On December 11, 2017 The Baker-Polito Administration announced $1.2 million in grants to sixteen Massachusetts public colleges and universities to make college more affordable and accessible through enhanced digital learning opportunities.

Performance Incentive Fund (PIF) grants are issued by the Department of Higher Education and seek to incentivize the state’s higher education institutions to produce cost savings for students through collaboration across the campuses. Since 2012, the fund has awarded more than $25 million in grants.

“Performance Incentive grants allow our state colleges and universities to explore new digital innovations in teaching and learning to make higher education more affordable and accessible for students across the Commonwealth,” said Governor Baker. “Massachusetts is poised to be a leader in online learning, and we are pleased these grants will help our public higher education institutions achieve that goal.”

In this round of grants, Massasoit Community College received $58,765 to launch new initiatives to increase use of Open Educational Resources (teaching, learning and/or research materials that are in the public domain) in a bid to reduce the use of costly textbooks. The “Massasoit Millions” Initiative aims to save its students $1 million annually by 2019.

Currently, 51 Massasoit courses use free Open Educational Resources (OER) instead of text books, saving students $136,464 in Fall 2017 alone. We strive to make it clear to students which courses use OER, posting it where students search for their courses. Every semester, Massasoit has dozens of courses that do not require textbooks. For these courses, your professors have eliminated costly textbooks and replaced them with Open Educational Resources (OER) — electronic resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing.

Last month, Governor Baker announced he will establish a new Commission on Digital Innovation and Lifelong Learning to develop recommendations that will lead to more online learning opportunities for Massachusetts residents to obtain education and skills for in-demand fields.

“New approaches are needed to expand higher education opportunities for all Massachusetts residents, particularly for those who need flexibility and are not able to take traditional classes on a college campus,” Lt. Governor Karyn Polito said. “Incentivizing grants like these will help ensure the Commonwealth’s higher education institutions can provide services that meet the demands of today’s students.”

The Department of Higher Education strives to improve college access, affordability and completion of degrees and certificates.

“These grants are part of the Department of Higher Education’s strategic focus on increasing opportunities for students to earn credentials that will position them for good jobs and continued career growth, especially in high-skilled industries that fuel the state’s economic development,” Secretary James Peyser said.

“From the start, the Performance Incentive Fund has encouraged campus leaders to think in new ways about some of the most intractable problems we face in higher education,” said Carlos E. Santiago, Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education. “We’re now beginning to see the fruits of that effort, as we award grants to campuses that want to build on the gains and successes of prior years’ funding.”

“It’s exciting for me to see our public campuses emerging as leaders in digital learning innovation, which is a key strand running through this year’s grant proposals,” said Chris Gabrieli, Chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education. “We’re also seeing a lot of energy go into work to improve the remedial coursework which, sadly, is required of thousands of our students who arrive on campus unprepared for college-level work. These efforts will help reduce barriers and accelerate the timetable for students to complete their degrees.”

Further details on the funding history and program highlights of the Performance Incentive Fund Grant Program can be found here.