversial.  I do think it’s important.  Are parents starting to ask that or are students asking if I come here, will I finish, what’s the success rate?


CRAIG POWELL, CONNECTEDU CEO: My background is in economics. I look at value chains.  You have all kinds of inputs and variables and in my experience numerous elements of value that go into the analysis.  I fortunately just recently consolidated my 14 percent interest loans into a lower interest rate.  I am 32 years old and I am still paying my student loans.  I know my inputs and my outputs relative to where I sit economically and the various elements of which I associate value.  That equation is proving itself out.  My wife is a medical doctor and did not have to borrow money.  She is an internist and she will hit her payback rate at 48, 49 years old.  We had a young lady looking at Providence College for teaching special ed and her family was going to borrow $20,000 per year.  She would need a master’s degree.  We did the math on starting wages.  At the top end, she was going to make $35,000 a year after a 10-year input.  That value chain didn’t add up.  You could not make that economic equation make sense.  We discovered that with a simple budgeting tool.  It’s not difficult math but it has to be organized in a fashion so families can make good sound economic decision.  It has all the great intangibles associated with it but intangibles are not worth anything if you can’t sustain your education delivery.  It’s an economic decision.   We charge schools with these decisions but we don’t train them to be good deliverers.  I have seen these sixth grade programs in other states but it only works when there are counselors who make sure students are enrolled in the right classes to meet their graduation requirements.  There are all kinds of layers in terms of the opening of this information and empowering advisors.


RICHARD DOHERTY, AICUM PRESIDENT AND CEO: Parents want to know the net price of a college degree.   They don’t pay for four years of attendance. They expect a degree.  In many cases there is a big difference.  There was a study where in Massachusetts the 30 highest graduation rates for graduating in four years were at private colleges.  Some of that can be explained by the students and some by the special programs the independent colleges put in place to shepherd students through the process in the four-year timeframe.  It’s not something where we want to pit sector against sector, but where you have people graduating in four years and expecting to work and begin earning, you have the comparative costs of college compared to someone who may need to take five or six years to make it through.  The department said you need to have your graduation rate on your site.  They see that as a no-brainer indicator of accountability and focus and it does have an economic impact for families too.


MARY GRANT, MASS. COLLEGE OF LIBERAL ARTS PRESIDENT: Massachusetts now is tenth in the country for state college graduation rates, which are important.  It’s something we pay very careful attention to.  We have to.  We can’t discount the fact that economics play a huge role.  It’s a greater predictor of graduation rates than test scores.  It is important.  We have to pay attention to it.


THOMAS GRAF, MASS. EDUCATIONAL FINANCING AUTHORITY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: We do hundreds of seminars in front of parents. I have never heard asked. ‘What is the graduation rate?’   We can all talk to that a little bit more.  There’s lots of information parents need to know.  Parents are overwhelmed with the information out there.  The changes the Congressman announced, lots of good benefits, that has made it even more complicated.  There are always the unintended consequences of even positive change.  The challenge is to get families to really focus on it and begin to plan and save.  We show up at a high school and there are six people there.  You have to find out better ways of communicating with people.  A web portal we are developing is a great way to communicate when people are online 24-7.


MARY GRANT, MASS. COLLEGE OF LIBERAL ARTS PRESIDENT: Parents are still asking, what is my child going to do when they finish?  What are the options?  What’s next?  The job market is so tough that if people take an extra year it’s not necessarily a bad thing.  It’s a very interesting time right now in the higher education marketplace.  It’s not so much about how much time, but what are they going to do when they get done?


CRAIG POWELL, CONNECTEDU CEO: In my interactions, parents come in somewhat naïve in thinking everyone is going to graduate.  I have been close to laughed out of rooms when I said, do you know that one in two of your kids is likely to drop out our transfer out of the institution?  How many of you know someone who transferred?  You see 50 to 75 percent of the room raise their hands.  It’s an a-ha moment.  We all completed high school together.  We have this assumption we are going to start and finish on a timeline.  But you get these a-ha moments.  Everybody is an expert – my mom can tell you everything you need to know about college – when in fact there are few experts in understanding it from a macro level. 


RICHARD DOHERTY, AICUM PRESIDENT AND CEO: My last of three is a freshman in college. I have been through a lot of parent nights and a lot of campus visits.  Someone asks that question every single time.  Maybe there is a higher concern about it at private institutions.  The admissions person almost always offers it because it’s something that makes a difference to the total cost of college and the total experience.  It has more currency than we give it credit for. 


AUDIENCE QUESTION: I hear transparency and value chain, words that most low-income families have no familiarity with.  In the 51 high schools we work with, the numbers of families with good Internet access is in the single digits.  They don’t have the access we are all assuming.  The stuff we are talking about is great for middle class and above. It falls short for families that are low-income or on the margins of homeless or foster youth.  For that group, if you could wave a magic wand to make one change, what would it be for low-income people?


CRAIG POWELL, CONNECTEDU CEO: We spend 95 percent of our time in low-income large public school environments servicing that type of student population – Detroit, Houston, Baltimore, Miami-Dade.  This entire conversation this morning is focused on an informed, sophisticated consumer base and it’s perplexing for that population.  Beyond the societal issues we would love to solve but cannot, I would never spend a state dollar building another public-facing site or bus ad campaign on college access programs and would spend every penny organizing student information systems to deal with benchmarking inside a high school environment to empower counselors and parents to intervene when students are moving off-track.  It has to be integrated into their individual education plan.  It is not an afterthought beyond biology class.  It is why you are in biology class.  It’s got to be integrated and organizationally, you have to start to unlock data.


MARY GRANT, MASS. COLLEGE OF LIBERAL ARTS PRESIDENT: It has to be personal.  It is overwhelming particularly if no one in your family has ever been to college.  Start out making no assumptions.  We have the Adams scholarship program in Massachusetts.  We have areas of significant rates of poverty.  It’s not all Tanglewood.  We found high-achieving kids, seniors in November who haven’t even thought about college.  We invited folks in and mothers and fathers say, I guess we should start thinking about college now.  It’s making it accessible and personal.  And right on the spot so you can have a conversation.  We are working in the youth programs and in the libraries to talk to folks.  We tell them it’s complicated but not impossible.  We have lousy Internet access.  We have to go out into the community.  It’s time intensive but it is worth the effort.  We do it much sooner than the junior, senior year.  It’s earlier and it’s personal.


QUESTION: We are discussing today the four-year experience.  We have two-year community colleges as well.  Completion rates there are worse than four-year colleges.  Parents may say I can deal with a two-year degree.  Should that be more of a draw or less of a draw?


CRAIG POWELL, CONNECTEDU CEO: Six million kids show up at the front door of two-year colleges every year and indicate they wish to complete a undergraduate four-year degree, 750,000 move on in any given year and of those they outpersist and outperform the four year-student in terms of completion and they do so with greater obstacles.  These kids are persisters.  The students who do succeed actually outperform the kids at four-year colleges when they go on.  There are all kinds of reasons to invest in that demographic relative to college access. 


MARY GRANT, MASS. COLLEGE OF LIBERAL ARTS PRESIDENT: We have tried to create seamless transfer programs between community colleges and four-year institutions to remove barriers.  Some of this is region-dependent.  It’s easier to work with the community college right down the street.  That is happening and it has to happen.  Four-year colleges are teaching classes right on community college campuses because of these immense challenges.  We do expect a lot from community colleges and have to give them support.


AUDIENCE QUESTION: Let’s talk politics for a second.  Give some recommendations to our next governor.  We have 129 higher education institutions.  It’s a big sector with a lot of jobs. We talk about the jobs people hold and the issue around higher education almost becoming a civil rights issue.  You can have lower income people locked out of college.


RICHARD DOHERTY, AICUM PRESIDENT AND CEO: I think that Massachusetts has done a terrible job supporting higher education.  It has been woefully lacking and unpredictable and that does not help parents with planning.  It contributes to the difficulty of students being able to graduate in four years.  We have done an awful job keeping up with financial aid.  The Mass. Grant Program, a needs-based program that is the equivalent of the Pell grant, 20 years ago was $54 million in the state budget.  That pushed forward should be $160 million and last year it was $35 million.  So it went down.  It’s no wonder that the challenge of paying for college is so daunting for middle class and lower middle class families.  An investment in a very personal realistic transactional college advising system would be a huge help.


MARY GRANT, MASS. COLLEGE OF LIBERAL ARTS PRESIDENT: For me it’s a no-brainer.  We need to invest in public higher education, plain and simple. We dropped from ninth to 37th in funding and we are presently 48th in per capita funding.  That is abysmal.  For me it’s very simple.  It is not always just about the money.  We have got to invest in these systems.  Across the country, I am worried that we are dismantling higher ed.  Invest in us and then hold us accountable.


MODERATOR JOHN SCHNEIDER, MASSINC EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT: We hear the business community is not engaging enough in the issue so there is not the support on Beacon Hill for more of an investment. Any thoughts on that Craig?


CRAIG POWELL, CONNECTEDU CEO: They are definitely focused, but perhaps not in areas that certain constituencies would like.  I spend my time with employers who are looking at talent pipelines with great concern.   They look at indebtedness as an issue with the expectation that workers will come to employers for assistance.  Employers are perplexed because the questions they have been asking for 15, 20 years, we are still asking today.












April 12, 2010
8:00 am - 10:00 am