Learning curves: A short history of
higher education reorganization
by Daniel J. Fitzgibbons,
hough Gov. Mitt Romney's plan to restructure
the state's higher education system caught many by surprise, the proposal
is one of many -- some successful, some not -- that have emerged over
the last half-century. Here is a capsule history of those changes.
1947: Massachusetts State College becomes
the University of Massachusetts.
1954: Report on Massachusetts State Teachers Colleges
recommends the creation of a board of trustees to oversee institutions.
1958: Community college systems is established under
an 11-member Board of Regional Community Colleges.
1959: Report published by Department of Education
recommends that state teachers colleges offer comprehensive, non-professional
1959-60: Teachers colleges reorganized into state
1960: The first community college, Berkshire Community
College, opens in downtown Pittsfield.
1962: Legislature creates Southeastern Massachusetts
Technological Institute by merging New Bedford Textile School and
the Bradford Durfee Textile School in Fall River. Construction of
a new campus in North Dartmouth begins in 1964.
1962: University is given fiscal autonomy, allowing
campus leaders and Board of Trustees to make independent fiscal
1962-1965: Study break
The Massachusetts Education Study, also known as the Willis-Harrington
Commission, completes the most comprehensive examination of public
education in state history. The commission
took 30 months and spent almost $300,000 to assess the strengths
and weaknesses of the state's school systems. The study resulted
in a 624-page final report that included over 100 programmatic recommendations.
Proceeds from a new sales tax were to be dedicated to education
1964: University of Massachusetts at Boston established.
1965: A board is born
Willis-Harrington Act creates a secretary of educational affairs
and a Board of Higher Education to "plan and develop efficient
coordination" among institutions. The board also is empowered
to recommend budgets, approve new programs, collect data and administer
scholarships. Willis-Harrington also transforms state colleges into
comprehensive institutions, offering a full array of undergraduate
programs in the arts and sciences and career and professionally
oriented programs as well as graduate programs through the master's
and CAGS degrees. Almost from the get-go, the Board of Higher Education
is seen as too weak and underfunded.
1969: SMTI becomes Southeastern Massachusetts University.
1969: UMass reorganizes
A study led by School of Engineering dean Joseph Marcus recommends
that the University be organized into a system with a president
and strong central administration headquartered in Boston and the
campuses run by chancellors. The plan is approved by the Board of
1970: UMass President Robert Wood moves his office
1973: Everyone has a plan
Less than impressed by the Board of Higher Education, Wood and Senate
President Kevin Harrington call for the creation of a "super
board" to govern public higher education. The idea spurs a
flurry of reorganization plans as Gov. Francis Sargent calls for
abolishing the Board of Higher Education and the board members float
a proposal to increase its own power and autonomy. Former Secretary
of Educational Affairs Joseph Cronin proposes a reorganization of
the state education system into five regions, each governed by a
council for elementary and secondary education and a council for
post-secondary learning. Cronin's plan calls for a board of post-secondary
and elementary and secondary education to oversee the councils and
report to a secretary of education and cultural affairs. Nothing
1975: Lowell State College and Lowell Technological
Institute are merged into the University of Lowell.
1976: One big unhappy family
Senate President Harrington proposes that all public colleges be
placed under the University. The plan is opposed by Dukakis and
the colleges and quickly dies.
1978: Let's look at that again ...
The Legislature establishes a Special Commission on the Reorganization
of Higher Education to provide "investigation and study relative
to the reorganization of public higher education." However,
looming elections take center stage and the commission quietly expires
before getting off the ground.
1979: ... and again
A new Special Commission on the Reorganization of Public Higher
Education, comprised of 10 state representatives and five state
senators, is appointed by Gov. Edward King. The commission receives
reports from the university, state college and community college
systems, former Gov. Foster Furcolo, the Board of Higher Education
and the House Ways and Means Committee. The commission creates subcommittees
to look at the possible merger of Boston-area colleges.
1980: House rules
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman John Finnegan submits a
reorganization of higher education as an outside section in the
Fiscal 1981 budget. The legislation calls for abolishing the secretary
of education, creating a 15-member Board of Regents with authority
over state and community colleges and leaving UMass intact. The
item is approved by the House but stalls in the Senate.
1980: How about this idea?
The special commission recommends a 21-member board of governors
be established for higher education. The board, appointed by the
governor, would submit one budget request for the sys-tem to the
Legislature, set tuition, terminate and approve academic pro-grams
and shift funds between institutions with the approval of the Senate
Ways and Means Committee and the Executive Office of Administration
1980: Minority report
Concerned that the budget process is being used to dictate reorganization,
Senate Ways and Means Chairman Chester Atkins proposes an alternate
plan based on a minority report by two members of the special commission.
The plan calls for replacing the Board of Higher education and secretary
of education with a 15-member Board of Regents with authority to
allocate funds to institutions, bargain union contracts, determine
personnel, fiscal and program policies and create nine-member councils
at each campus.
1980: Regents arrive
The Board of Regents is created in an outside section of the state
budget. The Legislature retains authority to set the amount of funding
for personnel at each campus, giving lawmakers control of 85 percent
of the higher education budget. Gov. King appoints Springfield insurance
executive James Martin as the first chairman. Secretary of State
Paul Guzzi is named interim chancellor.
1981: E-merging idea
Former president of the University of Lowell John Duff is named
chancellor of higher education. Duff recommends a discussion of
merging the Massachusetts College of Arts with UMass Boston. Nothing
Board of Trustees is downsized from 25 to eight members.
1981: Shotgun wedding
Less than a year after the creation of the Board of Regents of Higher
Education, new Gov. Edward King, dealing with a state fiscal crisis,
instructs the 15-member panel to streamline the state's public higher
education system through closings or mergers. The panels weigh merging
Framingham State College with Massachusetts Bay Community College
and the consolidation of colleges in the Springfield area, but a
plan to combine Boston State College with UMass Boston soon becomes
the focus of the effort. Chancellor of Higher Education John B.
Duff outlines a three-year phase-out of Boston State and its 3,700
students and 277 full-time faculty. But when lawmakers omit $6 million
from the higher education budget for the coming year, Duff calls
it a deliberate attempt to speed up the merger with UMass Boston
and says the changeover will be shortened to three weeks. In August,
the regents fire 97 Boston State faculty, who obtain a court injunction,
forcing the school to remain open through the fall. In January 1982,
the Legislature appropriates $6 million to pay Boston State faculty
until they can be hired at UMass Boston or other state campuses.
In February '82, using classrooms at its Columbia Point and downtown
campuses as well as BSC's five buildings, UMass Boston absorbs its
neighbor and sees its enrollment swell to 10,000.
UMass' aspirations to become a "world class university"
don't mirror the feelings of Gov. Michael Dukakis, who tells the
Boston Globe at the beginning of his third term, "We aren't
California, we aren't 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."
1986: Collins ousted
State Rep. James Collins (D-Amherst) is elected chancellor of higher
education by the Board of Regents after the board cannot agree on
any of the finalists: state Sen. John Olver, New Jersey education
official Franklyn Jenifer, Wellesley College president Barbara Newell
and E.K. Fretwell, chancellor of the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.
Angered by what he regards as legislative interference, Gov. Michael
Dukakis demotes regents chairman David Beaubien and replaces him
with political adviser L. Edward Lashman, who engineers the removal
of Collins and the hiring of Jenifer as chancellor. House Speaker
George Keverian (D-Everett) stops speaking to Dukakis.
1987: Payback time
While awaiting a legislative vote to boost his salary, Chancellor
of Higher Education Franklyn Jenifer finds himself in hot water
on Beacon Hill after allies of former law-maker/chancellor Jim Collins
circulate a Campus Chronicle story in which Jenifer criticizes legislators
for resisting reforms. Jenifer publicly repudiates the Chronicle
report, published three weeks earlier, but later concedes that he
was quoted accurately, including the comment that "You love
the Legislature. Franklyn Jenifer doesn't, and he's going to change
it." After letting him twist in the wind for awhile, lawmakers
grant Jenifer his raise.
1987: Size matters
Gov. Dukakis signs legislation expanding the Board of Trustees from
12 to 19 to include three gubernatorial appointees and a student
trustee from the Medical School.
February 1988: System study
In conjunction with the 125th anniversary of UMass, the Board of
Trustees allocates $175,000 to support a Commission on the Future
of the University. MIT Corp. chairman David Saxon is picked to head
the 19-member panel. Later, Dukakis asks the commission to consider
the role of the Board of Regents in its review.
February 1989: Changing of the guard
As the state's economic outlook grows gloomier, Dukakis appoints
Lashman secretary of Administration and Finance and taps former
U.S. Sen. Paul Tsongas to chair the Board of Regents.
March 1989: Dueling reports
The Commission on the Future of the University calls for bringing
the University of Lowell and Southeastern Massachusetts University
into the UMass system and creating a new strengthened board of trustees
with representatives of each of the three universities. The commission
also recommends that the regents retain coordinating authority for
public higher education, but that UMass should receive a lump sum
appropriation to be allocated by the Board of Trustees. A day after
the commission report hit the papers, Jenifer fires back with a
report recommending that UMass President David Knapp's office ("a
stifling bureaucracy") be eliminated and that the Amherst and
Worcester campuses be combined and that UMass Boston be made a free-standing
institution. Amherst-Worcester and Boston should have their own
presidents and trustee boards, but the regents should continue to
set policy for all 29 public campuses, says Jenifer.
May 1989: All in favor
To the surprise of no one, the Board of Regents approves the Jenifer
plan, which also calls for selling the downtown UMass Boston building,
which houses the President's Office, as well as part of Massachusetts
August 1989: Time for another study
Tsongas creates a 14-member Task Force on Administrative Organization.
September 1989: A&F Secretary Lashman orders the
layoff of 2,300 state employees, including 700 in higher education.
Lashman also proposes charging out-of-state residents for the "full
cost" of their education at public institutions.
October 1989: Sound familiar?
UMass President David Knapp says a $10 million state budget rescission
is accelerating the "privatization of public higher education."
November 1989: UMass fees go up by $350 as the trustees
approve a curriculum support fee aimed at pumping revenue into the
March 1990: Shuffling the deck
A 13-member legislative committee is created to study the future
of public higher education. Randolph Bromery is named interim chancellor
of higher education, filling the post vacated by Franklyn Jenifer
who is named president of Howard University. David Knapp resigns
as UMass president; Amherst campus Chancellor Joseph Duffey is appointed
June 1990: Board of Regents approves a 28 percent
tuition increase at UMass Amherst and UMass Boston.
September 1990: Regional approach
Following a $25.5 million cut ordered by Dukakis, Bromery unveils
a reorganization plan to promote resource sharing by grouping campuses
into five regions. The Amherst campus is grouped with Westfield
and North Adams state colleges and Springfield Technical, Holyoke,
Berkshire and Greenfield community colleges.
October 1990: UWM?
Bromery backs off his reorganization, saying that 60 percent of
it is already in place. Speaking to the Faculty Senate, Bromery
says, "I have to come back here, and I don't want to teach
at the University of Western Massachusetts."
December 1990: Parting gift
As Dukakis prepares to turn over the Corner Office and a plummeting
economy to Gov.-elect William Weld, he approves pay raises of 13
percent over three years for public higher education.
January 1991: Where's the fat?
The Tsongas task force refutes charges of waste and administrative
"fat" in public higher education and calls for greater
autonomy. The panel finds "no substantive evidence to support
the claim that public higher education is top heavy with overpaid
employees." Citing national data, the task force says Massachusetts
is more faculty intensive and less staff intensive than other systems
in the U.S. The panel recommends that public higher education be
exempt from "routine and arbitrary" state regulations
and that the regents chair be elected by the board and not appointed
by the governor. The report suggests some regionalization of administrative
and facilities maintenance among schools and broader use of computers
and technology and shared faculty appointments.
January 1991: On the block
Weld takes office and immediately calls for creating a secretary
of education and eliminating the regents. Among his key advisors
is Stephen Tocco. A Northeastern University law professor on Weld's
transition team floats a plan to close Mass. Maritime, Worcester
State, Massachusetts Bay Community College and North Shore Community
College. The plan also weighs closing Salem State and merging SMU
and the University of Lowell with UMass.
February 1991: Bromery quits in protest of cuts. Paul
Marks is named interim chancellor.
March 1991: What can we close?
Weld creates an 11-member commission to study the closing of colleges
with the goal of saving $74 million. Duffey announces he will leave
UMass to become president of American University. Weld fails to
file the pay raise legislation, forcing the unions to renegotiate.
Tsongas blasts Weld's plan to scrap the regents. Duffey calls Weld's
proposal a "masterplan for mediocrity." The trustees authorize
Duffey to push a bill merging the three universities, a plan backed
by the SMU trustees.
April 1991: Attitude adjustments
The trustees of the three universities meet to discuss a merger;
the proposal is endorsed by the Boston Globe. Weld education advisor
James Harrington signals a change in attitude, stating "A case
can be built for increasing funding for education."
May 1991: Weld calls for $1 billion in cuts for the
following fiscal year. The cuts include a $115 million reduction
in higher education spending and $100 million from the collective
bargaining reserve. The governor files a reorganization plan calling
for a secretary of education to be advised by a 19-member board
of education policy. The legislation also authorizes the merger
of Lowell, UMass and SMU and gives University control over personnel
June 1991: Strange bedfellows
The presidential search committee votes 5-4 in favor of Holyoke
Community College president David Bartley to be interim president
of UMass. In a weird twist, Dukakis appointees on the board unite
with Weld to block Bartley's appointment, which is supported by
trustees from the King administration, including James Carlin. E.K.
Fretwell is named interim president. Tsongas quits to run for president.
July 1991: Give'em HECC
Weld signs UMass merger legislation and appoints Bunker Hill Community
College's Piedad Robertson as secretary of education. The Board
of Regents is replaced by an 11-member Higher Education Coordinating
Council (HECC). The UMass Board of Trustees is reconfigured to 19
voting members, three non-voting students and Robertson as an ex
September 1991: Then there were 5 ...
Lowell and Dartmouth join the UMass system.
January 1992: Tuition retention
Weld proposes level funding with full tuition retention for FY93.
The plan calls for cutting higher education by $89 million, to be
offset by $140 million in tuition revenues.
April 1992: Board of Trustees approves plans to close
250 Stuart St. offices and move classes to UMass Boston's Harbor
campus. The President's Office is told to move to rented space.
May 1992: Michael Hooker is named UMass president.
June 1992: Weld offers plan to have seven state colleges
become streamlined and specialized institutions, each offering a
selection of majors in a particular field. Nothing happens.
May 1995: Hooker named chancellor of University of
North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
November 1995: Weld taps James Carlin to head HECC.
With the governor's tacit approval, Senate President William M.
Bulger is chosen UMass president.
January 1996: Weld announces plan to eliminate secretary
of education and replacing HECC with a board of higher education.
The new board will be authorized to eliminate duplicate programs,
he says, forcing colleges and UMass to operate with "efficiency
August 1997: Carlin proposes eliminating tuition and
fees at community colleges at a cost of $90 million. He also calls
for eliminating faculty tenure.
July 1999: Stephen Tocco is named to replace Carlin,
August 2000: Judith Gill appointed chancellor
of Higher Education.