Holub’s recruitment plan hurts in-state students

By Nick Milano

With the decline in state funds, the University of Massachusetts administration announced a new policy, reported in Sunday’s Boston Globe, to “aggressively court out-of-state students.”

The reasoning behind this decision may have something to do with the fact that students from states other than Massachusetts pay nearly twice as much in tuition and fees than those of us who live in-state. While there are some price reductions for students who live in New England through a special program, those from outside Massachusetts pay substantially more. The administration’s plan, though, misses the mark. Being a public institution, plans to increase enrollment should be aimed at in-state students whose families pay taxes to support UMass.

The plan, according to The Boston Globe, is that by “exclusively courting out-of-state students” over the next 10 years, UMass will double the out-of-state undergraduate student population to 6,500 while maintaining the in-state student population at around 16,000. In doing so, revenues to the UMass system and our campus will grow thanks to higher tuition and fees from the out-of-staters. It is easy to understand the logic behind the plan, but it is even easier to break the argument down.

With decreasing tax revenues, thanks to the poor economy, UMass has seen its subsidies from Beacon Hill drop precipitously. According to the same article, funding fell 16 percent in the last year alone. Faced with these realities, something must be done to increase funding. Growing the out-of-state student population is one answer, but it is not the right one. There are plenty of other options that could be added to the mix. This is a Massachusetts public institution, it is the property of the people of the Commonwealth and any plans to increase the enrollment must benefit them first.

To set aside another 3,000-plus seats that are not open to citizens of Massachusetts is insulting to those who live in and support the Commonwealth. It would be one thing if the institution announced it was going to expand enrollment. But, marketing strongly towards out-of-state students is another thing entirely. Instead, the university is reserving additional spots just for those not from Massachusetts. This program could not come at a worse time. With the economy continuing to struggle and with college costs exceeding the ability of some families to pay, more and more people have applied to UMass in recent years. This plan is going to force potential taxpayers of Massachusetts to force their kids to go to a more expensive, private school or a lesser state school. Last year, according to the same Boston Globe article, at UMass, “a record 29,500 students applied …driving the acceptance rate down to 65 percent, from about 80 percent in 2003.”

Obviously, more and more people view UMass as a viable college and its academic prestige is growing at the same rate. Just look at the current freshman class, which had the highest SAT scores and GPA ever for an incoming class at UMass. Gaining entrance to UMass is getting more difficult for state students as it is. To make it much harder is going to hurt the very people who most support the institution.

This should not come off as a blatant attack on out-of-state students in a “get them out of here” movement. But we have to consider what the purpose of UMass is. As a state school, it is supposed to cater to the residents of this state; this new policy leaves them behind. The Globe article cites downsides to increasing enrollment, namely that new professors will have to be hired to have enough classes to satisfy new demands. Also, the new seats will be filled gradually, with a goal of 300 additional out-of-state students next year. If the seats are going to be filled gradually, then the financial benefits will not be seen in the near future. Why not consider other options?

The sorry state of the UMass Alumni Association has been chronicled widely. Two years ago the Boston Globe exposed some disappointing facts, noting that just three percent of living alumni participate in the association. Granted this was two years ago, but cannot the university attempt to tap its alumni for funds instead of hurting in-state students? Last year, the state cut aid to UMass substantially, can’t the University organize a lobbying outing to get politicians on Beacon Hill to appreciate the state school system.

Just as Barney Frank chastised the gay rights march last year, suggesting that they instead call, mail and walk in on their representatives, UMass should organize something similar – MassPirg cannot do it all. The University of Massachusetts is a state school. Those who live here should not be shut out when enrollment is increased.

Nick Milano is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]