Massachusetts report urges centralization

Massachusetts should expand statewide control of its 15 community colleges argues a new report from the influential Boston Foundation. In the centralized system focused on job training, colleges should be judged and funded based on student performance, the report concluded.

The state’s community colleges “have failed to connect in a systemic way with prospective workforce, economic development and employer partners,” reports Inside Higher Ed.

As a result there is no way to make broad curriculum changes based on workforce needs, it argues, and colleges and community-based groups compete for resources rather than cooperate.

“There are good programs within the community college system, but the system as a whole is under-resourced, overly fragmented, and not well aligned with the needs of Massachusetts employers in the knowledge economy,” said Paul S. Grogan, the foundation’s president, in a written statement.

Virginia’s centralized community college system was offered as a model for Massachusetts.

Community college presidents believe they already collaborate, reports the Boston Globe.

“We think we’re doing a hell of a lot better job than we did in the past,’’ said William Messner, president of Holyoke Community College. “We’re on the case.’’

Job training “what we do,” said Ira Rubenzahl, president of Springfield Technical Community College, who was a panelist for the report’s presentation. “We’ve been doing it for 50 years.’’  “I’m concerned that [the proposed structural changes] will be disruptive at a time when our institutions are fragile.’’

The system needs “radical change,” not “tweaking,” responded Grogan.

Next door in Connecticut, the community colleges will share a state board with the Connecticut State University System, a move that’s not popular with college officials.

“Board consolidation is a trendy idea in some states, particularly when budgets are tight,” notes Inside Higher Ed. Louisiana may merge its higher education boards. A proposal in  Rhode Island would create a single K-12 and higher education board.

Decentralization is on the table in other states, such as Wisconsin, which may separate its flagship university from the rest of the state university system.