Monday, November 16, 2015

Sunday Globe Special: Meehan's Mi$$ion

It's to preside over the end of public education in Massachusetts, such as it is:

"UMass fights to stay competitive, clamors for more funding" by Laura Krantz Globe Staff  November 07, 2015

While comparing university funding structures is difficult because each system calculates its finances differently, it is clear that state support for public colleges nationwide is shrinking even as university budgets continue to grow. That has prompted debate about when UMass and other public universities will essentially no longer be public institutions.

Part of a decades-long plan to basically destroy American education. 

What this effectively breaks down to is a select group of elites that can afford to send their kids to the best schools, thus securing their credentials for leadership. 

Then there will be the mass of students enslaved in the student debt cycle, all while being told they need the degree to advance as they graduate with largely useless degrees in politically-correct and agenda-advancing dogma. 

An ancillary effect of that will be an increasingly-dumbed down generation of uncritical thinkers, critical if a ruling class is to maintain control. That is what is also behind the destruction of the middle class, exacerbated by college costs.

The basic lesson here is American education is finished. It's AmeriKa now, kids. 

Public colleges in Massachusetts face an added disadvantage. In a state studded with elite private colleges, lawmakers historically have lacked the political will or sense of urgency to bolster the public system, even though UMass and the nine other state colleges educate far more Bay State residents than the privates do.

Excuse me, but that flies in the face of everything I've been told.

"The new dropout data are not surprising because the nation’s high school graduation rate has been steadily rising. It is not clear how many students are graduating with the skills they need for the workplace or for college. Graduation requirements vary widely across states, and many offer multiple levels of diplomas with different requirements. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in an interview that the ultimate measure of success is how many students graduate from high school and don’t need to take remedial classes in college, but he said the progress that the nation is making is real."

Must we be convinced of that which should be self-evident?

Newly installed UMass president Martin T. Meehan is campaigning for more state support, arguing that the five-campus system deserves more taxpayer dollars if it is to remain competitive with other top public systems. Meehan went toe-to-toe with lawmakers last week for an extra $10.9 million for the system.

And lost! 

Wait until you see what the money was for.

UMass and its peers increasingly rely on out-of-state and international students, who generally pay higher tuition, and on partnerships with companies that fund special projects. Many colleges are also raising tuition and student fees.

UMass has also tapped its online education program to generate extra income and has looked for efficiencies such as consolidating cellphone bills across the system.

UMass is also headed down the road to greater independence as it negotiates a new tuition payment system that will allow each campus to keep tuition revenue it collects from students. Previously, the campuses had to remit the tuition annually to the state, then bargain to get it back from lawmakers.

Make you go a-begging to them. What $cum!

Although the UMass budget has increased in the past three years, Meehan pointed to a period from 1999 to 2013 when state aid to the system stayed nearly flat while enrollment grew by 13,500 students.

That's incredible because I was told the one lasting legacy to Deval Patrick's regime was the investment in education.

Forty years ago, government financial aid covered more of the cost of public college education and was made up in greater part by grants rather than loans, which today leave many students saddled with debt.


In Massachusetts, public colleges now spend more of their own budgets on financial aid to make up for the lack of state support for scholarships. UMass has done that, Meehan said, by raising student fees, which this year rose by $900 after two years of no increases.

This is so contrary to the conventional myth that is constantly shoveled forth by politicians and state authorities!

“UMass has done more with less, but it’s not a sustainable long-term financial plan,” Meehan said.

One major challenge UMass faces is that it must finance many of its own building and maintenance projects, leaving the university highly leveraged and with a nearly exhausted borrowing capacity.

That is a fancy way of saying they are drowning in debt.

In Connecticut, meanwhile, legislative support allowed the University of Connecticut, a smaller system than UMass, to launch a massive building effort beginning in 1995 that continues today.

The state of Connecticut has committed to issuing $4.3 billion in bonds and has issued $2 billion so far, compared with the $1 billion UMass received the last time it was granted bonding authority, under Governor Deval Patrick.

Yeah, bonds are the way to go. Pay more over time so that money can be raised now. That's a good use of taxpayer dollars, keeping investors fat and happy. 

Hey, that's our $y$tem. 

“It’s twice as much for a smaller system, with the state carrying all of the debt service and UConn having control over the capital program,” said Scott A. Jordan, UConn’s chief financial officer and a UMass alumnus who spent many years working for the Massachusetts government.

Overall in Massachusetts, state funding for all public colleges, including community colleges and the nine state universities, is 23 percent below prerecession levels, even though it rose 5 percent from 2013 to 2014, according to data collected annually by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association.

“The truth is, most states can’t afford to fund their institutions of higher education the way they once did. They’ve got too many pressures,” said Matthew Lambert, vice president for university advancement at the College of William & Mary in Virginia, who wrote a book about public universities’ trend toward privatization.

That is interesting because the state can cut a check to Hollywood for $80 million, something they can then role over if it isn't needed. Corporations, Wall Street, the war machine, and Israel always seem to get enough loot. Same with the State House.

The question then becomes how much power states should have to regulate universities, since they contribute a shrinking portion of their budgets. Lambert said most lawmakers understand this and are willing to grant schools more regulatory freedom.

In the future, Lambert said, universities will have to rely more on revenue-generating techniques that have long been common among private colleges. That includes philanthropy and relying more on scholarships, rather than low tuition, to make college affordable....

Class dismissed.


"Ambitious school funding plan faces significant roadblocks" by David Scharfenberg Globe Staff  November 02, 2015

A bipartisan commission of lawmakers and educators recommended hundreds of millions of dollars in new spending on the state’s K-12 education system Monday, unveiling one of the most ambitious school finance blueprints in a generation.

The plan, which could cost a half-billion dollars or more per year, faces substantial fiscal and political hurdles. But proponents framed it as a vital response to years of school budget cuts and persistent academic achievement gaps separating wealthy from poor students and whites from blacks and Latinos.

The Globe cites one Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, a Jamaica Plain Democrat, as the Deval Patrick legacy comes apart at the seems. 

Lawmakers who served on the Foundation Budget Review Commission, however, acknowledged that education is one of many competing priorities on Beacon Hill. And finding the money for substantial new spending will be challenging.


Voters have proven to be skittish about tax hikes in recent years. And Governor Charlie Baker, soaring in opinion polls, firmly opposes them.

Baker declined to comment on the commission’s report in detail Monday, saying he had not yet read it. But the governor, who has cast himself as a protector of the fiscal interests of local government, including schools, said, “I certainly believe it’s important for the Commonwealth to be a good partner to our cities and towns.”

House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, a Winthrop Democrat, said it would be difficult for the state to ramp up spending by hundreds of millions of dollars in the short term, but he suggested a phase-in over time is a possibility.

The commissioners themselves said a gradual implementation is probably the most realistic course.

Massachusetts schools consistently rank among the best in the nation. And observers say much of the credit goes to the state’s landmark reform legislation of 1993, which married higher standards and accountability with a big infusion of public dollars.


The commission’s recommendations won the enthusiastic embrace of at least one top Beacon Hill leader. Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg, an Amherst Democrat, said the state “absolutely” needs to pour new money into the state’s education system.

"A surprising reversal by Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg on Wednesday prompted a wave of political backpedaling and finger-pointing on Beacon Hill that further complicated the issue of funding overdue raises for University of Massachusetts employees. Rosenberg appeared to startle other officials when he announced he had struck an agreement with UMass president Martin T. Meehan to fight for an extra $10.9 million the university said it needs to fill a budget deficit as a result of the raises. That came a day after Rosenberg, usually viewed as a key UMass supporter, faced criticism for failing to secure $10.9 million to cover the raises in a spending bill sent to the governor a week ago. “It’s my hope that [the] collective bargaining [raises] will be funded,” Rosenberg said Wednesday morning. But hours later, UMass backed away from the pact, and House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo rattled Rosenberg’s attempted d├ętente when he questioned whether there would be money to dole out in the coming months. The state faces the possibility of lower-than-projected revenue and mid-year budget cuts."

How can that be in this better-than-the-nation recovery and economic surge? Wildly outlandish speculations or stolen loot? 

Beyond that, Stan SCREWED WORKERS who negotiated a contract!? 

And somehow it was a win for him?

"Amid the finger-pointing and contradictory public statements, allies of Rosenberg saw reason to cheer. Rosenberg, whose strategy of leading from behind is seen in some State House circles as weakness, appeared to have notched an important victory: a commitment from University of Massachusetts president Martin T. Meehan to soften the impact of recent increases in student fees. In the standoff with the university system, Rosenberg’s supporters said he achieved a goal he’d personally pursued for months. “He uses a different leadership style than the dictator model of past Senate presidents. In this case, Stan used what the Harvard Kennedy School calls soft power to get a win for students as well as university professors. Leading from behind is a double-edged sword. The Senate presidency has historically been very powerful. But one of the Stan’s outspoken ambitions was to let the committee chairs be more active in setting the agenda, but that doesn’t mean you don’t use your power. You pick your fights and that is what Stan did here,’’ said Dan Payne, a Democratic media consultant. Whether the outcome of last week’s messy public bickering is good for the university is far from clear. If Rosenberg can’t work out a deal with House Speaker Robert DeLeo on the additional university funding in the coming weeks, UMass faces several million dollars of cuts to its administrative budget. The funding fight stretches back to early summer. Rosenberg, who, his allies say, identifies more with the students and faculty than with the administrators, was clearly peeved, believing that Meehan had not heeded his message. He insisted that if Meehan wanted the $10.9 million to cover university collective bargaining agreements, UMass had to use a good portion of it to help ease the impact of some of the recent increases in student fees. Meehan allies see it differently."

The only iron-clad contracts these days are those of CEOs and bureaucratic authorities.Other than that it is broken promises down the line.

Budgets have been tight in recent years, however, even amid an economic recovery, and spending hundreds of millions of dollars on education would probably mean taking money from other priorities such as public safety and child protection.

Are you sick of the $elf-$erving obfuscations and excuses yet?

Spending was not the sole focus of the commission’s 20-page report. The panel also called for better data collection, pressing for a system that tracks funding directed at low-income and English language learners and another examining spending at the school level.

Linda Noonan, executive director of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, which had a seat on the commission, said the recommendations are a good start. But she said the panel could have focused a bit more on efficient use of the more than $16 billion in federal, state, and local funds Massachusetts spends annually on K-12 education.

“That’s a lot of money,” she said, “and we need to know that every dollar is spent wisely.”

Good thing we know that it is not in Massachusetts.


Time for a victory tour:

"New UMass president visits university’s campuses" by Laura Krantz Globe Staff  November 10, 2015

Newly installed University of Massachusetts president Martin T. Meehan crisscrossed the state from dawn until dusk Monday to visit all five university campuses as he prepares for his inauguration ceremony on Thursday.

The marathon of visits was meant to symbolize the president’s pledge to make the campuses more unified, said Meehan, who technically started as leader of the public university system in July.

Was that money spent wisely?

On Monday night, one of Meehan’s stops included a graduate business class at UMass Boston, where the students explained how they use Bloomberg terminals to invest money in the stock market.

“This is great. I think this is great,” Meehan told students as they explained what they have learned.

The president started the tour in Dartmouth at 7:30 a.m., then made his way to the flagship campus in Amherst, then to the medical school in Worcester, on to Lowell where he used to be chancellor, and finally to the Boston campus at Columbia Point.

His visits included a bioengineering lab in Dartmouth, a history class in Amherst, a simulation center at the medical school, and a River Hawks hockey practice in Lowell.

At the finance class in Boston, two students shared stories about why they chose to attend UMass and what their goals are.

“Five years go, I was packing boxes in a warehouse, and struggling to make ends meet,” said Chris Reece, wearing a business suit and tie. He hopes to become an accountant for nonprofit organizations, he said.

Meehan told students he has been meeting with chief executives of large finance companies in Boston, and said he would tell them about this class and see whether the companies would be interested in helping to support financial literacy courses.

“One of the things that we need to do is get more private funding,” Meehan said.

Do I even need type anything, students?

Professor Atreya Chakraborty started the finance class four years ago with just one Bloomberg terminal and $25,000 in donated money for students to invest. Now the classroom has 12 terminals and $89,000, of which about $30,000 is profit and the rest is more donations.

Chakraborty said the unstructured format of the class is important because it teaches students to think the way they will have to in the real world, where there is no textbook or instruction manual....

Or college bubble.


Time to get into it:

"Meehan, Rosenberg need detente in faculty pay raise battle" by Adrian Walker Globe Columnist  November 12, 2015

LOWELL — Marty Meehan was in his element when he dropped by the UMass Lowell campus Monday as part of a statewide tour of the five campuses that comprise the university he was tapped to run this summer.

He posed for selfies with students, toured a construction site, and attended a reception for a renowned robotics professor.

(Blog editor shaking head)

No doubt, the University of Massachusetts president was enjoying being in his hometown, and on the campus of his undergraduate alma mater. But he also may have relished his brief respite from the State House politics that have proven surprisingly confounding thus far.

The longtime congressman and former UMass Lowell chancellor was elevated to head of the state university system largely on the strength of his fund-raising and political skills. Which makes it surprising that he finds himself locked in an intense political battle with Senate President Stan Rosenberg, a UMass Amherst alumnus who has been one of the system’s biggest boosters on Beacon Hill for years. 

Uh-huh. (Keep reading)

Meehan and Rosenberg have been at loggerheads over funding a $10.9 million raise for faculty members that was negotiated before Meehan took over. The amount is small change in the context of a $3 billion budget. But Meehan spent the money before it was appropriated, and the Legislature subsequently cut it out of the state budget. The aftermath has become a full-blown soap opera that threatened to overshadow Meehan’s formal installation ceremony Thursday.

Yup. (Keep reading)

As is typical for State House budget battles, the details are opaque to anyone who isn’t directly affected.

Here’s a summary: In the budget process, the House included funding for the raises, and the Senate didn’t. Normally, these differences are resolved easily enough, but not this time.

The absence of the raise money in the Senate budget appears to be tied to Rosenberg’s insistence that UMass reduce student fees — and he hasn’t gotten what he wants. He says Meehan’s predecessor, Robert Caret, had agreed to consider lowering fees if UMass received an increase in state funding. Providing relief for cash-strapped students and parents, he seems to believe, is a higher priority than funding faculty raises.

So the money that Meehan thought had been insured was instead diverted to the state’s rainy-day fund.

The banker's needed to be rea$$ured.

He wanted to give the faculty the money, noting that the state had agreed in collective bargaining to pay the raises. He was troubled, he says, by the prospect of protests on UMass campuses by disgruntled faculty and staff, about 6,000 of whom were covered by the raises.

Wow, Stan really screwed 'em!

“Universities are all about people, and morale would have been horrible,” Meehan said. “It would be a dangerous precedent that they can negotiate raises without paying for them.”

One that has already been set with all the collective bargaining givebacks by public service $cum.

There’s blame to go around. Meehan spent money he didn’t actually have yet, which was risky. Rosenberg, on the other hand, is wrong to treat a negotiated raise as something the state can simply abandon or use as a bargaining chip. The notion that cutting student fees — or, rather, slowing down the inevitable rise of fees — should be tied to faculty salaries is illogical. On balance, Rosenberg is more wrong than Meehan, I think.

So what happens now? Unless the Legislature reverses course and funds the raises, each of the campuses will be forced to trim their budgets, midway through the fiscal year, to compensate for the raises. That wouldn’t be disastrous, but it shouldn’t be necessary, either. Absent a fiscal crisis, the state should fund the contracts it negotiated.

Meehan’s ascension to the presidency followed an inspired seven-year run at UMass Lowell in which he demonstrated that smart management could transform a college many had dismissed as an afterthought.

It should be refreshing to see that same aggressive and ambitious style applied to the system as a whole, and the Legislature should be an eager partner.

Perhaps it is true that costs for UMass families are rising too quickly. But the larger point is that progress at UMass has consistently been sacrificed on the altar of State House politics.

The best thing Rosenberg could do for UMass would be to place its mission ahead of political brinkmanship.

Do his constituents know about this?


"At inauguration, Meehan pledges to elevate UMass" by Laura Krantz Globe Staff  November 13, 2015

Martin T. Meehan was inaugurated Thursday as the 27th president of the University of Massachusetts in a ceremony that emphasized his rise to prominence from humble roots and his desire to elevate UMass in the same manner.


Meehan, wearing the gold presidential necklace draped over him by Governor Charlie Baker, told state and federal officials, family, and friends gathered at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute in Dorchester that UMass is destined for greatness.

“We literally educate the workforce of Massachusetts, and we can’t have a strong economy in this state unless we invest in education and invest in the University of Massachusetts,” he said.

The Lowell native takes over at a critical juncture for the five-campus university as it seeks to raise its national profile in a state where private colleges have long overshadowed public universities.

How are the football and basketball teams doing?

But thanks to his success as chancellor at UMass Lowell, and because of his enthusiasm and political skills, Meehan has even the most skeptical observers watching to see if he can succeed at a time when students demand more affordable educations.

During the ceremony, Meehan described his childhood as one of seven children in a small house in Lowell.

His father was a typesetter at the Lowell Sun newspaper who worked nights as a guard at the county jail, Meehan said, but despite his long hours, found time to instill a love of learning in his children. Meehan graduated from UMass Lowell in 1978 and is the first alumni to lead the system.

“As I take the presidency of the University of Massachusetts, I see myself as carrying the torch that my parents lit,” Meehan said in his remarks Thursday.

Baker called Meehan “the ultimate five-tool player,” using a baseball term to laud Meehan’s clarity, follow-through, collaboration, leadership, and energy.

“This guy doesn’t see this as a step to something else; he doesn’t think about it as another feather in his cap; he’s not doing this for the prestige and the glory. He wants to do the job,’’ Baker said.

The inauguration came four months after Meehan officially started the job. His tenure hasn’t been all smooth sailing.

The five campus chancellors who gave Meehan a standing ovation Thursday are simultaneously deciding how they will make mid-year budget cuts that will total $10.9 million, a setback that sparked a political spat last week with Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg.

Rosenberg blocked the university from getting the money after UMass refused to consider his request to lower fees, which rose for the first time this year in three years, by about $900 per student.

On Thursday at the inauguration, Rosenberg showed no sign of lingering hard feelings. He and Meehan clapped and swayed side-by-side in the aisle as the UMass Lowell gospel choir performed “Freedom,” by Eddie James.

So it's a fake fight, isn't it? It's all bullish** imagery and illusion.

F*** this!

But the message Rosenberg sent in the Legislature — to keep college costs in check — will likely dominate Meehan’s tenure.

Experts say the university, as it aspires to greatness, would err to make the system unaffordable.

“The university is going to have to take more initiative on its own, both on cost cutting and new sources of revenue,” said Paul Reville, the former state education secretary who teaches at Harvard.

Another key to Meehan’s success, several observers said, will be UMass’s ability to produce graduates whose skills match the needs of the state economy.

“I’d like UMass to be, instead of topin the country, number one focused on meeting the state’s needs,” said Richard Freeland, former state higher education commissioner and former president of Northeastern University.

Freeland said UMass should integrate more with the state universities and community colleges, something UMass in the past has not done.

Securing funding from the state, where just 22 percent of Beacon Hill lawmakers are UMass graduates, is likely to remain a yearly slog.

Lawmakers traditionally have not been sympathetic to a system where some administrators earn more than $300,000 when the state faces other priorities such as improving the MBTA and the Department of Children and Families.

Freeland said that during his 45 years in Massachusetts higher education, he has watched UMass face the same challenges it does today.

“Dealing with the overwhelming presence of these great private universities and getting on the state’s radar screen as an important resource is just a constant challenge,” he said.

The sentiment that UMass must take a back seat to the likes of Harvard and MIT was famously captured by former Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis, who in 1986 told a Globe reporter “We aren’t California, we’re not Texas, and we’re not Michigan. We do happen to have some of the finest academic institutions in the world. And I don’t think it makes sense for us to try to duplicate that.”

Dukakis fought against UMass’s attempt to create a law school, which it ultimately did, as well as other UMass initiatives, and made some of the biggest cuts to UMass’s budget in its history during his tenure.

Dukakis this week called himself “badly misquoted” 30 years ago, but stood behind his assertion that UMass should not try to replicate the successes of the privates. Instead, he said, UMass needs to be a quality, affordable alternative.

“There’s no way that [the private colleges] are going to accommodate the number of young people in this state that need and deserve a first-class education,” Dukakis said.


Related: Sunday Globe Special: Drug War Retreat

Another loss Marty suffered.

UMass medical students train to treat, prevent opioid abuse

Too late to bring his kin back from the brink, but....


"UMass president aims to fire Dartmouth chief" by Laura Krantz Globe Staff  November 26, 2015

University of Massachusetts president Martin T. Meehan has moved to dismiss the chancellor of the Dartmouth campus, Divina Grossman, by the end of the academic year amid concerns about the campus’s performance, according to two officials with direct knowledge of the situation.

Under Grossman’s 3½-year tenure, enrollment has fallen and private fund-raising has plummeted, even as debt mounts.

In addition, the campus has cycled through three chief financial officers and as many provosts and fund-raising directors.

The move to oust Grossman is Meehan’s first major leadership change since he took over in July with a pledge to elevate the stature of the five-campus university system....