President Caret: UMass will continue to advocate for funds to support tuition-and-fee-freeze
"Historic opportunity...stakes are too high," UMass leader says
BOSTON - Asserting that the University has reached "a defining moment," President Robert L. Caret today said that the University of Massachusetts will continue to push for a level of state funding that would allow it to institute a tuition-and-fee freeze during the upcoming academic year.
"We have a historic opportunity to strike a blow for quality and affordability and to position Massachusetts as a national leader in the critical area of support for its public university," President Caret said.
"Which students are more deserving than ours, and where should this crucial step be taken other than in Massachusetts, the birthplace of public education?" President Caret added. "And if not now, when?"
President Caret's comments came as the Massachusetts Senate unveiled a budget for Fiscal Year 2014 that would provide UMass with a significant funding increase for the upcoming academic year but would fall short of the level of funding needed to institute a tuition-and-fee freeze. Governor Deval Patrick previously proposed and the Massachusetts House already has approved sufficient funding to implement a freeze.
"We are not going to give up on the students of Massachusetts. We are going to make our case for 50-50 funding as the Senate moves forward with its budget debate. The stakes are simply too high to do otherwise," President Caret said.
Henry M. Thomas III, chairman of the UMass Board of Trustees, said: "On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I am urging the Senate to approve a budget amendment that would provide the funding needed to ensure quality and provide students and their families with significant financial relief. We appreciate the effort that has been made but hope the Senate can extend itself just a little further in the interest of seizing this auspicious moment and opportunity."
President Caret also noted: "We are not overlooking the action the Senate Ways and Means Committee has taken and appreciate the committee's confidence and support. But we feel we are at the brink of a defining moment, and our zeal for the University and its students compels us to drive forward."
The Senate Ways and Means Committee today proposed $455 million in funding for UMass for the fiscal year that begins on July 1, up from this year's $439 million but short of the $478 million proposed by Governor Patrick and approved by the Massachusetts House - which would be the funding level needed for UMass to go forward with a tuition-and-fee freeze.
"As we mark the University's 150th anniversary and thus celebrate a century and a half of pivotal contributions to the Commonwealth, we should see this as the most appropriate moment to stand with UMass," President Caret said.
Over the past 15 years, funding for UMass has essentially been flat. This year, UMass is receiving $439 million in funding from the state. Fifteen years ago, in Fiscal Year 1998, UMass received $405 million from the state, and when this century began in Fiscal Year 2000, state funding for UMass was $456 million - or $17 million higher than it is today. While state funding has remained flat, enrollment throughout the five-campus system has surged - from 56,995 students in Fall 1997 to 70,774 students in Fall 2012.
For the past year, President Caret has advanced his 50-50 proposal, under which the state and students would provide equal shares of the funding for the University's education programs.
This year, students and their families are providing 57 percent of the funding via tuition and fees and the state the remaining 43 percent. Five years ago, that was exactly reversed, with the state paying 57 percent and students and their families 43 percent.
Under the proposal put forward by President Caret, the state would provide UMass with nearly $100 million in additional funding over the next two years, thereby achieving the 50-50 balance in 2014-2015. UMass would freeze tuition and the mandatory curriculum fee during each of the next two academic years as long as sufficient funding were approved.
Contact: Robert P. Connolly, 617-287-7073, Ann Scales, 617-287-4084
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