UMass officials: State budget passed by the Legislature would fund tuition and fee freeze, opens 'a new chapter' in UMass history
BOSTON -- UMass President Robert L. Caret today praised the Legislature for "opening a new chapter in the history of the University of Massachusetts" by including in the Fiscal Year 2014 state budget funding that would allow for a tuition and mandatory fee freeze in the upcoming year -- and takes a major step toward equalizing the funds students and the state contribute to support academic programs across the five-campus system.
"In this year of the 150th anniversary of the University's founding, the Legislature is reaffirming the original Land Grant mission of quality and opportunity," President Caret said. "With this vote, the Massachusetts Legislature sends a national message of support for excellence and affordability in public higher education."
"A strong and affordable University of Massachusetts system is critical to the state's social and economic future, and the dramatic expression of support we have received from the Legislature will aid us immeasurably as we seek to provide ever-greater levels of service to the Commonwealth and its citizens," President Caret added. "I want to thank House Speaker Robert DeLeo, Senate President Therese Murray, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Brian Dempsey, Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Stephen Brewer and all the members of the Legislature who have supported us in this important effort."
As part of its $34 billion state budget, the Legislature today approved $479 million in funding for UMass, sufficient funding for UMass to go forward with its first tuition and mandatory fee freeze in more than a decade - if the UMass appropriation is signed into law by the Governor.
Henry M. Thomas III, chairman of the UMass Board of Trustees, also thanked the Legislature and praised President Caret for his leadership.
"On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I want to thank the House and Senate for this expression of confidence and support," Chairman Thomas said. "I also want to commend President Caret for his energetic advocacy on behalf of the University and its students. President Caret's astute and visionary 50-50 funding proposal leaves us poised to write a transformative new chapter in the University's history. The Board of Trustees approved Presidents Caret's budget proposal with the strong belief that the 50-50 proposal, if approved, would be a smart investment for the future of the Commonwealth and would be in the best interest of the UMass students."
In crafting a new state budget, House and Senate negotiators opted for the $479 million in UMass funding approved by the House over the $455 million backed by the Senate. Governor Deval Patrick proposed $479 million for UMass when he kicked off the budget process earlier this year.
Over the past year, President Caret has advanced a 50-50 proposal, under which the state and students would provide equal shares of the funding for the University's educational programs. This year, students and their families are supplying 57 percent of the $1.3 billion needed to provide educational programs across the five-campus system, and the state is paying for the remaining 43 percent. Five years ago, that was exactly reversed: the state paid 57 percent and students 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 a 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.
Over the past 15 years, funding for UMass has been essentially 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.
While UMass is more affordable than a private university, the state-to-student transfer of funding responsibilities that has occurred in recent years has led to higher tuition and fee levels and to increased student debt. This year, an estimated 75 percent of all UMass undergraduates are graduating with debt, and average debt is $28,462, up from $20,956 five years ago.
Meanwhile, the University has been engaged in an aggressive program to achieve savings and efficiencies that has resulted in $68 million in expense reductions over the past five years. UMass has saved the $68 million through steps including consolidating administrative functions previously performed on each of the campuses. UMass expects to save another $123 million over the next five years by reducing energy expenditures, improving purchasing practices and streamlining information technology operations.
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