Students enrolled in independent colleges and universities in Massachusetts will have stronger protections under a new proposed regulation.
The Massachusetts Board of Higher Education (BHE) proposed regulations would establish standards and processes to protect students from abrupt colure of institutions.
The board through the Commissioner of Higher Education and Department of Higher Education staff would be authorized to screen, monitor and work with institutions to develop contingency plans for closure and timely notification of students, families, and staff.
“Our regulatory response to institutional closure needs to become more proactive if we are to truly safeguard the interests of the public,” said Carlos E. Santiago, Commissioner of Higher Education.
“We have seen one too many instances of colleges shutting down without adequate notice and leaving students without a clear pathway to completing their education. This is unfair to them and their communities, and is also disruptive to the Commonwealth, which relies on a steady, reliable stream of college graduates to meet the needs of our high-skilled economy.”
The regulations would further allow the board to use multiple indicators from publicly available data sources to determine institutions’ financial stability and submission of Risk Mitigation Plans.
By the end of this year, the Department would determine whether an independent higher education institution is financially capable of completing the current and subsequent school years over an 18-month time frame. Those who are at risk of imminent closure will be required to submit a contingency closure plan and notify students, faculty and other stakeholders of its financial condition.
“The Board and the Department of Higher Education will be a more proactive participant in ensuring transparency and fairness for students and families, without creating expansive new powers that would be overly burdensome to colleges,” Education Secretary James Peyser said.
State Governor Charlie Baker has also filed new legislation that would enhance the Board’s oversight and to safeguard confidentiality during the screening and monitoring process.