More than 2,000,000 students, or nearly 43% of the college-level student population, would never have the opportunity to attend public higher education in Massachusetts unless Governor Foster Furcolo’s passionate and relentless struggle to establish 15 community colleges in the state was unsuccessful in the 1950s. As the Republican editorial rightly put it in September 2009, his services were long forgotten by politics. In recognition of his service, Massachusetts general law was changed just two years ago to collectively refer to the 15 community colleges as “Governor Foster Fucolo’s Community Colleges”. At a time when private higher education was predominant and mostly accessible to students from wealthy families, Governor Furcolo opened the door to public higher education to those who could not afford to attend expensive private educational institutions. He wanted colleges to be located closer to the communities, to offer education for both the individual and the state at a lower cost, to meet the demands of the growing manufacturing and service sectors, and to keep families and state incomes in the long term . The benefits of his intelligent foresight were clearly seen in the Massachusetts economy and society today.
One of its goals was to provide higher education for members from low-income families who wanted to pursue higher education. He wanted to reach immigrants, inactive adults, working men and women, and people with disabilities who want to improve their skills and participate in economic activities. The current makeup of the student body shows how far Governor Furcolo’s audiences have reached and benefited from his community college movement.
According to a recent economic impact report, the median household income of students attending community colleges was less than $ 36,000 a year, and 60% of grant recipients, particularly Pell Grants, were from families who were less than US dollars earned earned $ 18,600 a year.
In the mid-1950s, Governor Furcolo saw the growing college-age population and the barriers they faced on the path to higher education. His solution was to set up a public higher education system to help this population and give them the opportunity to participate in qualification-enhancing studies, part-time, on an open enrollment basis and, if necessary, with the option of enrolling in remedial courses. A study of the makeup of the student population at community colleges in Massachusetts shows that the majority of the group are adult part-time students. More than 61% of students at community colleges in Massachusetts are half- or quarter-time students and were over 25 years of age. Only 39% were full-time students and in the traditional college age group. Many of them had to take preliminary courses such as math and English, writing and reading before they could enroll for a college paper. In a recent study based on high school students in 2005 attending community colleges in Massachusetts, an average of 37% required at least one remedial course before entering college (Conaway 2008).
The fulfillment of Fucolo’s vision of making public higher education affordable for poor families is still evident today when the cost of community education compares with other higher education systems. The national average for tuition at public universities is $ 4,694 for residents of the state. Tuition and fees at a private college nationwide are approximately $ 20,000, while the cost at a community college averages $ 2,076. The same pattern can be seen in Massachusetts. The nature of the student body required higher education, as Furcolo saw it, required a distributed pattern of educational institutions. Short distances to facilities save time and reduce movement costs, reduce the overall costs for a person and also minimize disruption to daily routines. Furcolo envisioned the colleges being a commute away from them so that those involved in both household and work-related tasks could easily attend them.