Tuition freeze in effect: Residents get a break

For the sixth year in a row the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees voted to freeze tuition and fees at the current rates for the upcoming academic year. In the past six years, UMass student costs have either decreased or stayed the same.

For in-state undergraduates at the four UMass campuses, Dartmouth, Lowell, Boston and Amherst, the average cost of tuition and fees will be $4,679.

“Higher education is the key to so much that we hold dear. It shapes a person’s life and also helps shape our economy and our society,” said UMass President William M. Bulger. “We want that key to be as accessible and affordable as it can be.”

The average student charge will have decreased by $290, or nearly six percent between the academic years of 1995-1996 and 2001-2002, even as inflation for the same period has increased by 16 percent. In 1995, students paid an average of $4,969 and next year they will be paying $4,679.

While in-state students will be experiencing a relief in tuition, out-of-state undergraduates will not be. According to Robert P. Connolly of the President’s Office, there will actually be a slight increase of tuition and fees for non-residents.

Most of the money for operations for the University comes from the State Appropriations Committee, totaling around $495 million. The tuition that the in-state students pay to UMass actually goes to into the state’s general funds, sort of paying it back. Meanwhile, the fees portion of the student bill stays on campus for such things as computer support and mail services.

The lump sum from the State gets split up between the four UMass campuses. The Amherst campus gets about half of the total sum, for reasons such as the larger number in students, graduate students, and research.

Out-of-state students pay more because the State of Massachusetts passed a law stating that the University must charge the non-residents the actual cost of education. At the moment, out-of-state students pay approximately 80 percent of that cost.

The University will gradually be phasing in the rise in tuition so that eventually the non-residents will be paying the full cost.

“It is not an optional decision on our part. It’s state law,” said Connolly. “Right now, the non-residents are only paying a certain amount of the cost of their education and the state is kicking the rest. Also, in-state families contribute beyond tuition through taxation.”

The current non-resident pays $9,856 in tuition, and $13,465 with fees. Next year, tuition will be $9,937, and $13,765 with fees.

Connolly also stressed the University’s commitment to affordable education, echoing the President’s earlier sentiment.

“It really is a desire to maintain affordability and accessibility. In ’96, UMass was the most expensive public university in New England,” said Connolly. “Now it’s the second most affordable, second only to Maine.”

“So many families across the Commonwealth are experiencing higher-education sticker-shock,” President Bulger added. “The University of Massachusetts offers an affordable, high-quality choice.”

In the late eighties there was a statewide recession leading to disproportionate cuts for UMass. Connolly said that when President Bulger took over in the mid-nineties, one of his major initiatives was to give the University the opportunity to settle down. Now it is in the mid-range.

“There are a lot of families who can’t afford to send talented, hard working kids to expensive schools,” said Connolly. “For those kids who work really hard, there should be something at the end of the rainbow, and there should be something good and affordable.”

“This is a remarkable achievement and much of the credit goes to President Bulger and his management team,” said Grace Fey of the UMass Board of Trustees. “Under his leadership, the University has been able to improve the quality while at the same time reduce the financial demand placed on students and their families. This is good news for the University and good news for the citizens of the Commonwealth.”

Connolly also commented on the question of increased budget cuts for the University, stating that the President, working closely with the board of trustees, has tried to increase efficiency within the University, and has not supported widespread budget cuts.

“In the aggregate sense, the budget is actually not getting cut on Amherst,” Connolly said. “First of all, it is the state that approves the budget. President Bulger only presents the budget, it has to get passed by the Board and then by Appropriations.”

He also said that the state takes into account the fact that the University has independent revenue capabilities, such as media contracts, sponsors and research programs when approving the budget. But basically, since the Amherst Campus is half of the system, it usually gets half of the funds.

“The President has discretion, and all four chancellors submit their requests,” said Connolly. “Then the Board of Trustees ratifies the decision and determines the slice of the pie that each campus gets.”

The trustees approved the rates at the UMass-Boston campus. Next year, the undergraduate tuition-and-fee charges will be: $5,212 for Amherst; $4,222 for Boston; $4,129 for Dartmouth and $4,255 for Lowell.