Some Sort of Vision

The head of the state of Massachusetts’s higher education system has a plan to improve the state’s public colleges.

Richard Freeland, the commissioner of higher education, wants to make the state’s 29 campuses work toward “shared goals.” This initiative is called the Vision Project. Freeland’s hope is that these shared goals will eventually improve the actual quality of the colleges.

According to an article by Mary Moore in the Boston Business Journal:

The Vision Project, which is on track to issue a report next spring, aims to improve the status of Massachusetts’ state universities, colleges and community colleges, measure them against their peers in other states and, ultimately, increase financial support for them in the Legislature. The project focuses on measuring and making improvements in five areas — college participation, college completion, student learning, workforce alignment and elimination of disparities.

Freeland’s efforts here move in an interesting direction. His plan is to use data collection to “benchmark Massachusetts higher-education system against its peers” and “determine what the [workforce] needs will be in the future” and alter colleges to reflect that. These changes will make the system great. He’ll then use this greatness to try and get the legislature to give the schools more money (this will, presumably, result in even more greatness).

But that’s sort of a risky plan. If Freeland’s state colleges can “be the best in the country” with the Bay State’s already paltry funding (in fiscal year 2007, Massachusetts ranked 46th in the nation in per-capita funding of public colleges), the legislators might conclude that the schools don’t really need more public money.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer