UMass seeks second straight $40 million dollar budget increase

By Chance Viles

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Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian

Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian

The University of Massachusetts five campus system is seeking the second $40 million budget increase in a row, in order to continue the freeze on fees and tuition prices that began after last year’s budget increase.

Gov. Deval Patrick is among those advocating for the increased budget for the UMass system. 

“We are optimistic about obtaining the second year of funding called for under President Caret’s 50-50 plan,” UMass Vice President for Communications Robert Connolly said in an email.  “In order for this to happen, Governor Patrick and the Legislature would have to approve a $40 million funding increase for UMass for the fiscal year that begins on July 1.”

“The administration understands the importance of investments in education to expand opportunity and grow the Commonwealth’s economy,” Rachael Neff, spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Education, said in an email.

If the budget is approved by the state legislature, tuition and fees for in-state students will remain the same as the previous year, which according to Caret is important to UMass remaining an affordable school for Massachusetts families. With the $40 million increase, the in-state funding for the five-campus UMass system would total $519 million.

“President Caret, the campus chancellors and the members of the Board of Trustees intend to work hard on this effort because they believe approval of the additional $40 million in funding would constitute a visionary investment in the students of today and tomorrow, and an enduring investment in the Commonwealth and its future,” Connolly said.

The additional funding, which would be one of the the largest increases in UMass history, would mean the state pays for 50 percent of the educational programs. Prior to the budget increase, students and their families would pay over half of the cost of the educational programs, according a UMass press release.

“The Patrick Administration is committed to providing affordable and accessible world-class educational opportunities to all residents of the Commonwealth,” Neff said.

Connolly said that the University is cautiously optimistic about whether the budget increase will be approved, and asked for statewide support.

“While we are optimistic, we think it is important for everyone – students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, friends of the university – to join forces behind this funding increase for the five campuses of the UMass system,” he said.

The five elected student trustees that represent the 72,000 UMass students issued a joint statement last week urging the Governor and the state legislators to grant the system the second year of 50-50 funding.

 “Providing a second year of 50-50 funding would ease the financial burden on students and their families at a time when affordability and student-debt remain significant issues in the nation and in our state,” the trustees wrote. “With double-digit unemployment prospects for the typical college-aged youth, continued state investment in university education is critical now more than ever.”

They added, “The funding … would constitute a visionary investment in the students of today and tomorrow and an enduring investment in the Commonwealth and its future.”

Patrick is scheduled to unveil his budget proposal this week, after which legislators will have the opportunity to discuss the proposal and vote on it.

UMass students currently pay an average of $13,242 in tuition and fees, with an additional $10,000 for room and board.

Chance Viles can be reached at [email protected]