Trustees give the OK for 4.9% fee increase

By Katie Landeck

The University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees approved a 4.9 percent fee hike in June that increases fees for in-state undergraduate students at the Amherst campus by $618 a year.

The fee increase – which passed in a 15-2 vote – will help to generate $25 million in revenue for the University system, according to a press release.

The board had to raise the fees due to state budget cuts, the release added. During the 2011-2012 academic year, the state provided 45 percent of the funding for University. In the upcoming school year, that number is expected to drop to 43 percent.

Trustees hope the state will fund 50 percent of the University’s educational budget by fall of 2013. They’ve pledged to freeze tuition and fees for fall of 2013 and 2014 if that happens.

“If the state agrees to take on a more equitable share of the funding burden over the next two years, we will keep tuition and fees frozen at this new level,” James Karam, the chairman of the Board of Trustees, said in a statement. Karam also said that UMass would be the first state school to “hold the line on tuition and fees for two full years,” if the freeze happens.

The fee increase approved at the June meeting had faced pushback from Gov. Deval Patrick, who sent a letter – which was obtained by several media outlets – to UMass President Robert Caret before the vote, questioning if UMass had “done enough to find efficiencies and reduce costs.”

Patrick’s education secretary, S. Paul Reville, was one of the two voting members on the board who voted against the increase.

The other member who voted against the proposal was UMass Lowell Student Trustee James Tarr, according to reports.

After the vote, Patrick maintained his opposition to the hikes.

“I just think it’s a crummy time to ask students to pay more,” Patrick was quoted as saying in the Daily Hampshire Gazette. “The economy is tough, their prospects for graduation in some cases are uncertain.”

But Caret defended the hike, noting that a number of cuts would have gone into place if it had not gotten approved.

“We are trying to steer a moderate course on this difficult issue,” Caret said in a statement. “On one hand, I was attracted to the idea of freezing tuition and fees, but that would have forced us to make dramatic and unacceptable cuts in a range of programs to offset rising labor and debt-service costs.”

The cost of tuition and fees for in-state undergraduate students now stands at $13,230.

Katie Landeck can be reached at [email protected]