Derrick Z. Jackson got it half right — Massachusetts is not a two-tiered public higher education state (“Pricing out state university students”). It has three tiers, and they include community colleges, where the most at-risk, lowest-income, greatest-minority students receive the least amount of public support and shoulder the highest percentage of financial burden to pursue their dreams.
The 15 Massachusetts community colleges enroll 57 percent of the total undergraduates in public higher education, more than UMass and state colleges and universities combined. Yet our sector only receives 25 percent of the total higher-education pie. UMass student support is three times higher per student, with public colleges and universities two times higher.
In 2000, state support for community colleges comprised 52 percent of North Shore Community College’s operating budget. We now get 36 percent. Thus the financial burden has shifted onto those least able to afford higher education, resulting in fewer full-time and more part-time students.
Community college students don’t face a choice of public vs. private education — it’s community college education or nothing. The majority of those who withdraw are not transferring somewhere else. They are not going to college at all.
Massachusetts community college students deserve at least an equal shot along with other public higher-education students. It’s a matter of social justice.