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The latest news from AICU Mass and its member colleges and universities

From the desk of Rob McCarron

While the Omicron variant may have threatened to disrupt our new sense of normalcy, I am happy to report that our colleges and universities remain open and committed to the teaching and research that is at the core of their nonprofit missions. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, colleges and universities in Massachusetts have responded to the evolving public health crisis by listening to medical experts and relying on science to guide their decision-making process. This approach allowed institutions to quickly pivot to remote learning in the spring of 2020, establish a nationally-renowned surveillance testing program in partnership with the Broad Institute, safely bring students back to campuses in the fall of 2020 while maintaining a robust hybrid learning model and, with the advent of vaccines, return to a greater sense of normalcy this academic year with the full reopening of campuses. 

There is no doubt that Omicron produced unique challenges given its high transmissibility rate, but colleges and universities were prepared for this latest surge as a result of protocols and experience gained throughout the pandemic. Institutions were at the forefront of requiring vaccinations for students, faculty and staff before returning to campus in September. These policies achieved remarkably high vaccination rates throughout college communities and helped to relieve pressure on campus-based health care resources during the height of the surge. Colleges and universities have also remained committed to robust surveillance testing to identify positive COVID cases early and take appropriate measures to isolate that individual and their roommates throughout the infectious period.

As the country continues to navigate this period of uncertainty and wrestle with decisions about returning to the office, gym, local restaurant or sporting event, Massachusetts colleges and universities are again providing a path forward. Institutions of higher education have developed strategies for living and learning with COVID, while maintaining operational continuity to meet the needs of the campus community. The virus has proven to be a relentless foe, but thanks to highly effective vaccines and all that we have learned over the last two years, we are in a much better place. The resiliency and collective efforts of our students, faculty and staff have ensured that college and university campuses in the Commonwealth continue to be a safe place to live, learn and thrive. To students across AICU Mass campuses, and to seniors in high school preparing for college next year, I am thrilled to say that our campuses are open and ready for you to continue your journey in higher education. Welcome back.

AICU Mass Fact of the Month

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The Latest from Beacon Hill

FY23 Budget:

Governor Baker released his FY23 budget proposal this week. This is the final budget for the Baker/Polito administration and serves as the administration’s guiding document for appropriating $48.5 billion in annual spending while introducing nearly $700 million in tax policy changes aimed at providing relief to families, renters, low-income workers and senior citizens.

Governor Baker’s budget proposal recommends that the state continue to build on the positive momentum for funding need-based financial aid programs by increasing the financial aid scholarship line-item (7070-0065) to $155 million. This figure represents a $24.5 million increase over FY22, and a $50 million increase from FY20. This increased investment helps thousands of Massachusetts students attend a college in Massachusetts that is the best fit for their talents, interests and learning styles. AICU Mass will urge the Legislature to match the increase sought by the Baker/Polito administration and work to ensure that these funds be available to all eligible Massachusetts students regardless of whether they choose to attend a public or independent colleges and universities in the Commonwealth.

Testimony before the Joint Committee on Revenue:

AICU Mass joined Representative Kate Lipper-Garabedian on January 4th, 2022 in testifying before the Joint Committee on Revenue in support of House Bill 2985, An Act encouraging employer student loan repayment. H2985, filed by Representative Lipper-Garabedian, seeks to incentivize employers to help college graduates pay down a portion of their student loan repayments.  

The bill seeks to establish a tax deduction for Massachusetts companies that offer student loan repayment contributions to their employees, which treating the contribution as tax-free income for the employee on their state return. In doing so, the legislation achieves two goals simultaneously: assisting graduates with student loan repayment and assisting employers with workforce recruiting and retention. 

AICU Mass Member Spotlight and News from Our Members

Lesley University:

Lesley University announces Early College Pilot with Cambridge Public Schools

Lesley University and Cambridge Public Schools (CPS) have launched a new partnership to pilot an Early College Program serving students in grades 10, 11 and 12 at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School (CRLS).

The program will provide CRLS students with opportunities to fulfill high school graduation requirements while also earning college credits.

“Building on the successful paraprofessional master’s degree partnership we launched last year between CPS and Lesley, our new Early College partnership is another step in creating educational pathways for students historically underrepresented in higher ed,” says Lesley President Janet L. Steinmayer. “We are looking forward to welcoming CRLS students into our classrooms this spring and to expanding access to higher ed among the city’s youth.”

Set to start in January 2022, the Lesley-CPS Early College pilot will enable eligible CRLS students to enroll in a Lesley course as non-degree students to receive dual high school and college credit. Classes will be taught by Lesley faculty on the university’s campus. Advising and counseling services will be offered through both CRLS and Lesley to support the high-schoolers’ successful transition to post-secondary education.

CRLS and Lesley have jointly filed a first-round application to achieve the state’s Early College designation. While the partners wait to hear about official Early College status, they are moving forward to pilot the concept with the aim of obtaining Massachusetts Early College partner designation for the 2022-23 school year.

Lesley and CPS have applied for approval in pathways including:

• Art & Design

• Human Services/Social Work

• Environmental Science

• Health Sciences

• Writing and Communication

• Education

Boston College:

BC announces plans for Pine Manor Institute for Student Success

College of the Holy Cross:

Holy Cross Joins QuestBridge for National Admissions Recruitment Partnership

Lasell University:

Age-Inclusivity Grants

Montserrat College of Art:

Impact Magazine:

Montserrat College of Art Draws From Its Past As It Celebrates Golden Anniversary

MGH Institute of Health Professions:

Shining a Spotlight on Invisible Labor

Mount Holyoke College:

Senior Elena Frogameni named Rhodes Scholar

Northeastern University:

News @Northeastern

This Northeastern-Born Startup Helps Cities Deal With Changing Climate

Suffolk University:

From Suffolk To State House & City Hall

Affiliate Member Insight

AICU Mass is pleased to partner with over 30 organizations in our affiliate program, where businesses and nonprofits offer industry expertise to our 60 member colleges and universities.

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Nobody likes surprises, especially when those surprises turn what is supposed to be a positive announcement into a nightmare. It’s even worse when that nightmare could have been avoided, and it’s downright embarrassing when that nightmare turns into a circus for all the world to see.

You’ve seen this scenario play out time and again, though hopefully not at your own institution. A speaker or honorary degree is announced with great enthusiasm, complete with an official news release, social media and media blitz. Excitement typically follows, along with some initial grumbling. It’s quiet for a few days, maybe weeks. Then the real noise starts. Maybe it’s the discovery of questionable Tweet or “like” from five years ago. Maybe it’s a little-known affiliation with an organization. Or maybe it’s a personal belief or position on a social, intellectual, or political issue that isn’t in line with what the institution and community stands for.

Nine times out of 10 this nightmare can be avoided if institutions simply take the time to appropriately vet speaker candidates and potential honorary degree recipients.  

“Appropriately vet” isn’t having a student intern look at social media feeds. It isn’t doing a quick review of two pages of Google results. And it sure isn’t blindly assigning value to whomever is the “big name” person of the moment.

Colleges and universities really can’t risk the bad publicity and embarrassment that comes with failing to adequately evaluate publicly-available information – especially when that information is out there for anyone with an Internet connection to find. 

That’s why an increasing number of institutions are asking Castle to perform reputational audits prior to extending invitations to commencement speakers, nominating individuals for honorary degrees, and making high profile job offers. Audits like these entail an intensive scan (typically at least seven years’ worth, maybe less/more depending on an individual’s online footprint) of social media accounts, mainstream media presence, personal and professional profiles, and statements and positions on issues of national significance (COVID-19/vaccines, racial/gender equity, social justice, politics, healthcare, voting rights, abortion, etc.). We then evaluate and analyze specific concerns and their potential impact on the institution and key stakeholders, including identifying potential issues/challenges/reputational risks that could result from the university’s affiliation with the individual.

Checking the past before awarding the present is not just prudent, it is absolutely necessary to lessen the possibility of future problems. With the power of the Internet, and in particular social media, reputational audits are one the easiest – and most effective – ways to minimize, or at least mitigate, disruption to what should otherwise be an exciting time on campus. 

For more information about The Castle Group and its work to help college and universities prepare for and manage sensitive situations and crisis communications, please contact Philip Hauserman, Castle’s director of crisis communications, at  

Stay up to date with the latest AICUM Insight podcasts

Interview with Senator Eric Lesser, Chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies

Interview with Representative Alice Peisch, Chair of the Joint Committee on Education

Interview with Senator Michael Rodrigues, Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means

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