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Pointing to need to protect quality, finance panel approves fee increase

Plans include additional financial aid for students

BOSTON -- Saying the University must take steps to preserve the academic quality that has led to a major enrollment surge, the UMass Board of Trustees Committee on Administration and Finance today approved a 7.5 fee increase for the upcoming academic year.

"If the University of Massachusetts is to maintain, let alone expand, its reputation for excellence in teaching, research and service, it must have the necessary revenue to do so," said Trustee Victor Woolridge, chairman of  the Committee on Administration and Finance. "With an anticipated reduction in state funding for the next fiscal year, the University is left with little choice other than to increase mandatory tuition and fees by 7.5 percent and ask the campuses to make further budget cuts."

The increase was proposed by President Jack M. Wilson and was developed in collaboration with the campus Chancellors.

"With this fee increase, we will be addressing our budget shortfall with equal amounts of new fee revenue and budget cuts. We are charting a balanced and responsible course," President Wilson said.

University officials have been working to close a $54 million Fiscal Year 2012 funding gap, primarily attributable to the ending of the federal stimulus funds program, which this year provided the University of Massachusetts with $38 million in funding.

"We are taking a carefully considered step to preserve academic quality and will use our financial aid program to cushion the impact of the fee increase to the fullest extent possible," said James J. Karam, Chairman of the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees.

Under the proposal approved today by the Committee on Administration and Finance, tuition and fees for in-state undergraduate students next year will average $11,838, up from $11,012 during the past academic year.

The fee increase approved by Committee on Administration and Finance will go before the full Board of Trustees when it meets June 8 at UMass Boston.

President Wilson noted that 29 percent of the money to be generated by the fee increase would be funneled into financial aid, which would entirely offset the effects of the increase for some students and blunt its effect for many others.
"Financial aid is the key to maintaining affordability and is keeping the doors of opportunity open for our students," President Wilson said.

During the past academic year, UMass students received $673 million in financial aid, with 61 percent of in-state undergraduate students receiving need-based aid. The University directed $131 million of its own funds to student financial aid this year, a 267 percent increase over the $36 million the University directed to financial aid eight years ago.

Need-based aid reaches more than 25,000 in-state undergraduate students, ranging from low-income students to those with family incomes extending well into the six-figure range. For example, a family with income of $126,000 this year on average received nearly $3,000 in need-based aid. That does not take into consideration the $170 million in merit aid -- funds available without regard to income -- UMass undergraduate students received during the past academic year.

President Wilson noted that the University has engaged in significant budget-cutting since the global economic and financial crisis ignited nearly three years ago. Over the course of Fiscal Year 2009-Fiscal Year 2011, the University of Massachusetts eliminated more than 645 positions and has achieved budget savings of $68 million.

The $54 million gap that the University faced for next year now stands to be closed by $26 million in new fee revenue and $28 million in additional cuts.

The University is seeking to maintain affordability at a time when more and more students are applying and enrolling at UMass.

Enrollment at UMass has increased by nearly 10,000 students over the past five years. The University enrolled 68,315 students last year, a 3.6 percent increase over the previous year.

Facing similar budget pressures, a number of public universities around the nation have approved tuition increases, with the University of Arizona raising tuition by 22 percent, the University of Florida 13.5 percent and the University of Hawaii 11.2 percent. The University of California has increased tuition by 8 percent, but California system President Mark G. Yudof recently warned that the state's public universities could be facing a 32 percent midyear tuition hike.

Contact: Robert P. Connolly, 617-287-7073



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