Last month, Governor Charlie Baker signed the Fiscal Year 2021 budget into law, making a change in state law that will allow the growing number of part-time students on public college and university campuses to serve as representatives of their student bodies. Massasoit Student Trustee Cindy Mack and State Senator Michael Brady played vital roles in getting the amendment passed.
The amendment removed the requirement that students must be enrolled full-time to run for the elected position of student trustee, and this change creates new flexibility for public higher education institutions and the Department of Higher Education.
Mack and the Student Advisory Council began their efforts to change the Massachusetts General Laws in the fall by contacting their local representatives in hopes of raising the issue within the House of Representatives. When the amendment was not heard in the House, Mack, who is the Parliamentary Chair of the Student Advisory Council, acted quickly to ensure success before it was too late to be included in the FY 2021 budget.
“Senator Brady has always been a champion for Massasoit and community colleges across the state,” said Mack. “We were very grateful that he filed the amendment with the Senate, presented it, and gained the support of his colleagues for us. This all happened in about a month.”
The change will ensure equitable representation of student bodies, especially at the Commonwealth’s 15 community colleges, where nearly 70 percent of students attend part-time.
“I’m proud to have filed this legislation ensuring that part time students, who make up the majority of community college students statewide. have the opportunity to represent themselves and their peers as student trustees,” said State Senator Michael D. Brady (D- Brockton).
“In advocating for this, I thought, ‘why shouldn’t all students have the opportunity to serve as a Student Trustee?’ Being part- or full-time, we all face the same challenges and overcome many similar issues,” continued Mack.
“I want to congratulate the Student Advisory Council for taking on this issue and succeeding in their efforts to advocate for this change,” said Carlos E. Santiago, Commissioner of Higher Education. “SAC’s hard work will be enormously beneficial in the years ahead, as it will allow a much broader population of students to become civically engaged in their college communities.”
The student trustee is a representative of the student body, elected annually, who serves on a public higher education institution’s board of trustees and helps make important decisions, including those pertaining to budget and policy, which impact students and the community as a whole. Previously, a student hoping to run for the elected position was required to be a full-time undergraduate student. These part-time students were neither eligible to run for student trustee nor able to continue serving in their role if they dropped a course and were no longer enrolled full-time. Full-time status is 12 credits, or four courses on average.
“Being a Student Trustee has been the best – a life changing event for me,” said Mack, who is currently serving in his second year as Massasoit’s Student Trustee. He is also on the Department of Higher Education’s Open Educational Resources Advisory Council.
The change to Massachusetts law will also increase opportunities for civic engagement among students of color who are more likely to attend part-time. Community colleges serve the largest population of students of color in the Massachusetts higher education system, with 66 percent of African American students, 62 percent of Latinx students, and 64 percent of Native American students attending on a part-time basis. The Student Advisory Council to the Board of Higher Education prioritized these issues surrounding equity and appropriate student representation for students on the Board of Trustees with the goal of achieving more equitable representation of public higher education’s increasingly diverse student bodies.
The Massachusetts Student Advisory Council is composed of the SGA/Student Senate President and the student trustee from each of the 15 community colleges, nine state universities, and five campuses of the University of Massachusetts. The SAC, as a deliberative and recommending body to the Board of Higher Education, is empowered to make studies, reports and recommendations advocating for the rights, needs, interests and welfare of all students enrolled at public institutions in the Commonwealth.