Board of Trustees approves increase in student fees
- The UMass System
AMHERST – The University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees June 17 voted to raise tuition and the mandatory curriculum fee by up to 5 percent for in-state undergraduates, saying it appears state funding will not allow for a third consecutive tuition and fee freeze.
“We are always mindful of the impact that raising fees will have on our students and their families and, we approach such decisions with the utmost caution and reluctance,’’ said Victor Woolridge, chairman of the UMass Board of Trustees.
Chairman Woolridge, other members of the UMass Board and UMass President Robert L. Caret all said the increase approved should be understood as a ceiling and that they were hopeful that the actual hike could still be reduced.
“We are monitoring the state budget process and would be eager to lower the increase if state funding permits us to do so,” President Caret said.
Tuition and mandatory student fees at UMass have been frozen for the last two years, the result of a two-year, $100 million infusion in state funding.
This year, however, the Massachusetts House and Senate have approved budgets that call for increases for UMass -- but at levels short of what would be required to go forward with a third consecutive freeze in tuition and mandatory student fees.
While the 2015-2016 budget process is still unfolding, the House has approved $519 million for UMass for Fiscal Year 2016, while the Senate budget provides $537 million. UMass requested $578 million, saying that amount would fund a third freeze and help to keep state funding in sync with the 50-50 funding formula in which the state and students split educational costs equally.
If the full 5 percent increase is implemented, students would pay a mandatory curriculum fee increase ranging from $552 to $580, depending on the campus they attend.
UMass President Robert L. Caret said that the fee increase could be lower based on several factors, the most significant of which would be how UMass fares when a legislative conference committee crafts its compromise budget.
When all mandatory student charges, including fees for health services and technology, are taken into account, the student fee increase will range from 6 percent to 7.9 percent.
"The decision to increase fees is not taken lightly and is never our first option," President Caret said. "Our first choice is the one that we made over the past two years when we froze student charges for in-state undergraduate students. We were able to do that because of the unprecedented levels of support we were able to receive from the state. We were able to forge a partnership that yielded great benefits for our students and their families," he said.
“Society needs UMass and our students deserve UMass and they deserve quality, affordability and accessibility,” he said.
UMass students saw the average net cost of attendance decrease by more than $200 as a result of the state-funded freezes, falling from $17,488 in 2013-2014 to $17,209 in the academic year just completed.
System-wide savings of $44 million
In his remarks at his final Board of Trustees meeting, President Caret, who steps down on June 30 to become chancellor of the University System of Maryland, said: “Another reason we were able to freeze tuition and fees over the past two years is that we at UMass have worked so hard and continue to work hard to spend every dollar carefully and wisely.’’
UMass saved $44 million between Fiscal years 2010-2014, derived from savings in the purchasing, energy and sustainability and information technology areas. The University envisions another $100 million in savings and cost avoidance from projects currently underway.
The costs savings occurred despite a nearly 30 percent increase in enrollment in the past decade, significantly increasing the need for more faculty, staff and facilities, and despite a decade of flat state funding prior to the 50-50 program.
Even if the increase is fully implemented, next year’s cost of attendance for in-state UMass undergraduate students will still be significantly lower than this year’s cost for resident students at peer universities, including the University of Connecticut, University of Illinois-Chicago, University of Colorado-Boulder and the University of California-Santa Barbara – and less than half of the average cost to attend private institutions in Massachusetts, according to data provided to the Board of Trustees.
Contact: Ann Scales, 617-287-4084