Letter to the Editor: Understanding Minuteman Enrollment


To the editor:

Let’s talk about Minuteman enrollment.

Total enrollment at Minuteman today is at its second-lowest level in history, as reported by the Minuteman Superintendent on Monday night.

Member town enrollment in Minuteman has fallen from 1,214 in 1977 to 331 in 2015 (not including the six towns that are leaving the district). That is a 73 percent drop.

As a result, Minuteman has become dependent on students from non-member towns to bolster its budget. Nearly half of the students at Minuteman come from (current or soon-to-be) non-member towns.

There will be space for Belmont.

In addition, there are two more factors putting new downward pressure on Minuteman enrollment:

  • Minuteman is already the most expensive vocational/technical school in Massachusetts. New capital fees from the debt would make it even more expensive, giving non-members a financial incentive to leave Minuteman.
  • Changes in state regulations prevent many non-member freshmen from attending Minuteman. Fewer students are likely to transfer in their sophomore year, leaving their sports teams, friends, etc.

There has always been space at Minuteman for non-member towns like Watertown, Waltham and Cambridge. They are not worried that a new school will change that, and they continue to refuse to join.

Why are we worried?

This wouldn’t matter if non-member towns paid their fair share. But member towns pay much more than non-member towns. In 2017, Belmont will pay $30,602 per student, compared to $19,702 by non-member towns, and it will only get worse with the new, $144 million Minuteman debt.

Build it and they will come.

That’s what Minuteman would like us to believe, that 40-year enrollment trends will reverse themselves overnight. Minuteman’s financial projections are based on best-case scenarios that assume 40 percent enrollment growth from member towns in just three years.

They want us to be afraid that the new school will fill up.

To the contrary, based on both long-term and short-term trends, Minuteman will need many non-member students to fill the 300-plus extra seats in the new school. And we can feel confident that there will be space at Minuteman for Belmont students for the foreseeable future.

Please join us in voting “No” on the $144 million Minuteman debt.

Pat Brusch and Anne Marie Mahoney

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  1. Dave Manjarrez says

    Date December 8, 2018.
    Average assessment cost per member town student is currently over $41,000. This number will exceed $50,000 per student, shortly.
    Minuteman member towns currently and have ALWAYS subsidized non-member tuition students. The current subsidy for each tuition student is over $14,000.
    The average tuition cost per non-member student is under $17,000 plus $2,000 in transportation costs to and from school.
    Last DESE REPORTED total enrollment was 538 for students in grades 9-12. Current school year enrollment estimates are under 520 students.
    Enrollments and non-member town participation are based on quality of education and costs. Member towns are stuck with the school they have. Minuteman is the most costly public vocational school in MA., for member towns.
    Minuteman member town has no students attending Minuteman this school year, yet they are paying over $90,000 in Minuteman assessments.
    Comparing various DESE measurements, Minuteman is not the top vocational school in MA based on graduation rates and several other academic factors.
    At least 7 nearby vocational schools have more vocational programs, higher graduation rates, far greater enrollments and lower costs per student whether from member or non-member towns.

  2. Michael Crowley says

    You really do need to reach far into the past to make a case that Minuteman enrollment has been declining. Look at numbers over the last 10-20 years and enrollment trends look fairly stable.

    The differential between what member and non-member towns pay needs to be taken up with our state legislators and DESE. Exiting the Minuteman district doesn’t solve that problem for anyone. Further, if our plan is to continue sending our kids to Minuteman as a non-member town, we’re giving up a great deal including preferential placement in innovative and high demand programs such as robotics, biotech, and environmental sciences. It’s the same problem other non-member towns face. Do we really want to join their ranks?

  3. Martin Plass says

    I concur with Hal’s comment. My experience with the BHS academic advisers was also strong discouragement for my son to switch to Minuteman. They saw it as their personal failure that they could not provide the appropriate education for him.

    Minuteman was a great choice for my son and seeing the fantastic teaching approach in their Environmental Science program, combining hands-on field work with in classroom analysis and group work made me wish I could have had a similar high school education growing up.

    let’s face it, very few children learn well in a lecture style theoretical classroom setting such as BHS provides. Expanding the learning experience to hands-on work and involving all physical senses can broaden and vastly improve children’s ability to comprehend and broaden their problem solving and applied science skills. I believe that unless you want to become a lawyer or accountant, almost everyone would benefit from this learning approach.

    Lets not give up on Minuteman and the opportunity it can provide to our children.

  4. Hal Shubin says

    What happens if all the towns withdraw, figuring that someone else will pay for the school?

    And wouldn’t enrollment from Belmont be higher if the staff at Chenery talked it up? I’ve talked with a number of people who also feel that Belmont denigrates Minuteman, discouraging students from what may be the right choice for them.

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