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Legislation to ensure a strong public higher education system 

Lead Sponsors: Senator Jo Comerford (D-Northampton), Senator Robyn Kennedy (D-Worcester), Senator Paul Mark (D-Becket), Senator Jake Oliveira (D-Ludlow), Representative Sean Garballey (D-Arlington) and Representative Pat Duffy (D-Holyoke)

The Cherish Act establishes a blueprint for a world-class system of public higher education that is urgently needed to meet widely shared goals in the Commonwealth. If passed, it would enable people of all backgrounds in every community to build successful and fulfilling lives; address economic, social and racial equity gaps; meet our state’s climate change goals; create high-quality workplaces with fair wages and benefits to attract and retain faculty and staff; enable new discoveries and innovation; and invest in a competitive workforce that is the engine of the state’s economy.

This bill would:

  • Create a program that would enable students to graduate from public higher education debt-free, beginning in FY24 with debt-free community college. 
  • Invest $2,000 per high-need student in expanded student support services, expanding the proven SUCCESS program to all of public higher education. 
  • Ensure eligibility for state health care and retirement benefits for adjunct faculty and part-time staff. 
  • Establish a Commission on Wage Equity and Working Conditions to recommend changes aimed at eliminating inequities based on gender, race, job category and other conditions and ensure that Massachusetts is competitive with peer states. 
  • Institute fair and adequate minimum funding levels for public higher education that would be phased in over five years, and prohibit tuition and fee increases during this implementation as long as the state’s funding commitment is met. 
  • Create a commission to assess public college and university buildings relative to health, safety and energy efficiency, and to recommend a plan to bring all buildings into compliance with this standard by 2035. 
  • Require the state to assume the full cost of state salaries and fringe benefits, future capital construction and renovations to campus facilities, and to pay for campuses’ existing capital debt service obligations.