Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed a bill into law on Thursday that requires colleges facing financial struggles and considering closing to notify the Board of Higher Education and give a plan for providing a complete education to the students that may suffer if the school were to close.
This legislation is important because individual students and the education they were promised when they enrolled in a college or university must be prioritized over the school’s finances or reputation. This may mean tough decisions for administration that could lead to shutting down, but through this law no student will be completely helpless in those situations.
Boston University is no stranger to these scenarios. Wheelock College in Fenway was absorbed by BU in 2018 and became the Wheelock College of Education and Human Development, a college within BU’s greater university system. Wheelock College had reached out to several universities for a potential partnership after concerns that they would not be able to continue as a stand-alone school due to financial reasons.
Wheelock students were able to continue their education at an accomplished university instead of being left in the dark about their school’s concerns until they were forced to halt their education and find somewhere else to study. It is essential that students are given this support by their institutions and the government to ensure none are taken advantage of.
Otherwise, they may be forced to look for solutions on their own after likely having already spent thousands of dollars or piled on immense student loans to undertake a postsecondary education. Starting that process again from scratch is a crippling disadvantage.
Financial ruin is not the only issue that can infringe upon a school’s ability to deliver education to their students. The loss of accreditation, often the result of a misstep in administration, strips students’ degrees of all of their value.
Accreditation ensures every school meets a certain minimum standard. While this sounds like it may benefit the students, there is no system in place like the one Massachusetts has implemented here to remedy the chaos caused by depriving students of degrees that hold accreditation.
Without protecting these students as well, the intentions of this legislation are not fully met.
The government provides protections for private investments through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation that insures deposits made in private banks up to $200,000. Education is exactly the kind of investment that should fall under these guidelines, to protect students as well as the economy.
Ultimately, people that enroll in a college trust that institution to provide them a guaranteed end-goal, whether a certificate or degree or anything in between. No school should be able to renege on that promise without providing an alternative to the students they are affecting.