UMass President Marty Meehan discusses student “cost certainty” in 2023 State of the University message

BOSTON – UMass President Marty Meehan says he will discuss with state government leaders the establishment of a "cost certainty” program under which new in-state undergraduate students would pay the same locked-in tuition rate throughout their four years of education at the university’s Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth, and Lowell campuses.

Meehan advanced the cost certainty proposal, also included in the university’s annual report to the Legislature filed last month, in his annual State of the University message delivered today via email and social media to UMass students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends.

"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,” Meehan said during the nine-minute video, recorded at UMass Boston.

A cost certainty program is intended to support cost predictability and transparency for students and families, encourage timely degree completion, protect students from economic uncertainties and promote financial planning for college.

The program would be paired with continued investments in university-generated financial aid. As detailed in the video, UMass increased student aid by $28 million this fiscal year and more than $180 million over the last decade. Those increases have played a significant role in UMass holding average student debt flat over the last decade.

Advancing the cost certainty concept has become more feasible after Massachusetts voters last year approved Question 1, the ballot initiative that established an additional 4 percent state income tax on income over $1 million. The new tax revenue, according to the initiative, is dedicated to education and transportation purposes.

It is expected that the University Board will continue to adjust tuition rates annually to reflect modest, inflationary increases.  However, for the incoming class, that approved rate would be consistent for the student’s four years at UMass. It is estimated that with a cost certainty program in place, UMass would forgo an estimated $25 million in annual tuition revenue – a loss that could be offset with new state revenue from Question 1.

UMass intends to work with its government partners in the coming years “to offer tuition models that provide cost certainty for students and their families," Meehan said in his speech.

Meehan also focused his address on the university’s ongoing efforts to support student mental health, citing counseling and technology, areas that have received strategic funding from the University and the Legislature this fiscal year.

"Providing an environment where students have the support to pursue their educational goals is foundational to our role as educators, and we take that responsibility seriously,” said Meehan. “Student mental health and student success go hand-in-hand.”

Read the full speech transcript.