Gov. Patrick releases 2011 budget; UMass spared cuts

By Nick Bush

(Matthew Harrison/Collegian)

With the release of Gov. Deval Patrick’s 2011 budget Tuesday, it appears as if the University of Massachusetts has been spared any major cuts to funding – for the time being, at least.

In a press release announcing the budget proposal Wednesday, Patrick stated that “our fiscal year 2011 budget blueprint reflects the simple notion that we must continue moving forward.  No matter how challenging the economic climate, we cannot afford to retreat from the important progress we have made over the last several years.”

The proposed budget would give the UMass system $451,272,589 and would also allocate $49,317,776 in federal stimulus funds for the five-campus system.

The $500,590,365 total budget is up from the $475,026,934 the University received last year. The University’s funding was slashed to $379,900,504 last year, but an infusion of stimulus money allowed the system to weather the cut.

According to a press release from University of Massachusetts spokesman Robert Connolly, UMass President Jack Wilson found “hope and opportunity” in Gov. Deval Patrick’s 2011 budget for the University system.

According to the release, the Fiscal Year 2011 budget is “a strong expression of support for the UMass system and provides hope and opportunity for students all across the Commonwealth.”

Wilson said that the budget proposal illustrates awareness by Gov. Patrick of the University’s importance.

“At a time when the Commonwealth continues to face challenges, Gov. Patrick has made the decision to invest in the University of Massachusetts, knowing that UMass provides opportunity and serves as a critical economic engine for the state,” he said.

The Governor’s release noted that the Commonwealth’s public universities will be funded at their 2009 levels, thanks to aid from both the federal government and state rainy day funds.

“Massachusetts public colleges and universities [will be] funded at levels equal to fiscal year 2009 appropriation levels” in 2011, which was “possible due to state investment and the use of one-time federal stimulus funds.”

The release added that “in Fiscal Year 2010 and Fiscal Year 2011, Massachusetts’ colleges and universities will continue to receive funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF) to preserve budgets at the campuses.”

“Although the state budget reflects lower appropriations for higher education campuses,” said Patrick Wednesday, “federal stimulus funds will be used to ensure each campus remains at fiscal year 2009 levels.”  The Governor’s office expects that from 2009-2011, approximately $380 million in State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (sometimes referred to as the “rainy day fund”) dollars will be distributed to campuses.

However, it remains to be seen whether the UMass system will be able to maintain this funding stability in 2012 in the absence of an economic turnaround or another federal stimulus. Gov. Patrick’s remarks seemed to suggest that a second stimulus package could be in the pipeline.

“The Commonwealth is expected to receive approximately $14 billion through the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, including funding for education, life sciences, transportation, clean energy and health care that builds on our own initiatives and provides direct relief to our state’s residents,” said the Governor’s release. “Our fiscal year 2011 budget likewise benefits from ‘use or lose’ federal funds that have already been secured through our efforts and anticipates further federal support in the coming fiscal year [2012].”

President Wilson emphasized that UMass is particularly significant in a weak economic climate, as more Massachusetts residents are applying to state universities for their lower price tag than other schools.

“This is a moment when more and more citizens of the Commonwealth are looking to UMass, with applications and enrollment up on our campuses,” said Wilson. “State funding is critical to our ability to serve the growing numbers of students who are coming to us for an affordable, high-quality university education.”

Sam Butterfield can be reached at [email protected]  Nick Bush can be reached at [email protected]