Both the Massachusetts House and Senate provide tools in their budgets to sharpen the focus of the state’s community college system. Each seeks to prepare students to meet the needs of local employers. But the House approach is straighter and stronger.
Both bodies propose a new funding formula that rewards colleges for innovation and aligning their offerings with the state’s workforce development goals. The House wisely puts the responsibility for the new formula in the hands of the commissioner of higher education in consultation with community college presidents. The Senate, however, would give that task to a special commission that includes members of the Legislature.
Legislative control over the line items of the 15 colleges has been responsible, in part, for their inconsistent quality. The commissioner of higher education is in a more objective position to ensure that funding priorities match the needs of students, not political interests.
Overall, the House does a better job of creating conditions that improve accountability, standardize course offerings, and solve credit transfer problems. In the important task of providing students with an accessible, affordable way to train for dramatically better jobs, the state would be better served if the House provisions prevail in the ongoing budget negotiations.