More out-of-state students is good

By Ben Moriarty

In past years – or maybe just because we live in Massachusetts – there has been a growing trend in the belief that many things in life are “rights.”

These debated rights surpass the unalienable ones, which, according to our founding fathers and Declaration of Independence, are “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Most recently, the two “rights” that have come up in the public debate are health care and education. While it seems odd to say these are God-given “rights,” both seem to be based on the track record of other developed countries and our country’s great wealth. Higher education is important, not just because it is crucial to attaining a job in this economy and generation, but because it improves society as a whole by having everyone more educated. Health care is important because I have a soft heart and I don’t think many people truly believe someone shouldn’t have some sort of coverage.

But I’m sick of the health care talks, and lately, there’s been a lot of talk about UMass and fees and how this is going to limit people from being able to attend this University. And then, most recently, Chancellor Holub announced that he wants to attract more out-of-staters to help with our budget.

The horror! It’s like Halloween mixed with April Fool’s Day!

The problem and debate arising isn’t that Massachusetts residents won’t be able to attend here at all, but that we are a public university and not a private one. UMass has a responsibility to our state and our citizens to provide educational services for them.

This is a good thought, but it’s still ignoring several very important points. One, we are not the only school, college or university in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that is a “state school.” There are, in fact, five different campuses in the UMass system, and in addition to those five, there are nine more state schools – Bridgewater State, Fitchburg State, Westfield State, Worcester State and so on. These are not bad schools.

The state has more than a dozen colleges. And we, here at UMass Amherst, attend the flagship. The responsibility we have – or really, I suppose Chancellor Holub has – is not some fartsy and glittered-up idealistic “Every resident can attend college, yippee!” goal. It is to improve the school and to bring it to a higher level. Recently, we made it onto U.S. News and World Report’s Top National Universities, but that is no reason to not want to get to a level as say, University of Texas – Austin.

If you have yet to notice, every single year here the competition is getting tougher and tougher, with each new class having higher GPAs and SAT scores than the last. Perhaps we are gaining more respect nationally and more people want to come. Perhaps it is because we offer a quality level of education at a cheaper price in these tough economic times to students here in Massachusetts. Most presumably, it is a mixture of both, and it is the job of the University to continue this trend.

And what does that include? It includes, for one, improving the campus (new recreational center, new integrated science building, new art building, re-doing the landscape), expanding (or retaining) a solid and distinguished faculty and attracting top students from around the country. Not just the exclusive Massachusetts club.

To keep gaining a more respected national reputation, it is imperative to attract out-of-staters as well as the best in-state students. This isn’t just about gaining more money from them, but seeing that students are willing to pay the extra tuition to come here and not attend their own state school. The more out-of-staters, the more talk and the more people who will want to attend UMass Amherst. This will just improve entrance statistics.

Our campus is not a happy-go-lucky institution that should cater specifically and only to Massachusetts residents. It is the flagship research campus of our state. Our primary goal is to continually improve our educational institution for the future and to surpass other schools – both public and private – in stature, which, as we notice, is happening slowly and hopefully surely.

We should be getting stricter and stricter every year with who is accepted to the University, and this growth should never come behind some ideology about catering to ourselves. It will only be through slow processes like attracting great out-of-state students that this can happen. And, as the flagship school, we should be glad we have a chancellor who seems to realize this and wants to improve our national reputation.

Ben Moriarty is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]