The Spring 2000 issue of Perspective, the newsletter of the Massachusetts State College Association, contained the following article by Dr. John Kilbourne, a colleague of mine here at Bridgewater. I thank him for permission to use this article on my web site, and for having been willing to describe our common plight in such frank and personal terms.

Level the Playing Field: Moving State College Faculty Out of Poverty

Recently while listening to National Public Radio and balancing our finances after the holidays, I was awakened to the real reason why my family lives month-to-month. The story on NPR was about the realignment of the poverty standards in America. According to the research they cited, a family of four with one child in school and one in daycare living in or near Boston needs an annual salary of nearly forty-two thousand dollars to live above the poverty level. The report stated that the existing poverty standards established by the Federal Government are outdated and meaningless to those trying to make it near or around large cities like Boston.

Hearing this report while trying to balance our finances, I looked at my wife and said, "That's us. I now know why we live month to month. We are near the poverty level!" Fifteen years of college, a Ph.D., Assistant Professor at a prestigious Massachusetts State College, National and International expert in my field, outstanding teacher, accomplished scholar, committed to community service, and I am borderline poverty? Go figure!

Massachusetts is known throughout the world as a leader in higher education. The backbone of the Massachusetts system is the outstanding Community Colleges, State Colleges, and State Universities. There is no question that these schools provide the greatest opportunities for Massachusetts residents to gain the knowledge and experience that allows them to become outstanding and contributing citizens. Despite their long-standing records of success, the faculty salaries at the State Colleges in Massachusetts are the lowest of any industrialized state. For many it is borderline poverty. Yes! POVERTY...

Any discussion about a new contract for State College faculty must begin with a salary increase. Post-tenure review and governance should not even be part of the discussion without a commitment by the Board of Higher Education to significantly increase salaries, especially those at the Assistant Professor level. And, any raise must be in the ten to fifteen percent ranges. During these times of extraordinary prosperity in Massachusetts, there are simply no reasons that the BHE can give for not leveling the playing field. Failure to do so will certainly erode a system that took many years to create. Moreover, those who ultimately will suffer the most from the inequity are the students. For example, at Bridgewater State College we are already experiencing the fallout. In my department I cannot remember a time when we have had so few applications for new faculty positions. Simply stated, the word is out: Massachusetts State College faculties are underpaid!

If those who govern wish to move Massachusetts into the new millennium with hope for the future, they must take immediate steps to preserve and protect the state system of higher education that many have worked hard to create. Level the playing field before it is too late!

Assistant Professor
Bridgewater State College
Posted here with Dr. Kilbourne's permission.

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