FSU And Other MA Public Institutions Could Be Facing Up To 30% In Budget Cuts 


Lorenzo DeMalia – 
Graduating college is a dream of students across the country. In 2018 approximately 19.6 million people were enrolled in higher education, with 14.5 million students enrolled in public colleges, and 5.1 million in private colleges. The benefits of obtaining a bachelor’s degree are substantial, as those who obtain a bachelor’s degree tend to earn more money over a lifetime then people with just a highschool diploma. 
But for college students rising tuition rates, as well as budget cuts, have made college less affordable and less accessible. Nowadays working a full time job and attending college is normal, as students are forced to work to simply keep food on the table. 
Over the past two decades the state of Massachusetts has been quietly defunding higher education. Adjusting for inflation, state appropriations have declined 32 percent since 2001, for Fitchburg State they only amount for one third of the university operating costs. The rest is left up to the students of the university to pay. Average tuitions and fees at a MA public school have more than doubled (adjusted for inflation), a rate of increase greater than two thirds of the country. 
To attend FSU this year it cost over $25,000. This is forcing students to take on more loans with a student averaging $28,000 in loans by graduation. The lack of investment has created an opportunity gap as higher education is more racially, and economically diverse then it ever has been before. MA only spends $225 per capita on higher education, which is below the national average. The Boston Globe reported that only 18 percent of Latino’s and 25 percent of Black adults have obtained a bachelor’s degree, compared to 45 percent of white adults. 
At the end of October, the level funding that the state legislature has provided for MA institutions of public higher education will expire. If the legislature does not vote to extend level funding, FSU and all other public institutions could face up to 30% budget cuts. These cuts would be catastrophic for the FSU community in a wide variety of ways including raising student tuition, faculty and staff layoffs, and program closures.
In response the Massachusetts State College Association, alongside the Massachusetts Teachers Association, hosted a town hall on Thursday, Oct 22, to express their concerns to state legislators. This was the first event sponsored by the Central Mass Public Higher Ed network, a coalition of all stakeholders from Fitchburg State and Worcester State, Mt. Wachusett and Quinsigamond community colleges. 
“It seemed to me that it was very powerful and effective.” Said Rala Diakite, a professor in the humanities department at FSU. “I look forward to working together with the wonderful people from these institutions in the future, on the important issues we are all facing, and using our collective voice to improve higher ed here in Central Mass and in the Commonwealth”
Cuts would be devastating for institutions such as FSU. As costs increase, access will decrease. Classes will grow larger, courses won’t be offered, and student services such as academic support, disability services, and mental health will surely be reduced. 
Governor Charlie Baker has proposed a bill that will level fund higher education through June 21, 2021. “We are calling on the legislature to approve this budget measure, and even improve upon it, so that our institutions of higher ed can fulfill their promise to our citizens, and assist in the economic recovery of our state”. Said Dr. Diakite. This is an ongoing process and will continue to evolve as the year is rapidly coming to a close.