The Hub of Higher Ed

News from AICU Mass and its member colleges and universities

September 2022

From the desk of CEO Rob McCarron

And just like that it’s September! It’s my sincere hope you had a wonderful summer, which included being away from the office to recharge and spend time with family and friends. 

The return of students to campuses across the Commonwealth this academic year feels particularly significant; it’s the first “normal” return since the fall of 2019 and the onset of the pandemic. It’s a most welcome sight to see campuses come alive. There is palpable excitement in the air; I can feel it in my own hometown, host to two AICU Mass campuses. The return of the 270,000 students who attend private colleges and universities in Massachusetts is significant not just for campuses but for the surrounding communities and the entire Commonwealth. These students, along with the talented faculty, staff and researchers, are at the core of one of Massachusetts most treasured assets and form the backbone of the Massachusetts economy.

As the year unfolds, AICU Mass will continue to make progress on important initiatives we launched last year:

• A mental health crisis is gripping our country’s youth, and colleges and universities are striving to do more to support their students. Last year AICU Mass began facilitating a dialog on this critical topic. What we know is there isn’t an easy solution to address the challenges, and colleges and universities cannot go it alone. This is a public health emergency that will require the support of elected officials and the business community. Currently we are advocating for funding to support various mental health initiatives (details in the Legislative Update below). We are also convening a mental health summit in November to continue this important dialogue.

• Our Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (JEDI) task force continues to support work across all of our campuses to be inclusive in every dimension. Three priorities emerged from the JEDI task force: creating professional development opportunities for faculty and staff of color; supporting programs to increase supplier diversity and spend; and providing tools to better gauge the current climate on campuses through survey data. I’m pleased to report we made great strides on all fronts, including:

   o Forming a partnership with, a leading provider of a supplier diversity platform and databases, to help our members increase spending with diverse suppliers.

   o Launching our Inclusive Leadership Program, with an initial cohort of 119 participants across 54 institutions. Meeting once a month, the program engaged in-depth on topics such as emotional intelligence, individual and institutional leadership, identifying the skills required to effect organizational change, and self-care and coaching for inclusive leaders. We are excited to launch our second cohort in January 2023.

   o Through a partnership with Viewfinder Campus Climate Surveys, AICU Mass members will be able to administer affordable, comprehensive surveys that collect data which helps campuses understand current experiences and perceptions of all individuals on campus to support an environment where everyone feels safe, welcome and valued. 

• Building upon our progress, this year we will incorporate bias response best practices and restorative justice into our programming. In addition to sharing best practices, we are working on professional development for DE&I and compliance officers on bias & climate response teams. 

As we delve into this important work together, I am sincerely pleased to welcome new presidents to our AICU Mass community:

Michael Elliot, Amherst College; Gregory S. Weiner (interim), Assumption University; Kenneth Elmore, Dean College; Mary K. Boyd, Emmanuel College; Beverly Daniel Tatum (interim), Mount Holyoke College; Clea Andreadis (interim), Urban College of Boston; and Winston Oluwole “Wole” Soboyejo (interim), Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Last, I would also like to welcome Dr. Noe Ortega, who has been selected as the next Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education. Dr. Ortega, a former Pennsylvania Secretary of Education, will replace current DHE Commissioner, Dr. Carlos Santiago, later this month. In addition to welcoming Dr. Ortega, I extend my sincere appreciation and gratitude to Carlos for the collaborative spirit that has been the hallmark of his work in Massachusetts over the past 10 years advancing higher education policies.

The Latest from Beacon Hill and Capitol Hill

On July 31st the Massachusetts Legislature wrapped up formal sessions for the year by completing work on several legislative proposals that will impact the higher education ecosystem in Massachusetts. The House and Senate reached agreement on bills to improve access to mental health resources, fund need-based scholarship programs (MassGrant/Gilbert Grant) at historic levels, legalize sports betting (with a commonsense compromise on college sports), address climate change, and begin crafting the state’s response to Supreme Court decisions on gun laws and abortion rights. 

However, the Legislature was unable to reach agreement on an omnibus $4 billion economic development bill due, in large part, to outstanding questions as to how a 1986 tax law might affect several provisions included in the legislation. It seems likely that legislative leaders and Governor Baker will work to advance significant parts of the EcoDev bill during informal sessions. AICU Mass continues to advocate for several provisions within this legislation, including:

• Initial investment in two important mental health proposals to provide critical support to students and faculty attending colleges and universities in Massachusetts. These planning and development funds would assess the feasibility of establishing regional “step-down” units to help students in crisis transition back to campus and establish a mental health training program for faculty and staff at William James College.

• Programs to expand the nursing pipelines and increase qualified nursing faculty through loan forgiveness programs, scholarships and grants. However, the success of such important initiatives will require the inclusion of nursing students and programs at all colleges and universities, both public and private. 

President Biden recently announced a comprehensive plan to provide student loan relief through a combination of targeted student loan debt forgiveness, income-based repayment plan modifications and the temporary extension of the repayment pause that was implemented early in the pandemic. 

More information about the Biden plan and answers to FAQs can be found at the U.S. Department of Education website. We expect more details (timing, eligibility and application process) of the student loan forgiveness to be released in the coming weeks. Key provisions of the plan include:

• Up to $20,000 in federal debt cancellation for Pell grant recipients earning less than $125,000 annually ($250,000 family);

• Up to $10,000 in federal debt cancellation of non-Pell borrowers earning less than $125,000 annually ($250,000 family);

• Income-based repayment plan will require borrowers to pay no more than 5 percent of the discretionary monthly income toward loan repayment, down from the current 10 percent requirement;

• Payment pause extended through December 31st, 2022

AICU Mass issued a statement acknowledging that President Biden’s announcement will help students struggling to repay their loans while also urging Congress to continue to act on President Biden’s call to double the maximum Pell Grant. Doubling the Pell Grant would provide meaningful direct assistance to the more than 110,000 Pell Grant students annually attending a college or university in Massachusetts. 


AICU Mass Fact of the Month

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Clark University

In climate change battle, Clark University sends knight to roundtable

College of the Holy Cross


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Harvard University

The Harvard Gazette

Planning for a very big year

Springfield College


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AICU MA Affiliate Insight

With the beginning of another school year, mental health concerns continue to be at the top of the list for students as they begin the new semester. In the latest blog from Christie Campus Health, two college students who have accessed mental health support services on campus were interviewed about how they like to be engaged on this important topic. Click here to read more.

Christie Campus Health is led by a team with decades of experience in college student health, solely focused on partnering with colleges and universities to deliver efficient, high-quality mental health services to students. In response to the campus mental health crisis, Christie Campus Health’s team of experts in public health, clinical psychology, student health insurance and higher education policy together created a comprehensive solution across the full continuum that expands counseling center capacity and helps colleges reach and support students in need.

Christie Campus Health is the proud founding and lead sponsor of the Mary Christie Institute, a national non-profit think tank dedicated to improving the emotional well-being of college students. Through convening, research, journalism and advocacy, it is on the leading edge of initiatives and new ideas in college-age behavioral health. 

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