AICUM News & Events

AICUM in the News

Boston Business Journal:
Opinion: Regulation of Small Colleges Must Tread Carefully on these Economic Engines
By Richard Doherty
May 29 2018


There is no question the sudden closure of Mount Ida College was shockingly disappointing and disruptive for 1,500 students and their families, and the faculty and staff at the college. Therefore, no one should begrudge efforts by regulators and policymakers to consider reinforcing the guardrails and guidelines aimed at avoiding a similar outcome in the event of future college closures.


But if we want to protect one of the most vital drivers of this state’s economy, we need to move carefully and thoughtfully to be certain we don’t end up making things worse for colleges across this state working to restructure and reinvent themselves in a rapidly evolving higher education environment.


Small colleges are incredibly entrepreneurial, finding niches, developing new academic programs to respond to the needs of our innovation economy and, in the end, evolving from challenged institutions to ones that thrive. They revitalize their missions and remain economic drivers.


Right now our congressional delegation is — rightly — outraged at a company laying off 160 workers in Fall River and moving those jobs to Mexico. Recently, Boston and the state pledged millions in tax breaks in exchange for General Electric’s promise of 800 jobs. The town of Agawam just announced $150,000 in tax breaks to create 10 new jobs at a local factory.


In Newton, Mount Ida issued regular paychecks to almost 500 faculty, staff and contract employees. Its students and staff were the regular customers of surrounding stores, salons, restaurants and coffee shops. It was a bulwark against more intensive, less green, development on its 72-acre campus. In other words: Every small college in our state is a local economic engine. In dozens of towns and cities, they are the heart of the community. If we are going to move forward with new regulations on how they operate, and dictate at the same time where they might fall on a spectrum of financial metrics, we need to understand we could inadvertently be tipping some schools into an even more precarious situation.


To understand the scope of the economic impact: There are nearly 300,000 students enrolled in private colleges and universities in Massachusetts, and these institutions employ roughly 100,000 full-time and part-time staff — never mind all the significant spinoff jobs. All of this, according to federally available data, totals $17.8 billion in annual expenditures, including $7.5 billion in salaries and wages and $2 billion in employee benefits.


To put this in context: Thirteen states had total budgets smaller than the $17.8 billion in annual spending by Massachusetts private colleges.


And there is another compelling reason to keep and support our small, private colleges: They increasingly are the most affordable route to a degree. While our public flagship university is now the fifth most expensive in the country for the neediest students, according to a recent study by the National College Access Network, competition and innovation have made smaller, private colleges sharpen their pencils to drive down costs and attract and serve more low-income students. While final numbers are not in, it appears that a significant percentage of the former Mount Ida students are heading to other private colleges that have offered superior financial aid packages and provide the right personal, supportive learning environments only available at small colleges.


Where appropriate, we should encourage thoughtful mergers and well-planned acquisitions, such as the ones we recently witnessed with Boston University and Wheelock College or Berklee College of Music and the Boston Conservatory. But we should also be vigilant to avoid regulatory overreach that could inadvertently lead to more college closings.


Richard Doherty is president of the Association for Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts (AICUM), representing 57 independent colleges and universities throughout the commonwealth.


AICUM in the News

Commonwealth Magazine:
Opinion: Congress (Surprise!) Leads Way on Financial Aid
By Richard Doherty
April 6, 2018


THE SPENDING BILL passed by Congress finally recognizes what educators, students, and business leaders have been saying for years: Without a robust and affordable higher education system, we will not be able to succeed in the increasingly competitive global marketplace. This bill should serve as a model for Massachusetts legislators as they prepare their own spending plan.


In a refreshing – and surprising – turnaround Congress in case after case put additional money where America needs it most: In programs that help low- and middle-income students afford college. Financial aid programs such as Pell Grants, Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants, and Federal Work Study are up 3 percent, 14.6 percent and 14.2 percent respectively. These are programs that college and university leaders and their students were deeply concerned would be decimated in the new budget – and warned repeatedly that if they were in fact cut or erased, would drive thousands of students away from the education they need to contribute to our innovation-driven economy.


That warning, the hard work of Congressional delegations such as our own, along with a growing national consensus on the detrimental effects of mounting college loan debt, appears to have been taken to heart by Congress in this spending bill. And in case after case, Trump Administration efforts to gut higher education for lower- and middle-income Americans were rejected.


Critical programs which the Administration sought to slash, such as those targeting low-income students and those first-in-their-family to apply to college saw meaningful increases. Additionally, the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation benefitted from significant investments which will help Massachusetts research universities, their affiliated academic medical centers and the patients they treat now and for decades to come. These increases drive our economy and send a strong message to our most talented young people that MA is the place you will want to be to live, learn and discover.


These are dollars that make a difference. The Pell Grant increase to $6,095 means more than $21.4 million in additional aid for 122,523 Massachusetts students who depend on those grants to keep higher education affordable. And the $840 million added to Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants provides funds to 43,170 Massachusetts – many of whom otherwise would not be able to afford a degree. Even funding for graduate student programs – something crucial for Massachusetts’ higher education sector and our intellectually rigorous workforce – suffered only a minor cut after deep concerns that the program would be ended.


Ideally, this spending plan will serve as a template for states now looking at where to put their resources in ways that can create a stronger workforce, help families struggling with college costs and start to put a dent in the college loan burden borne by too many young people. Typically, Massachusetts is a national leader when it comes to higher education. But in this instance the recently enacted Federal budget provides an instructive template the state should consider as it prepares its own FY19 budget.


More than 170,000 undergraduate students attend a private college or university in Massachusetts, and the 57 institutions that make up the Association for Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts are investing $608 million this year in grants and scholarships just for students from our own state.


However, even in the face of the widely-acknowledged college loan crisis, we are seeing aid to low- and middle-income families from the state fall. In fact, when inflation is taken into account, this year’s need-based state financial aid is significantly lower than the amount provided in 2001 – $95.8 million compared to $144.9 million. These declines hurt the talented young people we can all agree need our help the most.


Gov. Charlie Baker has bumped need-based aid by $7.2 million in his budget – but it is currently targeted only for community college students. We can all agree that this is a good use of money, but those students aren’t the only ones we need to be helping.  We have a long way to go to restore the buying power of the typical MassGrant to its 2001 level, a further investment now for students at our four year public and private colleges is also warranted.


This state’s economic vitality is based on the industries that need smart educated people the most: Hospitals, high tech and biotech firms, engineering outfits and research institutions. Every student we help to stay in a Massachusetts college or university is not just another potential taxpayer, but a potential patent holder, startup entrepreneur and employer. Washington has sent a strong message: Scholarships and grants are the best investments we can make for our families and for our future.


Richard Doherty is President of the Association for Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts (AICUM), representing 57 independent colleges and universities throughout the Commonwealth.

AICUM in the News

December 5, 2017


AICUM President Richard Doherty joined Emerson College President Lee Pelton recently on WGBH’s Greater Boston, hosted by Jim Braude, to discuss the impact of the GOP tax proposals on higher education institutions and the students they serve.


Check out the video below and let us know your thoughts on the issues!



AICUM in the News

Worcester Telegram & Gazette:
Opinion: Income Tax Proposals Would Hurt Colleges, Students and Community
By Richard Doherty
November, 29, 2017


One of the most overlooked facts about the Republican tax bills currently pending before Congress is just how damaging they will be to higher education and millions of students across the U.S. The legislation hurts students who borrow money for higher education, colleges and universities that raise funds for scholarships and tuition assistance, and communities and states like ours that depend on higher education as an economic engine.


To do this at the time of transition in higher education is particularly challenging, as colleges and universities across New England are contending with declining numbers of high school graduates and the advent of online education.


Even more concerning is the fact that the proposals in these bills will adversely affect the very people we most want to pursue higher education – smart and deserving, low- and middle-income students who need financial help to afford college.


Both the House and Senate bills would tax certain college endowments that help pay for scholarships. Further, the House bill passed earlier this month also eliminates tax deductions on the student loans that make college possible for millions of students; shrinks tuition tax credits for families funding higher education and eliminates deductions for businesses, associations and unions that provide their employees with assistance for higher education. In addition, the House bill also imposes taxes on tuition benefits provided by higher education institutions for the children of their employees and for graduate students.


The direct impact of these proposals on families will vary depending on income levels and which tax provisions they avail themselves to, but by some estimates these new taxes and deduction eliminations will increase the cost of college for students and their families by as much as $65 billion nationally. All in an effort to pay for massive corporate tax cuts.


The inclusion of a new tax on college and university endowments of 68 of this country’s best colleges and universities – including the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester – is a violation of long-held prohibition against government intrusion in the private endowments of non-profits. These endowments, overwhelmingly composed of gifts from alumni, are a primary source of scholarship grants for students who otherwise would not be able to afford college. For a large number of these institutions, the endowments mean that students with low-family income can attend college tuition free. The bill would open the floodgates to allow taxes on these endowments, likely creating a chilling effect on donations. Donors give to their alma maters because they want to support the mission of these institutions and help fund scholarships allowing talented young people to realize their full potential. If donors believe a percentage of their donation would be used to pay for the new endowment tax, they may be less inclined to donate to their alma maters.


Though the proposal currently calls for 68 institutions nationally to be subject to an endowment tax, there is little certainty that it would not apply to additional institutions in the near future. And don’t assume that this only applies to the colleges with the largest endowments. The House and Senate versions both use a formula of endowment totals by the number of students attending. In fact, as recently as four weeks ago, the original GOP proposal would have applied to 157 institutions nationally, with 16 colleges in Massachusetts impacted, including two in Worcester (Clark University as well as the College of the Holy Cross, and with WPI and MCPHS University just below the threshold to be taxed in this manner). Should additional revenue be needed during conference negotiations, there is nothing to stop Congress from looking to again apply the tax to additional institutions.


For sheer damage to low- and middle-income families there is probably no more onerous a clause in the House tax bill than one that eliminates the deduction on interest paid on student loans. This sends a message that only those with the means to pay for college up front are welcome, and that our government sees absolutely no value in helping working class families and students borrow money in order to receive a college education. Increasingly, in a country where middle class incomes have remained stagnant, students have turned to borrowing as a last resort to fund their education.


All of these provisions punish hard-working students, but they also threaten the independence and financial vitality of higher education institutions themselves, and that is a threat to jobs, to research and to innovations that drive economies. Look no further than the recent RFP process with Amazon, where numerous responses from communities, including Worcester, touted the strength of the network of local colleges and universities.


One example: The proposal to tax the tuition waiver as a benefit given to graduate students who teach and to college and university employees sending their kids off to school. Those benefits help universities attract and keep terrific employees in ways that help level the playing field with higher-paying private sector companies. Taxing those benefits will simply drive away wonderful employees, as more than 75 percent of those utilizing tuition benefits earn under $75,000. The House bill also eliminates employer-provided education benefits from all businesses, meaning that employees nationwide would be required to pay taxes on any employer-sponsored educational opportunities.


There is no more important mission in our country right now than ensuring that all smart, hard-working students have the opportunity to get ahead, to make something of themselves, and to become educated drivers of our economy and our society. This tax bill makes that harder. And that is very good reason to vote no. Surely Republican leadership can find other places to fund their tax cuts instead of the wallets of low- and middle-income Americans.




AICUM in the News

AICUM President Richard Doherty appeared on NECN’s DC Dialogue, hosted by New England Council President Jim Brett and NECN’s Eileen Curran, on November 19th, 2017 to discussion the GOP tax plans and the negative impact the proposals would have on higher education institutions and their students.


Check out the video below and let us know your thoughts on the issues!



AICUM in the News

Boston Business Journal
Opinion: Higher Ed is the Dealmaker in Massachusetts’ Bid for Amazon HQ2
By Richard Doherty
November 13, 2017


If Massachusetts is fortunate enough to be chosen as the site for Amazon’s second headquarters, it will likely be due to one major advantage our state has over every other: Our abundance of top colleges and universities.


Of all the criteria laid out by Amazon, this one may be the deal maker.


Amazon has indicated that the winning city or region must have proximity to high quality research universities and their deep pools of talented faculty and annual production line of high-quality future employees. It’s no secret that one of Massachusetts’ best assets is the diverse network of higher education institutions that form the backbone of our economy. As one of the state’s largest economic engines, our colleges and universities attract and nurture the type of talent that businesses – particularly those in the innovation sector – need to grow and thrive.


The numbers tell the story. Last year, Massachusetts 4-year colleges and universities awarded over 106,000 bachelors and advanced degrees, generating one of the nation’s richest pipelines of talent.  Each year, it is estimated over 65,000 of these graduates join the local workforce and make this state their home.  As a result, more than 50 percent of Massachusetts adults in the labor force have a bachelor’s degree – the highest in the country.


Just as important, Massachusetts attracts some of the best and brightest students from across the country and around the world.  They turn our colleges and universities into dynamic classrooms for the study of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).


This is a trend that annually moves in the right direction, with a steady increase in key degrees for the kind of work that defines Amazon. For example, Massachusetts has seen a staggering 91 percent increase in computer science graduates over the past five years. The Commonwealth awarded 4,248 computer science bachelor and advanced degrees in 2016 alone, in addition to 7,363 engineering degrees. These STEM degree-holders will fill the 50,000 jobs Amazon will create over the next 10 to 15 years.


Finally, Massachusetts’ colleges and universities create a vibrant culture throughout the state – in our institutions, businesses and communities. It’s an exciting atmosphere that fosters creativity, innovation and growth. This culture is recognized by the nation’s leading businesses. In fact, in 2016 Massachusetts once again topped the Bloomberg U.S. State Innovation Index largely on the strength of its higher education institutions and the partnerships they formed with the state’s R&D companies.


While Amazon may be weighing multiple criteria, the important trend lines point to Massachusetts: our public transportation is on the move; our creation of affordable housing is on the rise; our airport is top-flight; and our ready access to cultural and incomparable natural resources makes Massachusetts the smart choice. But it’s a good bet that what Massachusetts is most known for – the best colleges and universities in the world – is going to carry a heck of a lot of weight.




Please join us for the 13th Annual AICUM Dinner!





Monday, December 4, 2017

Reception: 5:00pm

Dinner and Program: 6:00pm

Location: Seaport Hotel, Boston



For more information, including Sponsorship opportunities, please contact Kaitlyn Rodriguez, Vice President of Administration and Member Relations at 617-742-5147 ext. 4 or at or download our sponsorship form.


We very much look forward to and appreciate your participation in what promises to be an exciting and memorable evening.


AICUM in the News

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Mass. College Grads Have Lowest Student Loan Default Rate in Nation

By Catherine Cloutier

September 30, 2015


Graduates of Massachusetts colleges and universities have the lowest student loan default rate in the nation, according to new figures released by the US Department of Education.


The official default rate for the more than 101,000 Massachusetts federal student loan borrowers who entered repayment in fiscal year 2012 was 6.4 percent. The second lowest statewide rate was North Dakota’s, at 6.6 percent.


The official default rate nationwide fell almost two percentage points to 11.8 percent. The drop was seen across public, private, and for-profit institutions.


“The Obama Administration has taken historic steps to give borrowers more options to manage their student debt and stay on track to repayment and to hold institutions accountable for improving student outcomes,” said US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a statement.


National default rates among students who attended private schools were lower than those at public schools, according to the department’s figures. They were also generally lower at four-year institutions.


The federal agency looked at students who entered repayment during fiscal 2012 and defaulted by the end of fiscal 2014.


Among private colleges represented by the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts, the default rate was 3.7 percent, according to the association.


“This demonstrates the commitment of Massachusetts private colleges to prepare their students to enter the workforce with manageable student loan obligations,” said Richard Doherty, president of the association, in a statement.


“Our colleges and universities put tremendous emphasis on investing in their students through financial aid and helping them fully understand the obligations of their loans,” he said.

To view the article, click here.




The National Retailers Federation estimates that students across the U.S. will spend an average of $899.18 on back-to-school expenses, reaching $43.1 billion nationally this year, with increased spending on trendy dorm furnishings.


BOSTON – August 20, 2015 – As college-bound students from across the Commonwealth head to campus for the fall semester this month, local retailers benefit from their desire to be prepared with the right technology and dorm furnishings to start off the new school year.


According to an annual survey from the National Retailers Federation (NRF), students across the country this year will spend an average of $899.18 on back to school expenses, with total spending expected to reach $43.1 billion.  The Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts (AICUM) anticipates that the 175,000 undergraduate students arriving at its 58 member campuses this fall will spend over $157 million on back to college expenses.


“This is another example of how essential Massachusetts independent colleges and universities are to driving the state’s economy,” said Richard Doherty, president of AICUM. “Not only do students across the state, country and world contribute to our local economies during their college years, but there is a surge in spending as students gear up to head to campus for their next semester or for the start of their college career.”


An NRF survey found that the average college student or family shopping for electronics will spend $207.27 this year. According to the NRF, “Families with college students and students themselves will spend $136.95 on apparel, $117.98 on food items to stock their dorms and apartments, $66.70 on school supplies, $72.79 on shoes and $78.02 on personal care items.”


“New and returning college students are vital segments of the consumer economy in Massachusetts,” said Jon Hurst, President of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts.  “The investment began last weekend during our sales tax holiday, and the students will continue to make those purchases for weeks to come, giving a vital economic boost for a wide variety of merchants across the Commonwealth,” Hurst said.


The NRF back-to-school survey also found that millennials are trending toward purchasing matching bed sets, curtains, linens and other home goods, seen as a change from previously lower standards for dorm décor. NRF’s survey found that 51.3 percent of college shoppers will purchase dorm or apartment furnishings and will spend an average $126.30, up 30 percent from last year – the highest amount since NRF began tracking these numbers in 2007.


“There is no question that in addition to educating Massachusetts residents, our colleges and universities draw on talent from across the country and world, and this benefits our economy,” said Doherty. “Back-to-school season is just one way in which that economic impact is pronounced. Students aren’t only here getting outstanding educations, but they are contributing greatly to our economy.”



The Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts (AICUM) was founded by independent college presidents and today comprises 58 degree-granting, accredited independent colleges and universities in the Commonwealth.  It is the leading voice on public policy matters affecting independent colleges and universities in Massachusetts. AICUM plays a critical role in advocating for state and federal funding for need-based student financial aid, research and addressing state and Federal legislative and regulatory issues.







As I See It: Financial Aid Increase Needed

By Richard Doherty

April 1, 2015


In February, when most of the commonwealth’s residents were stymied by the record snowfall, more than 150 college and university students made their way to Beacon Hill to personally advocate for continued funding of need-based financial aid.
So many young people’s dreams of gaining a college education depend on them having access to such assistance. Their need for aid is critical; their advocacy is essential, their gratitude is sincere, and their voices need to be heard.


These students, from colleges such as Holy Cross and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, displayed living proof as to the importance of financial aid — as they will write the future of our state, its economy and its vibrancy.


Thankfully, last year the Legislature increased the need-based financial aid line item of the state budget by $3 million. This was an important and commendable step, but Massachusetts is still significantly behind the national average need-based award.


The financial aid line item funds a variety of grant and scholarship programs for Massachusetts residents attending college in Massachusetts, including the MassGrant program — the commonwealth’s principal need-based grant.


Even with last year’s funding increase, the state scholarship programs have essentially been level-funded over the past decade. This, and the fact that more students are eligible for need-based aid, have reduced the real buying power of these scholarships.


The fiscal 2016 budget process is currently in the hands of the Ways and Means Committee, whose members came to Greenfield Community College recently to solicit public opinion.


The Association for Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts (AICUM) offered testimony that commended the Legislature’s success last year in increasing aid, while also making the case for additional support.


AICUM represents the interests of 59 independent colleges and universities throughout the commonwealth, the 280,000 students attending those institutions and the nearly 85,000 people working at them. AICUM also is the primary sponsor of the student financial aid advocacy day each February. This activism is essential as more students need grants to keep college affordable.


In the past twelve months, three separate independent commissions (the Subcommittee on Student Loan and Debt, the Higher Education Finance Commission, and the Special Commission on Educational Scholarships) produced reports that recommend a substantial increase in funding for need-based scholarship programs.


A recent report issued by the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, revealed that Massachusetts trails all states except Arkansas in the average award given to eligible students.


We recognize that the Legislature faces many difficult budget decisions, with higher education funding being one of many critical priorities. There is no greater need in higher education than providing opportunity to those talented students desiring, but unable to afford, a quality education.


AICUM believes a reasonable path for the FY 16 budget would be to move Massachusetts closer to the national average for scholarship awards by increasing the aid by $6.4 million. This would continue the state’s positive momentum from recent years.


Massachusetts is home to many of the top colleges and universities in the world and we take great pride in the high quality of education that our students receive. The return on investing in our students accrues many times over, as talented graduates help to keep and attract companies, innovate new technologies, advance efforts to cure diseases, make Massachusetts their home, and strengthen our communities.


A properly funded financial aid program will send the right message to hardworking students that the commonwealth supports them and wants them to reach their full potential — and to do so right here in Massachusetts.


Richard Doherty is president of the Association for Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts (AICUM).


To view the article, click here.

AICUM Student Financial Aid Advocacy Day

On Wednesday, February 25, 2015, AICUM will again rally with college students from across Massachusetts in the State House and lend support for funding for need-based financial aid programs.  Student Financial Aid Advocacy Day is a chance to say “thank you” to legislators for last year’s funding of need-based financial aid programs that help Massachusetts students stay in Massachusetts to attend a college here.  It is a powerful message of thanks when a legislator can put a student’s face and story to the budget line item which funds these programs.  This funding is critical to helping MA students get to – and through – college.

After assembling in the Great Hall, the students will listen to brief remarks from 2 or 3 elected officials.  The legislators talk about the importance of a college education and the key role that colleges and students play in the economic engine of the state.  They also offer some advice on how to effectively lobby/talk to legislators and their staff during office visits.


After the speaking portion of the program the students are then directed to visit the offices of the Senators and Representatives that represent the city or town where their college is located as well as the elected official from their home town.


WHERE:         Massachusetts State House in Boston- Great Hall, Second Floor.


WHEN:           Wednesday, February 25th: Registration from 12:30 to 1:00 p.m.; Speaking program and legislative meetings from 1:00 p.m. to 4 p.m.


WHAT TO WEAR:     Represent your school by wearing your college sweatshirt or t-shirt.


Interested students should contact or their institutions Financial Aid office for additional information.


Please join us for the 10th Annual AICUM Dinner!




This year we are celebrating the success of our graduates and the contributions of our colleges and universities to the innovation economy in the Commonwealth.


Monday, December 8, 2014

Reception: 5:30pm

Dinner and Program: 7:00pm

Location: Seaport Hotel, Boston

Honoring:  Paul Guzzi, President  & Chief Executive Officer, Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce


For more information including ticket sales and Sponsorship opportunities, please contact Kaitlyn Rodriguez, Director of Member Relations at 617-742-5147 ext. 1000 or at


We very much look forward to and appreciate your participation in what promises to be an exciting and memorable evening.


Sponsorship Options: Click here.


AICUM Annual Symposium: October 2, 2014

AICUM’s 2014 Fall Symposium, held on October 2nd at the College of the Holy Cross, was a resounding success.  Each year, AICUM hosts a symposium where Affiliate Members provide best practice presentations to administrators and staff from AICUM member institutions.  Our Symposium this year featured 25 presentations and was attended by over 150 representatives from 30 college and universities.


The day focused on Emerging Challenges to Independent Higher Education and included a wide range of presentations on student debt, state authorization reciprocity agreements, trends in student lifestyle and habits, sexual assault on campus, medicinal marijuana, campus design using the latest technology, the unionization of student athletes, campus health and wellness initiatives, reputation management in the social media age and many other hot topics in higher education.


In addition to the informative presentations, attendees engaged in networking opportunities throughout the symposium to develop new relationships with colleagues from peer institutions and reconnect with former colleagues.


Many of the presentations from our Affiliate Members are available here and we will continue to add more as they are made available.


AICUM in the News

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How to Make College More Affordable
By Richard Doherty
May 20, 2014
Although the colleges and universities in Massachusetts are critical to the state’s economy, the rising level of student debt could temper our economic growth. Independent colleges and universities in the Commonwealth are acutely aware of their responsibility to help control debt levels and, last year, awarded nearly $600 million in scholarship aid to Massachusetts residents. However, we can do more to leverage that investment through federal and state partnerships. We need to work together to create a cradle-to-career approach to financing higher education by providing an incentive to increase college savings from birth, increasing state support for need-based financial aid, and lowering student loan interest rates. We can help college students and graduates refinance debt and stimulate the economy.
First, on the state level, we must provide families with an important incentive to start saving for college as soon as their first child is born. State Senator Eileen Donoghue is championing a proposal to give Massachusetts families what is already offered in more than 30 states — an income tax deduction for contributions made to qualified college savings plans. Donoghue recently completed a far-reaching examination of the student debt issue as co-chair of the Sub-Committee on Student Loans & Debt, which concluded that it was “incumbent on the Commonwealth to help students and families pay for college themselves,” and recommended offering a tax deduction for contributions— up to $5,000 — made to such plans. Incentivizing college savings early will put Massachusetts families on the right path well before arriving on campus.
Second, the state must reinvest meaningfully in need-based financial aid programs. By committing to a multi-year plan to reinvest in need-based scholarship programs, Massachusetts would enable more deserving students, who possess the talent but not the financial resources, to attend the Massachusetts college which best match their educational interests and learning style. Increasing the average award will surely entice Massachusetts students exploring colleges outside the Commonwealth to reconsider and attend one of our outstanding colleges. In 2010, over 18,000 high school graduates left Massachusetts in part, some argue, because our state financial aid program isn’t robust enough to keep them here. We need to stop this brain drain.
Third, we can help students and recent grads better manage student debt. At the federal level, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. John Tierney have again demonstrated their commitment to ensuring access and affordability by introducing legislation to allow students and graduates with existing student loan debt to refinance at lower interest rates. This commonsense approach would provide instant relief to borrowers struggling to make payments on high-interest loans as they are beginning their careers. Their plan would allow these recent grads to reinvest those savings — to purchase a car, save for a home, start a family — and positively impact all segments of the economy.
For the more than 500,000 students attending college in the Commonwealth and the more than 1.4 million Massachusetts residents under age 18, we must work together to provide affordable access to college without burdening graduates with unmanageable debt. Working together, through public/private partnerships involving the federal government, state government, colleges and universities, and families, we can take steps to ensure a new pathway to higher education, one that is truly cradle to career.
To view the article, click here.

AICUM in the News


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Viewpoint: Mass. in Back of the Class for College Aid
By Richard Doherty
May 9, 2014
As the home to over 100 colleges and universities, Massachusetts is rightly known as the hub of higher education. Each fall, tens of thousands of high school graduates from across Massachusetts arrive on our campuses to begin their pursuit of a higher education. In doing so, these students become integral members of the community, contributing both economically and culturally throughout their college career — and often their professional career.
This homegrown talent, which forms the bulk of incoming freshmen classes across all campuses, is a critical component to the higher education sector in the state. However, in order for Massachusetts’ colleges and universities to continue to retain our own high school graduates, we must provide adequate state scholarships to help make college affordable and to incentivize these talented students to attend college here.
We have work to do. Right now, Massachusetts is ahead of only Arkansas measured by the average state need-based financial aid award. In 2012, the average qualifying student in Massachusetts received a MassGrant award of $657 — as compared to the national average of $2,405. A California student from a similar family income received $5,983 on average.
Our low average award is a result of many factors, primarily the relative level-funding of scholarship aid over past decades combined with a skyrocketing increase in the number of students eligible for the need-based award. In fact, the average MassGrant award was 43 percent higher in 2008 than in 2012, largely the result of a whopping 91-percent increase in the number of eligible students. For a state that justifiably points to its higher education institutions, both public and private, as examples of excellence, this is not an acceptable financial commitment to our students.
A legislative subcommittee tasked with studying student loans and debt in the commonwealth just released a report containing recommendations to aid students in attending college and graduating with less debt. The report rightly points out that, in 1988, a MassGrant award covered 80 percent of tuition and fees at public colleges and universities. Today, the same grant only covers 9 percent. This is a stunning reduction in purchasing power. Among the subcommittee’s nine recommendations was a call for an immediate increase in the state scholarships to make college more affordable.
To that end, we are asking the Legislature to restore funding for these important scholarship programs to prerecession levels. Doing so will enable more deserving students, who may lack the financial resources, to attend the college in Massachusetts that best fits their interests and talents. In addition, increasing the average award may entice Massachusetts high school graduates exploring colleges outside the commonwealth to reconsider and remain here.
The federal government and colleges and universities here in Massachusetts are doing their part to help students attend college — the federal government by increasing Pell Grants and colleges and universities by offering a record amount of institutional aid to Massachusetts residents last year. Now it is time for Massachusetts to do the same.
To view the article, click here.

Jeff Selingo, Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry, and Sen. Eileen Donoghue Speak at AICUM’s Annual Meeting, April 29, 2014

Lynn Pasquerella, President of Mount Holyoke, Elected New Chair of AICUM Board.


More than 100 college and affiliate members from across the Commonwealth attended AICUM’s annual  meeting (April 29) at Boston College. The agenda included election of officers and remarks from three guest speakers.

In the AICUM election, Lynn Pasquerella, President of Mount Holyoke College, was elected Chairman, James McCarthy, President of Suffolk University was elected Vice Chair/Chair Elect, and Paula M. Rooney, President of Dean College, was re-elected as Secretary/Treasurer. All are effective June 1, 2014.


New members of the Board will be: Chris Hopey, President of Merrimack College, Deborah Jackson, President of Cambridge College, and Antoinette Hays, President of Regis College.


Jeff Selingo, contributing editor to The Chronicle of Higher Education and author of College (Un)Bound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students, was the keynote speaker. Selingo talked about his research for College (Un)Bound and predicted major shifts in the higher education scene in the next decade. He challenged colleges to consider five trends.  First, he said, that higher education professionals need to rethink the student market, noting that motivations for students now vary widely. “Only two out of ten students are now looking for the traditional (Hollywood-depicted) college,” he said.


Second, he urged college administrators  to think about what is innovative and distinctive about their particular college. For all but a few colleges, he said. being a “commodity” will not continue to work. Each college must decide what it wants to offer and how it wants to be perceived.  The major types of college learning he predicted will be: MOOCs (massive open online course), face-to-face, and hybrid (part MOOC and part face-to face) “Can a small liberal arts college scale high-impact practices (MOOCs and hybrids) with a short residential course?,” he queried.  Selingo noted the predominant disconnect now between age and financial independence and maintained that people now in their twenties are developing a  different approach to skills, training, certificates, and degrees. He said they are becoming true “life-long learners.”


Selingo’s fourth trend was the Bachelor’s Degree and what it means.  “We’ve been stuffing more and more in the B.A.,” he said., “it’s been overworked.” What goes into it and why everyone needs one should be re-thought and will be.  The fifth trend, he stated, is “value, not price.”   Economics is certainly one factor but only one.  “Can the person get a job, progress, be part of the community?”  These are all part of the mission and value of higher education,” he said.


State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry  spoke on the importance to colleges of recruiting locally and ensuring that workforce development initiatives meet the needs of a range of students.  Senator Forry has represented the 1st Suffolk District since June 2013 and is Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government. Prior to 2013, she represented the 12th Suffolk District in the House of Representatives for six years.


State Senator Eileen Donoghue, Senate Vice Chair of the Joint Committee on Higher Education, gave her perspective on a recent report  by the Subcommittee on Student Loan and Debt, which she co-chairs. She described student loans and student debt as “increasingly burdensome and complex” across the country and and explained that the subcommittee’s aim was to address the issue and help to alleviate not only the need for loans and debt, but also the lack of knowledge about how to obtain a loan, how loans work and how debt can be paid off.  She noted that Massachusetts ranks 12th in the nation for the number of students carrying debt (66% of all college students) and that student debt nationally has the highest delinquency rate of any consumer loan category.


Senator Donoghue discussed the findings of the subcommittee and some of its major recommendations, which include:

  • Expand financial literacy for all Massachusetts students by offering financial literacy courses in high school, embedding financial literacy in the Massachusetts Core Curriculum, and requiring colleges and universities to uniformly describe financial aid information.
  • Expand and reform state aid, by increasing MassGrant scholarship funds, reforming the Adams scholarship, and exploring concepts such as “Pay It Forward.”
  • Decrease the time it takes to get a degree, by expanding the dual enrollment option for high school students (taking college courses while still in high school), getting credit in college for advanced placement courses, and accessing programs that allow progression from community colleges to four-year colleges.
  • Create incentives for students to save, by improving the Commonwealth’s 529 College Savings Plan and increasing greater coordination with non-profits.
  • Advance loan forgiveness programs–particularly for occupations where there is both great need and a lack of financial incentive (i.e. social work).
  • Develop public-private partnerships that would incentivize employers to assist employees that have student debt and would like to pursue continuing education opportunities.



Financial Aid Advocacy Day

February 24, 2014.


More than 150 students from independent colleges and universities across the Commonwealth convened at the State House on Monday, February 24. They met with state representatives and senators, thanked them for previous support, and urged them to legislate for increased financial aid and scholarships.


 Nearly 30 AICUM member colleges participated, including: Anna Maria College, Babson College, Bentley University, Boston College, Boston University, Cambridge College, Curry College, Eastern Nazarene College, Emmanuel College, Emerson College, Endicott College, Fisher College, College of the Holy Cross, Lasell College, Merrimack College, Mount Ida College, Newbury College, Northeastern University, Pine Manor College, Simmons College, Stonehill College, Suffolk University, Tufts University, Wentworth Institute, Wheelock College, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
House Speaker Robert De Leo addressed the students in the Great Hall.  “Each of you is critical to the future of the Commonwealth, he emphasized. “And my hope is that you stay here after you graduate and continue to be part of our dynamic Massachusetts economy.”  Speaker De Leo also noted that Massachusetts is the only state that educates more students at private, independent colleges than at public institutions. “We have the best and the brightest here,” and we want to keep you here.”


The Speaker urged students to meet with their state legislators and share their experiences. “The most important lobbying efforts are by the people who are actually affected. That’s what makes the real difference to lawmakers,” he said.




AICUM Annual Dinner, December 9, 2013 


More than 400 people, including top leaders in education and government, turned out for AICUM’s 9th annual dinner, which took place on Monday, December 9, at Boston’s Seaport Hotel. AICUM celebrated the value of a liberal arts education in the Massachusetts innovation economy (check out our video on YouTube) and the 40-year impact of the federal Pell Grant program on access and affordability. Former Senator Mo Cowan (pictured) talked about what a Pell Grant meant to him, his family and his education. For more images, visit our photo gallery.




Fall Symposium– A Great Success


AICUM’s 2013 fall symposium–where Affiliated Members provide best practice presentations to administrators and staff from AICUM member institutions–was an outstanding success. Over 100 attended and more than 35 colleges and universities were represented at the annual event, held at College of the Holy Cross on October 3, 1013.


The day focused on Campus Accountability and Cost Containment and included talks on: hot topics in labor law, college affordability, transforming building eyesores into assets, saving on college operations, surviving the IT audit, negotiating with adjunct faculty, non-profit taxation developments, growth plans for STEM programs, and the effects of student debt on post-college spending. Considerable networking over lunch and much discussion on other higher education issues rounded out the event. For more photos, visit our Event Gallery.



Senator Elizabeth Warren addresses ACIUM Annual Meeting (April 30, 2013) 


AICUM’s annual  meeting (April 30) brought together college and affiliate members from across the state, with an agenda that included election of officers and remarks from three prominent leaders. U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, Greg Bielecki, and State Senator Gale Candaras, spoke to more than 100 attendees on education and economic policies affecting higher education.


In the AICUM election, Ronald W. Crutcher, President of Wheaton College, became Chair of the Board, Lynn Pasquerella, President of Mount Holyoke College, was elected Vice Chair/Chair Elect, and Paula M. Rooney, President of Dean College, continues to serve as Secretary/Treasurer. New members of the Board are: Corlis McGee, President of Eastern Nazarene College, David Angel, President of Clark University, Jan Bellack, President of the MGH Institute of Health Professions, and Lee Pelton, President of Emerson College.


In her keynote speech, Senator Warren voiced her strong support for and understanding of the critical role that institutions of higher education play in so many aspects of the Commonwealth’s economy. She also addressed the issue of student debt and the need for college to be more affordable. Senator Warren acknowledged that the level of regulations imposed on colleges and universities by the federal government added to the cost of attending college.


She encouraged attendees to get involved, meet with each other and identify a “dirty dozen” list of the most costly and cumbersome regulations that have the least benefit. She said she would meet with Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, with the Senate Health Committee (on which she serves) to represent college and university policies and interests. The Senator also talked about the power of education, alluding to her own evolution from daughter of a janitor to young mother going to law school.  “Higher education opened up a whole new world,” she said, recommending that four-year college degrees be available to everyone.


Noting that higher education is the “fundamental building block of the Massachusetts economy,” Greg Bialecki, Massachustts Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, attributed that distinction not only to the size and scope of our colleges and universities, but to their international reputation, and its ability to attract talent from across the country and across the world.  Sec. Bielecki focused on the important way that the Commonwealth’s innovation economy helps create not only new jobs but the workforce needed to fill those jobs. He urged more partnerships between universities and industry to produce a new wave of data scientists and a new framework for online learning.


State Senator Gale Candaras, who chairs the Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Committee, spoke about the “new normal” which aims to provide a young diverse population with education and training for new jobs in a different economy.


Sen. Candaras also talked about Senate 575/House bill 1076,  which she and Rep. Alice Peisch of Wellesley filed this year, and AICUM initiated.  “We need to ensure that private institutions are not hampered by red tape and bad public policy,” she said, noting that Massachusetts is one of very few states that burden private colleges–when they want to offer a new field of study or additional degree program–with a lengthy academic regulatory process.  She urged college and university staff to call representatives and senators and “help them pass this bill.”