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March 2014 Trustee Notes

Submitted by on March 20, 2014 – 10:29 pm

Higher Ed Commissioner Speaks to Trustees

Massachusetts Higher Education Commissioner Richard Freeland wants to strengthen the relationship between the Department of Higher Education and local boards of trustees, and, as part of that effort, he was a guest speaker at the Northern Essex Community College Board of the March 5 meeting of the NECC Board of Trustees.

Calling Northern Essex “one of my favorite campuses to visit”, the commissioner pointed out the college’s good work, including success with outcomes assessment and outreach to the Latino community.

Referring to the state’s Vision Project, the commissioner said “the college has been a leader in the single most important aspect of the vision project: the completion agenda.   No institution more than Northern Essex has made a concerted effort to study what it is about a student’s experience that causes them to succeed or not succeed.”   He applauded Northern Essex for its “marked improvements” in the success rate of developmental students.

The commissioner also provided some perspective on support for public higher education, calling it “a good time historically.”   “The Governor’s proposed budget for FY15 is not quite as generous (as FY14) but it is still very generous.  We are one of the top targets for spending for all state agencies.”

The increased support is part of a growing recognition on the part of government and business leaders that public higher education is critical to the economic future of our state, said Freeland.

“Today 2/3 of Massachusetts students go to public colleges, and community colleges are the largest part of this.  The need for college educated workers is greater here than in any other state in the country.”

State Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives, who serves on the joint committee on higher education, attended the meeting and asked how the partnerships between public higher education and private industry can become more of a “tangible reality.”

The commissioner admitted that they would like to see more of a financial commitment from the business community.  “The Governor has articulated a challenge to the business community to match the investment he has made to education.”

NECC Financial Aid Office Distributed $26 Million

Tina Favara, interim dean of enrollment services, provided trustees with a report on trends in financial aid, along with a Northern Essex financial aid snapshot.

According to Favara, Northern Essex students “aren’t taking out the large loans” that are being reported in the media.  Sixty-five percent of Northern Essex students receive some form of financial aid, and 63 percent are grants which unlike loans do not have to be paid back.  More than half of the aid distributed is Pell Grants, a federal program that provides need-based grants to low income undergraduates.

In 2012-2013, the college’s financial aid office distributed a total of $26.1 million dollars in aid, including Pell Grants, FSEOG (federal supplemental educational opportunity grants), federal work study, subsidized loans, state funding, unsubsidized loans, retention scholarships, institutional scholarships and veterans’ benefits. 

Librarian will Explore Information Literacy during Sabbatical

Michael Hearn, coordinator of library services, will be taking a half year sabbatical leave in the fall of 2014 after a unanimous vote of approval from the Northern Essex Board of Trustees.

During his sabbatical, he will focus on developing the information literacy core academic skill, which is one of six skills that will be a new associate degree graduation requirement, effective in the fall of 2014.

Information literacy is described as learning to identify information needs and using appropriate resources to find and communicate this information.

“Of the six skills, the information literacy skill has been particularly challenging for faculty to incorporate into courses and we anticipate it will also be challenging for students to develop,” wrote Hearn.

During his sabbatical, Hearn plans to create online tutorials about information literacy and assist faculty in developing information literacy intensive courses.