Transcript of UMass President Marty Meehan’s 2023 State of the University message

Good afternoon … and welcome to the 20/23 State of the University Address.  

This year, I join you from the campus of UMass Boston, the urban jewel of our system, one of the most diverse research universities in the U.S., and a multicultural community - welcoming students from more than 135 countries.  

I thank Chancellor Suarez Orozco and the students, faculty and staff of UMass Boston for hosting me today as well as for their outstanding contributions to education, research, social mobility, and workforce diversity in the City of Boston and across the Commonwealth.  

UMass Boston is one of five nationally ranked campuses across our 74,000-student system, which also encompasses research universities in Amherst, Dartmouth, and Lowell … the top-ranked Chan Medical School in Worcester … and the only public law school in Massachusetts.  

The number one public university in New England, UMass is among the top 60 in the country -- public or private --  in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and now places above some of the most prominent and distinguished private universities in Massachusetts.  

In one of the best state economies … boasting the most educated workforce … UMass continues to be the strongest contributor to that workforce … producing more than 18,000 graduates each year … the vast majority of whom remain in Massachusetts to join the 330,000 UMass alumni living and working here.  

Our world-class faculty conduct more than $750 million in research annually -- placing us alongside M.I.T., Harvard and Yale as the most significant research universities in New England.  

That research is focused on sectors critical to the Massachusetts economy and its quality of life such as renewable energy, life sciences, health care, manufacturing, computer science and more.  

And from research expenditures to employment to entrepreneurship and investment, UMass generates $7.5 billion in annual economic impact in Massachusetts and supports 30,000 private sector jobs across the state.  

Clearly, despite the headwinds facing all of higher education the state of the University of Massachusetts remains strong and UMass continues to deliver for the Commonwealth.  

That success is owed in large part to our many productive partnerships beginning with the leaders of the Massachusetts legislature, including Senate President Karen Spilka and Speaker Ron Mariano who have delivered critical base support and new investments.  

This year, UMass welcomes new partners in the executive office in Governor Maura Healey and Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll, both strong advocates for public higher education.  

Other partners include the many Massachusetts employers -- both large and small -- who hire UMass graduates and collaborate with our campuses on economic development in every region of the state.

And finally, we cherish our relationship with those friends and alumni who believe in the transformative impact UMass has on students and who have stepped up in recent years to support us at levels never before seen in our 160-year history.  

Our endowment now stands at $1.1 billion, a 30 percent increase in the last five years.  

UMass’s success also wouldn’t be possible without the extraordinary leadership demonstrated by our Board of Trustees and our campus chancellors.  

The Board led by chair Steve Karam, provides the business acumen, oversight and stewardship that has allowed UMass to thrive through periods of global economic uncertainty.  

In close collaboration with the Board and my office, chancellors Kumble Subbaswamy in Amherst ... Marcelo Suarez-Orozco here in Boston ... Mark Fuller in Dartmouth ... Julie Chen in Lowell ... and Michael Collins at the Chan Medical School … work tirelessly to provide exceptional student experiences and inclusive workplace environments.  

Theirs is a complex and demanding job and UMass and the Commonwealth are well-served by the experienced and diverse leaders on our five campuses.  

This year, we will say farewell to Chancellor Subbaswamy.  

Swamy’s leadership of UMass Amherst over the last decade resulted in sustained success that propelled the rise in the university’s overall academic standing and reputation.  

As we prepare to welcome a new chancellor at UMass Amherst this year the UMass community thanks Swamy for the gift of his time and his talent.  

As we look forward to the next year and beyond, UMass will continue to focus on our core mission -- student success -- with a particular focus on student mental health.  

This issue is personal to me as it is for any college president who has ever mentored a struggling student or, heaven forbid, attended the services of a student who’s taken their own life, something I have done on too many occasions.  

I am a proud member of the Mary Christie Institute President’s Council where higher ed leaders from across the country come together to discuss issues related to student emotional and behavioral health and I was honored this past fall to receive on behalf of the university the Youth Advocacy Award from the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health -- an acknowledgment of the work of so many dedicated faculty and staff at UMass who support the social and emotional needs of our students.

But we have much work left to do.

Last year, UMass made student mental health a priority in our budget request and we thank the Legislature for providing an additional $4 million in state support to help us meet the needs of our students. 

We are using those and other funds to support therapy, crisis services and other forms of counseling -- to launch new technology to identify students in need and to expedite connections to support.

Student mental health and student success go hand-in-hand.

We will maintain that focus on mental health .while also expanding access to a UMass education and creating new opportunities for students:

We continue to aggressively invest in financial aid increasing university-generated contributions to need-based scholarships and grants by $28 million last year and $180 million in the last decade, which has allowed us to hold average student debt flat over that same ten-year period.

In 20/23 alone the university is committing $373 million for need-based financial aid.

82 percent of university-generated aid goes to in-state students and per-student aid has grown … at five times the rate of tuition demonstrating our effectiveness as an engine of financial equity.

Massachusetts voters recognizing the return on their investment in public education have chosen to raise additional revenue and in the coming years we intend to work with our partners in the legislature to offer tuition models that provide cost certainty for students and their families over the life of their UMass education.

In other opportunity areas, we have launched our early college program -- partnering with high schools where we can move the needle on race and income-related education gaps;

We continue to emphasize internships, co-ops and experiential learning providing students with early entry into the Massachusetts workforce;

And we will announce a new President’s initiative this year to support UMass students … with learning differences.

As I look out at the beautiful, vibrant UMass Boston campus overlooking Boston Harbor, I am reminded that when I travel across the state meeting with business, community and government leaders I’m often struck by how many tell me they / haven’t /visited a UMass campus since they were college-age.

I invite and encourage all of you -- both alumni and non-alumni -- to visit a UMass campus in your region this year.

Come witness the incredible diversity of our campus communities draw inspiration from the energy, creativity, resilience and intellect of our students and take great pride in the public research university this Commonwealth has built to serve all of us.

I thank you for your time.

Thank all of you for everything you do to support our students.

And thank you for allowing me to serve as the president of my alma mater -- the most important institution in the Commonwealth -- the University of Massachusetts.