The issue of college and university funding, building consensus on different interests, and navigating a system that balances campus autonomy and government leadership was announced Thursday by state higher education supervisors in an area for potential new commissioners. This is one of the pressure points I emphasized when I started narrowing it down.

In approximately six hours of interviews, the Higher Education Commission learned more about the four finalists in the state’s top public higher education careers, their professional experience, top priorities, and fit for the Massachusetts world. evaluated the possibilities. college or university.

Two of the candidates, Lane Glen, Chancellor of Northern Essex Community College, and Mary Churchill, Associate Dean of Boston University’s Wheelock College of Education and Human Development, already have Bay State roots. Two of her others, former Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Noe Ortega and California Community College official Marty Alvarado, bring an out-of-state perspective to the role.

School board member Carlos Santiago announced his intention to resign in January. He plans to leave his $243,734 a year job at the end of June, but Higher Education Commissioner Chris Gabrielli said Santiago was prepared to stay on to help transition to a new commissioner.

Last week, a panel of researchers nominated four finalists, and the board will vote on August 30th to recommend their priorities for the next leader.

All four candidates will meet with Department of Higher Education staff, campus representatives, the public, and others affected by the process after answering over an hour of questions from the board on Thursday. Participated in a 45 minute forum.

Highlights from the public interview include:

Noe Ortega

Ortega, the first candidate to appear on the board Thursday, resigned from the role in April after nearly two years as Pennsylvania’s secretary of education. He previously spent eight years at the University of Michigan, where he held various academic and administrative positions, and almost ten years at several public and private universities in Texas.

Ortega pointed to that experience when asked to provide specific examples of steps he’s taken in his career to improve educational outcomes for low-income students and students of color. Home to a large Hispanic and Latino population and, in Ortega’s words, “the lowest post-secondary attainment rate in the region”, it will improve the performance of students of color in South Texas. I remembered that I was hired by a goal.

One factor behind this disparity, Ortega said, is the lack of nearby colleges and universities, with many families, especially those with first-generation college students, opting for higher education. I hesitate to travel a lot to receive it.

Ortega’s team has built partnerships between public and private institutions and opened a satellite center in South Texas. Ortega called it “a small, small victory that starts to build momentum for the idea of ​​creating a college-going culture.”

“Originally, it was a racial equality-type initiative, clearly envisioned to help the Latinx community and improve post-secondary education, but ultimately it was a South Texas It has benefited the whole,” he said.

Ortega also described one of his biggest concerns as a “troubling trend” in which Americans increasingly question the value of a college degree and argue that “college isn’t for everyone.” .

“For me, this is a very disturbing trend that we must continue to push back,” Ortega said, arguing that many voices at the university were making that point.

Marty Alvarado

Next before the board was another out-of-state candidate. After more than a decade of his stint at Long Beach City College, Alvarado joined the JFF, a national non-profit organization, with a focus on expanding pathways to higher education, a state education initiative. We have partnered with the leader of the system. In 2019, she joined California Community College’s Office of the Chancellor, serving as Vice Chancellor for Equitable Learning, Experience, and Impact for Students.

In an interview, Alvarado called it pursuing “disruptive change in higher education,” and said that a “static” culture between campus leaders and state supervisors was a threat to authorities amid shifting economic realities. warned that it would interfere with the best possible support for students.

When the discussion turned to technical and vocational education, Alvarado said he wanted to break the “false dichotomy” of mutually exclusive liberal arts and technical courses.

“We have a knowledge economy,” she said. “To enable individuals in our state to thrive in the economy beyond the upward career mobility trajectory, it requires specific technical application skills and the ability to obtain and process information, as well as high-level You need to have the thinking skills, recognizing patterns and so on so you can actually execute on your ongoing career transition.”

Unlike the Massachusetts model, California has a decentralized community college system with 116 campuses overseen by 73 local election commissions. Alvarado said he worked with a team of officials during the pandemic to rethink community college policies to address issues that emerged early in COVID-19.

“What it has allowed us to do is find out where there were policies that didn’t serve the students and didn’t serve the environment that wanted them to thrive,” she said. It really prompted some conversations about what it means to create affiliation, support our students, and make sure we are contributing to their success, rather than judging their worth. ”

Mary Churchill

After the lunch break, the board turned its attention to two Bay State University candidates for the state’s top post of higher education, starting with Churchill.

Since 2018, she has been the Associate Dean of Strategic Initiatives and Community Engagement at BU’s Wheelock College of Education and Human Development, serving as the primary liaison with Boston Public Schools. Her experience with Churchill also extends to Massachusetts, including stints at Salem State University and Northeastern University before she joined her BU.

Churchill called on educators to foster better cooperation across the three pillars of Massachusetts public higher education: community colleges, state universities, and the UMass system. Churchill added that stronger partnerships between state higher education systems and employers can address labor shortages while increasing demand for colleges.

“I’ve been talking to local councils here in Boston and across the federal government throughout our history that employers need to hire and they’re really desperate to hire and they’re raising their own stock as well. “It’s clear we’re in an era where the agenda and they’re trying to recruit more diverse candidates,” she said. increase.”

Asked about the work he has done to support the careers of low-income students and students of color, Churchill said he has worked in continuing education programs for nontraditional students at Northeastern University and Salem State University. I remember her work. Time spent raising children or working low-income jobs.

These courses, including hybrid courses, are “flexible and aimed at meeting students where they are,” she said.

“Throughout my life, I have tried to center what I call the most underserved and neglected corners of the room and work to address them and put their needs at the center. I did,” said Churchill.

lane glen

Rounding out the interview was Glenn, Chancellor of Northern Essex Community College since 2011.

Glenn said he was proud of his tenure leading a community college with campuses in Haverhill and Lawrence, with a particular focus on serving Hispanic and Latinx students.

“Massachusetts has one of the largest disparities in college-going rates for Hispanic whites in the nation. Northern Essex Community College has one of the highest proportions of Hispanic students of any college in Massachusetts. It’s one,” Glenn said. “This population is growing at a time when most other demographics are not. We are uniquely positioned to help.”

When the Board asked him about his views on public higher education funding, Glenn referred to a Commonwealth Magazine article he wrote in 2018 that at the time, Massachusetts public universities were funded by the state government. did not receive more than 50% of

Instead, Glenn said on Thursday, “We are a whole system of publicly-backed private institutions.”

“Over the decades, we have moved from this conception of public higher education as a public good to public higher education as a private property. It’s been transferred to individuals,” Glenn said. “Whatever you think about it, that’s what really happened, leading us to a spike in student loan debt and more.”

He said individual campuses must maintain “the autonomy they need to raise funds” and work with foundations and other partners, noting that a performance-based funding model will drive dollars to colleges and students. warned that it could harm the

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