Report: State needs more skilled college graduates

Last modified: Sunday, November 09, 2014

BOSTON — There is a shortage of skilled graduates in Massachusetts and more are needed to fill jobs in key industries that fuel economic growth, according to a report released Tuesday by the Department of Higher Education

Officials are basing their projections on an expected drop in the state’s high school population in coming years, which comes at a time of rising demand for skilled college graduates.

The report projects that within six years, Massachusetts’ high school population will shrink by 9 percent, a shift from the previous decade which saw a 31 percent increase in high school graduates.

The report found that the earlier growth in high school graduates helped fuel record enrollments at Massachusetts’ community colleges, state universities and UMass campuses.

That boom has now ended. This fall the public higher education system posted its first decline in enrollment in a decade.

To help close that gap, the report makes a series of recommendations including helping more students succeed in and complete college and redoubling efforts to close achievement gaps that keep too many black and Latino students from graduating.

The report also recommends attracting and retaining students who are not being served by the system, including those who currently can’t afford to attend college.

Massachusetts Secretary of Education Matthew Malone said the report “provides state leaders with a road map that allows us to think and respond proactively to the issues in higher education we will face in the next decade.”

A second report by the state’s Higher Education Finance Commission recommends that the public campuses receive significant additional funding — $475 million over five years tied to performance improvement. It said the additional spending should be linked to efforts by campuses to achieve greater operating efficiencies.

The report had some bright spots. It found that the graduation rate gap between white and Latino students is narrowing at the University of Massachusetts and state university campuses.

It also found the focus on workforce planning in high-growth industry sectors is yielding results.

The report points to a 34 percent increase in nurses with bachelor’s degrees between 2010 and 2013. The report said that is important because research shows that higher education levels result in improved patient outcomes.


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