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Downing's Legislation to Enhance Access & Coordination of Public Higher Ed Student Data Endorsed by Committee
May 04, 2011

Boston – Legislation sponsored by State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D- Pittsfield) to establish a centrally administered, computer-based transfer and degree auditing system for all students within the Massachusetts public higher education system received the endorsement of the Joint Committee on Higher Education today.
 
“Once launched, this system will provide students with 24/7 access to data outlining the credits they’ve earned and any outstanding requirements they must fulfill to meet graduation requirements,” said Downing. “This will be a comprehensive, statewide advising tool that will help college professors guide their students through their studies.”
 
Downing, who served as the Acting Senate Chairman of the Higher Education Committee last session, filed   S. 567, An Act relative to student records coordination across public higher education institutions at the request of the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education. The Higher Education Committee held a public hearing on S. 567 today. At the conclusion of the hearing the Committee convened in Executive Session and voted unanimously to release Downing’s bill with a favorable report.
 
“This legislation is a step towards improving the availability of important academic information for students,” said State Senator Michael O. Moore (D- Millbury), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Higher Education. “It is our job to ensure that students of the Massachusetts public higher education system have all of the tools that they need to move themselves towards earning a degree.”  Chairman Moore co-sponsored S. 567 with Downing.
 
Downing’s legislation is based upon the recommendations of the Commonwealth Transfer Advisory Group (CTAG), which were submitted to the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education in June 2008. Established by a vote of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, CTAG was tasked with reviewing higher education credit transfer issues and making recommendations on improving the effectiveness of transfers across the state’s public higher education system.  CTAG’s final report identified strategies to ensure the seamless transfer of college-level credit among the Commonwealth’s public community colleges and state universities and the improved coordination in implementing an effective transfer system.  In 2007 Downing was the Vice-Chairman of the Higher Education Committee; in this capacity he represented the Senate on the Commonwealth Transfer Advisory Group.
 
“As Massachusetts seeks national leadership in public higher education through the Vision Project, it is essential that we be able to coordinate and collaborate at both the campus and agency level,” said Higher Education Commissioner Richard M. Freeland. “This bill signals the importance of cross-agency research collaboration, especially with our colleagues in K12. The bill also provides critical data for our students, allowing them to see how their courses compare to courses at other public higher education institutions. This is especially valuable at a time when more students are seeking to transfer.”
 
This comprehensive statewide advising tool will help alleviate confusion and roadblocks students routinely face toward degree completion, especially for the significant number of students who transfer credits across the public higher education institutions. An additional and important benefit will be the tracking of degree progress that will enable public higher education institutions to identify potential barriers to student success.
 
"The Massachusetts community college presidents encourage initiatives which provide students with greater information about their progress toward graduation and transfer," noted Dr. Paul Raverta, President, Berkshire Community College. Dr. Raverta serves as Chairman of the Massachusetts Community Colleges Council of Presidents.
 
S. 567, and its companion piece in the House, H. 2786, was released to the Senate. It is expected that it will be referred to the Senate Committee on Ways and Means for additional review. 
 
The complete CTAG report can be accessed online: http://www.mass.edu/library/Reports/CTAGReport.pdf.
 
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