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State budget increases money for higher education, freezing student fees

The Legislature’s conference committee budget report allocates $9.6 million, including money for annual staff salaries, to GCC. The school received $7.8 million in last year’s budget.

The House and Senate now send the budget to Gov. Deval Patrick for approval. While Patrick has disagreed with the Legislature on other state budget measures, such as transportation, he has supported this level of increase for the state’s public higher education institutions.

“The legislative body and the governor really took seriously the importance of public higher education (and) took seriously the rising cost,” said GCC President Robert Pura. “And, in this budget, (they) made it clear to the citizens of the Commonwealth that they’re serious about keeping the doors of education open and affordable.”

The budget allocation also means a legislative endorsement for a new funding formula, which Pura helped create with other state community college presidents and Massachusetts Teachers Association representatives. The formula swings more in GCC’s favor, Pura has said, and allows for a new and fair way to allocate the state’s money by rewarding schools for strong academic performance.

Budget increases were made across the board to community colleges, state universities and the University of Massachusetts system. As a result, the potential fee increases voted on by the GCC and UMass boards of trustees will not be needed.

“This is an important and long overdue increase for higher education,” said Rep. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington.

“Higher education should be a priority for us ... not only strengthening campuses but making college education more affordable,” he said.

The state funding will account for 48 percent of GCC’s total revenue this year, said Tim Braim, the college’s chief financial officer. Last year it was 41 percent.

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