Gov defends unifying community colleges

BOSTON, Mass. (WWLP) — Governor Deval Patrick addressed lawmakers and his top education officials Tuesday on the independent and localized nature of community colleges across the Commonwealth.  While Patrick praised their regionalized agendas, he said there needs to be a “shared governance model” that unifies the community college system and keeps schools on track with statewide job goals.

“We have 15 different community colleges driving 15 different agendas, that’s a fact, that’s not a critique, that’s a fact,” said Patrick.  “We …need a system that is aligned with what we’re trying to do Commonwealth-wide.”

According to the governor, there are 120,000 vacant job openings in Massachusetts because there is a mismatch between job seekers and the skills needed to fill those jobs.  Patrick’s solution is to integrate community colleges with the state’s economic goals and education systems, which has critics concerned.

“We have to be careful about not losing control of the local boards and you know it’s concerning that the presidents of these community colleges might be chosen by someone in Boston,” said Rep. Ellen Story (D-Amherst).

Administration officials said their proposal preserves local Boards of Trustees to manage daily campus operations, but holds them accountable for meeting statewide performance benchmarks using minimum intervention. Colleges will be expected to meet education goals and coordinate with vocational schools and other higher education institutions to make it easier for students to transfer.

“This is an effort to achieve a balance between responsiveness at the state level and local autonomy and local control so that the community colleges can be asked to fit into a statewide system,” said Massachusetts Higher Education Commissioner Richard Freeland.

By the end of the meeting, Rep. Story said she felt more optimistic about the proposal, especially when members from the business community said they were willing to raise private funds to help community colleges.

Copyright 2014 WWLP TV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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