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The podium

Excerpts from the Globe’s ‘Voices of New England’ blog

Keeping the ‘public’ in public education

As chairmen of the boards of Higher Education and the University of Massachusetts, we know that keeping the “public” in public higher education is more than a slogan. It is an urgent and essential proposition in a state that lives and dies by its brainpower.

By 2018, Massachusetts will lead the nation in the number of jobs — 70 percent — requiring a college education. Where will these skilled workers needed for industry sectors such as health care, IT, life sciences, and advanced manufacturing come from? All indications are that the graduates of community colleges, state universities, and campuses of the University of Massachusetts will provide the lion’s share of these future employees, with 52 percent of all undergraduates in the state now attending public campuses. Nine of every 10 public college and university students remain in state a year after graduation.

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Are we up to the task of being the primary builder of the state’s future workforce? By many accounts, the public campuses we oversee deliver much more than they might be expected to, given that state funding has not kept pace with an enrollment growth of 21 percent over the last five years. We are committed to squeezing all we can from every dollar of revenue allocated by the legislature. UMass has lowered the per-pupil costs of education. The university is committed to identifying efficiencies and creating new cost-savings initiatives.

The commitment to doing more with less without sacrificing quality should not detract, however, from the disturbing reality of cost-shifting from the state to students. As state support has flatlined, the burden of tuition and fees has transferred to students and their families, which is why Governor Patrick has embraced UMass President Robert Caret’s call for the state to support at least 50 percent of educational costs at UMass.

We believe that the very mission of Massachusetts public higher education — “to ensure that Massachusetts residents have the opportunity to benefit from a higher education that enriches their lives and advances their contributions to the civic life, economic development, and social progress of the Commonwealth” — hangs in the balance of the current tax and spending discussion.

CHARLES DESMON

Massachusetts Board of Higher
Education

HENRY M. THOMAS III

UMass Board of Trustees

Marriage —
one man, one woman

Same-sex marriage proponents argue that sexual preference should be a protected class in the eyes of the law. But the Supreme Court criteria for a protected class is that they must be economically deprived, politically powerless, and have immutable characteristics, none of which apply to the wealth, political power, and lifestyle choices of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community.

Redefining marriage would put a new principle into the law — that marriage is whatever the government says it is, all in the advocacy of adult sexual preferences over the rights of children to a mother and a father. And where would it stop? Since same-sex marriage was established by judicial fiat in Massachusetts, religious adoption agencies have been curtailed, parental education rights have been denied, and a full-court press is underway to take away the modesty, privacy, and safety of all citizens in the name of transgender access to public bathrooms. The sky over our heads has an ominous look of falling.

KRIS MINEAU

Massachusetts Family Institute

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