Contact: Katy Abel, External Affairs
Mass. Department of Higher Education
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Campus, Business and Labor Leaders Hail "Excellence and Accountability" Goals for Public System
(MARLBOROUGH)-- Hundreds of campus delegates from Massachusetts' 29 public colleges and universities recently gathered to chart a new course for aspiration and accountability in the public higher education system.
University and College presidents and university chancellors gathered at a conference in Marlborough to signal their growing support for the "Vision Project," a new plan to position Massachusetts for national leadership in post-secondary learning. The work to implement the Vision Project began in earnest as delegates addressed ways to measure college readiness, graduation rates, efforts to close persistent achievement gaps, and the degree to which the higher education system is meeting the state's workforce needs. The Vision Project received support from campus leaders in May; last spring the Board of Higher Education voted to issue annual Vision Project reports showing how Massachusetts' public colleges and universities rank in comparison to 49 other states.
"Our aggressive focus on improving education has increased the number of students prepared for the rigors of college," said Governor Deval Patrick. "Our campus leaders have quietly and powerfully done the work for years and it's up to all of us now to shine the spotlight on their accomplishments and expand our support for their efforts to prepare the future leaders of our Commonwealth."
"Massachusetts public colleges and universities are right now educating the next generation of leaders," said Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray. "I commend the public higher education community for its ongoing commitment to excellence and the unity being shown around the Vision Project."
In the midst of the fiscal crisis, the Patrick-Murray Administration has made significant investments in public higher education including through a $2 billion bond bill to fund infrastructure and facility improvements on all 29 campuses as well as the strategic use of $350 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to help prevent major reductions to campus-level budgets. This year, Governor Patrick signed legislation to rename the state colleges to state universities in recognition of the high quality education and degree opportunities available. The Governor also celebrated the opening in September of the state's first-ever public law school at the University of Massachusetts.
The Administration is committed to building a seamless high quality education system for all students starting with preschool and continuing through higher education. Commissioner Freeland has been working over the past two years with his colleagues in Early Education and Care and Elementary and Secondary Education to align curricula and expectations to ensure students are college and career ready. The Vision Project outlines the next steps for improving public higher education statewide.
In his keynote address to the delegates, Commissioner Richard M. Freeland issued a "Memo to Massachusetts" urging a greater appreciation of the contributions of public higher education to the state's knowledge-based economy.
"We must demonstrate excellence to the people of this state, but we must also set aspirational goals, measure our performance against other states, and let the public know how we are doing," said Freeland. "Through the Vision Project, we will produce the best educated citizenry and workforce in the nation. And we will lead the nation in research that drives economic development."
"Massachusetts is a national leader in elementary and secondary education recognized for our record of achievement and bold reforms," said Education Secretary Paul Reville. "We must now apply the lessons learned from nearly 20 years of education reform to our public institutions of higher education to build a seamless system of high quality and high expectations for our students."
Campus delegates also heard from business and labor representatives, including Alan Macdonald, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable, Robert Haynes, President of the Massachusetts ALF-CIO, and Mary Jo Meisner, Vice President of the Boston Foundation.
Following the morning plenary, campus representatives gathered in working sessions to discuss the educational goals of the Vision Project and plan campus initiatives to achieve them. Working groups will continue to meet throughout the year to advance system-wide efforts. The Department of Higher Education plans to issue an annual report to the people of the Commonwealth on progress toward national leadership in each of the Vision Project goals. For more information visit: http://www.mass.edu/currentinit/visionproject.asp