UMass defers tuition decision
BOSTON – A UMass trustee committee today decided to defer action on setting tuition for the 2016-2017 academic year until after the new state budget has been finalized, saying this approach will allow the University to seek the best possible appropriation and keep tuition as low as possible. The tuition decision can then be made when there is certainty about state funding.
“This represents the best course at this time,” President Marty Meehan said, speaking to the Board of Trustees’ Committee on Administration and Finance.
Announcing his recommendation prior to the meeting, President Meehan said: “Our goal is to keep a potential increase as low as it can possibly be, and we believe our interests, and our students’ interests, are best served by deferring action at this time. We want tuition to be as low as it can be, while still protecting quality, our upward momentum, diversity and all of the things that are essential to a great public research university and to the state’s social and economic future.”
The UMass Board of Trustees, which will hold a regularly scheduled meeting next week in Worcester, will convene a special meeting sometime in July to address the tuition issue.
UMass began the current fiscal year with a state appropriation of $500.7 million, but that figure has risen to $511.6 million as a result of passage of subsequent supplemental funding measures. The new fiscal year begins on July 1, and the budget approved by the House contains $508.3 million in funding for the five-campus UMass system, while the Senate’s budget would fund UMass at $521.3 million.
Budgetary focal areas for FY 2017 include:
• Funding the third year of a three-year contract with unionized employees.
• Reducing class sizes in selected areas/advancing academic quality.
• Continuing progress in addressing campus maintenance and improvements needs.
• Maintaining the University’s commitment to financial aid. In the recently completed 2015-2016 academic year, UMass increased its own spending on financial aid by $20 million, noting aid’s importance to access, affordability and diversity.
Meanwhile, President Meehan noted that the University’s bond rating was recently reaffirmed at a high level, reflecting the ratings agency’s confidence in UMass’ fiscal policies and stability.
“People should read the Standard & Poor’s report,” President Meehan said.
Citing the University's strong management and operating performance, its “conservative budgeting practices” and other key factors, Standard & Poor’s reaffirmed UMass's AA- bond rating.
The rating agency assessed the UMass system’s financial profile as “very strong,” noting enrollment growth and freshmen demand as two areas where UMass outperforms peer institutions.
Factors cited by S&P Global in maintaining UMass's AA- bond rating included:
• Sound management and governance oversight
• Smooth transition of new president
• Strategic initiatives including operational and educational efficiencies, enhanced capital investment approval process and expense control
• The University's flagship role in state's public higher education system and healthy state support
• Robust research enterprise and strong online educational presence
• Historically conservative budgeting practices
• Student retention and graduation rates above national average
Contact: Robert P. Connolly, 617-287-7073