BOSTON – State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D – Pittsfield) announces that the Massachusetts Senate voted unanimously -- 37-0 -- to pass the higher education bond bill, thereby authorizing $2 billion for capital improvements to the Commonwealth’s public higher education system statewide. The Senate’s higher education bond bill includes a $49.5 million authorization for a new Center for Science and Innovation at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA).
“MCLA’s Center for Science and Innovation will support the ability of the College and the County to be competitive in the Commonwealth’s ever expanding economy – particularly in the life sciences and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) sectors. The Science Center will serve as the hub of development for new partnerships with business and industry and meet the challenges laid out in the Berkshire Compact by expanding relationships between MCLA, K-12 and the Community Colleges,” lauded Downing. “This critical authorization will infuse the necessary resources into MCLA to provide our students and businesses with the training and educational opportunities necessary to compete with companies in Albany and the eastern part of the state.”
The higher education bond has been vetted by various legislative panels since the Governor filed his bill last October. Each step of the way Downing and his colleagues in the House successfully advocated for this critical authorization. This week Downing negotiated with the Senate Committee on Ways and Means to increase the Science Center’s earmark to $49.5 million. Prior to Ways and Means’ report the bond contained $31.2 million for the project, as recommended by the Joint Committee on Higher Education, on which Downing serves as Senate Vice Chairman and the Joint Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets. The Committees’ recommendation of $31.2 million also represented an increase from the Governor’s original proposal of $22.8 million for the MCLA Science Center.
"This is great news for the Berkshires! We are extremely grateful to Governor Patrick for identifying higher education investment as a priority. These higher education bond funds are critical to our ability to invest in new science facilities and renovate classroom buildings," said Dr. Mary K. Grant, President of MCLA. "$49.5 million is a very, very big step forward, and there is no doubt that with the great support and leadership of Senator Downing and Representatives Bosley, Pignatelli, Speranzo and Guyer, we are on our way to realizing a vision that has the potential to transform MCLA and the educational and economic landscape of the Berkshires."
Berkshire Community College (BCC) will also benefit from the Senate’s higher ed. bond bill. BCC has been authorized to receive $23 million for the renovation and modernization of the academic facilities in Hawthorne and Melville Halls and an additional $1 million for exterior building repairs on campus.
The Commonwealth’s public higher education system is comprised of 29 campuses divided into three segments: 15 community colleges, nine state colleges and the five University of Massachusetts locations. The higher education bond bill is now before the House of Representatives for consideration.