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Integrating Technology into the Massachusetts Public Higher Education Systems

Updated: June 4, 2003


According to an October 1999 report to the Board of Higher Education, the Massachusetts public higher education system gets only average grades for effectively integrating technology into the curriculum.

Massachusetts Perspective:

A visiting Committee of thirty-two academics and information technology professionals analyzed eighty-six technology certificate and degree programs offered by the state college system, finding courses with little or no relevance to the workplace of the New Economy, and concluding that the curriculum was at best "traditional," even in the strongest programs. It was the first such review since 1987.

Recommendations presented by the visiting Committee to the Board of Higher Education include:
  • an accreditation process for state college computer science programs;
  • an improved system to recruit talented information technology faculty and students for graduate degree programs;
  • improved computer facilities and infrastructure; and
  • creation of an industry advisory committee to form guidelines for teaching information technology.
Governmental Activity:

In response to these recommendations, the Board of Higher Education in October 2000 established the Commonwealth Information Technology Initiative (CITI), a three-year, $7 million designed to improve and expand information technology education across the Commonwealth’s public higher education system. The system educates 177,000 students each year, and an estimated 85% of the system’s graduates live and work in Massachusetts. These students represent an important part of the workforce, since the state’s population is not growing.

CITI focuses on four program areas:
  • Curriculum Enhancement: Revises and modernizes existing courses and programs in computer science, management information systems and computer engineering.
  • Faculty Development: Ensures that faculty in technical disciplines have the skills to teach courses that meet industry’s current Information Technology needs.
  • IT Across the Curriculum: Establishes an IT minor that integrates Information Technology education into non-technical disciplines such as journalism or business.
  • Regional Cooperation: Creates geographically based alliances among schools and industry to leverage faculty, courses and other resources for Information Technology.

CITI has successfully launched new courses and academic programs in information technology across the state. Notable successes to date include: the start of a process to modernize computer science curriculum at many institutions; fostering new collaboration among faculty at the University, state and community colleges; and forging closer ties between academia and private industry around IT workforce development issues.

Unfortunately, CITI’s programs are at risk because public funding was severely reduced in the ongoing state budget crisis. What was originally designed in FY01 as a 3-year, $7 million program has seen funding dramatically reduced in midstream. CITI was eliminated from the state budget in FY02 and FY03, making it nearly impossible for CITI to build on its initial successes and realize its potential.

CITI’s goal is to raise $2 million over the next 18 months from private and public sources. CITI is seeking industry partners, who understand the importance of IT workforce development, to help obtain interim sources of private funding.

Software Council Position:

The Council supports full implementation of CITI and encourages partnerships between the private sector and public job training agencies to allow CITI to proceed with its programs.

Software Council Activity:

  • Council President Joyce Plotkin and Trustee Rich Carpenter served on the Technology Task Force convened by the Board of Higher Education which reviewed the recommendations of the visiting committee and which recommended the action plan leading to the creation of CITI.
  • Council President Joyce Plotkin testified before the Board of Higher Education about the imporatance of the CITI program to industry.
  • The Council and 13 member CEOs met with Governor Romney and raised CITI as one of the Council’s priorities.
  • The Council has worked with the Board of Higher Education, the University of Massachusetts and the Romney Administration to seek public and private funding for CITI, arguing that the IT industry needs programs such as CITI to address long-term, structural workforce development concerns.

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