UMass trustees approve fee increase, say stimulus funds would lead to rebate
DARTMOUTH - Pointing to the need to close a potential $102 million state funding gap, the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees today approved a $1,500 fee increase for the 2009-2010 academic year.
The Board said that some or all of the fee increase would be rebated to students and their families if the University receives federal stimulus funds.
"The University of Massachusetts is taking a responsible, balanced step in order to ensure academic quality and financial stability," President Jack M. Wilson said. "Despite the economic uncertainty of the moment, UMass is on a strong footing and will provide opportunity and quality to the sons and daughters of the Commonwealth."
President Wilson said the University is making "the strongest possible case" for an infusion of federal stimulus funds.
"We view the federal stimulus process with great anticipation and hope that we will be able to replace student dollars with federal dollars," President Wilson added.
Under the plan approved by Trustees on a 12-4 vote, tuition and fees for in-state undergraduates on average will rise from $9,548 this year to $11,048 in the upcoming academic year. Trustees approved specific language authorizing a fee rebate based on the amount of federal funds UMass receives and also voted to freeze most non-mandatory fees at 2008-2009 levels.
The Trustees took their action as interest in UMass is at a high level, with applications on each campus at or near record levels.
"We understand that students and families are looking to UMass and are recognizing that the University of Massachusetts provides an education that equals or surpasses private institutions that cost more than twice the price," President Wilson said.
Because of the budget cuts being felt by all state programs and institutions, the University of Massachusetts could see state funding decrease by $102 million from Fiscal Year 2009 to Fiscal Year 2010, when its appropriation reduction and the loss of state-funded employee fringe benefits are calculated. Because of state budget cuts, UMass could see its 2009-2010 funding reduced to 1997-1998 levels.
The Board's finance committee last week rejected a proposal to close all of the state funding gap by raising fees by $3,100.
"The University of Massachusetts could offset the impending loss of state funds by cutting more than $100 million in personnel and programs or by doubling its fee increase. Instead, we have chosen the moderate path of a $1,500 fee increase, believing this to be the balanced, pragmatic course," President Wilson said.
If the $1,500 fee increase remains in place, families with incomes at or below the state median of $78,500 would have the effects of the increase offset by additional grant aid. UMass students this year are receiving $521 million in financial aid, $94.2 million of which comes from the University's own funds. UMass spending on aid for students has increased by 165 percent over the past six years, rising from $35.6 million in Fiscal Year 2003 to $94.2 million in Fiscal Year 2009. As a result, UMass meets 91 percent of its students' demonstrated financial need, the highest level of any of the New England public institutions. UMass students who received aid this year paid an average net cost -- for tuition, fees and room and board -- of $13,293.
"Even though we have made plans to blunt the effects of a fee increase, our preferred course would still be to obtain stimulus funds that would allow us to rebate some or all of this increase," President Wilson noted.
This year, the total cost of attending UMass Amherst (tuition, fees, room and board) is $18,346, placing its cost fourth among the six New England public flagship universities, and less than half of the cost of attending a private institution.
Contact: Robert P. Connolly, 617-548-0238; Libby DeVecchi, 774-455-7189
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