UMass tuition and fees frozen for second consecutive year

By Marie MacCune

(Chelsey Powell/Collegian File Photo)
(Chelsey Powell/Collegian File Photo)

The University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees approved a tuition and fee freeze for the second consecutive year, making it the first back-to-back freeze in recent history.

The decision was reached in June and affects in-state, undergraduate students during the 2014-2015 academic year, according to a UMass press release.

According to the release, the freeze was made possible by a $50 million increase in funding from the Massachusetts State Legislature. The total funding for the UMass system, including all five campuses, is just under $519 million for the 2015 fiscal year, according to the release.

Representative Josh Cutler of the6th Plymouth District voted for the increase in both the Fiscal Year 2014 and Fiscal Year 2015 budgets.

“This was a priority of ours because we all understand the costs of higher education are squeezing middle class families and we wanted to address that and provide some support,” he said.

“We received the full funding that we sought,” said Robert Connolly spokesperson for the UMass president’s office. “We saw a $100 million increase over two years and have achieved President Caret’s initial goal of the 50-50 Plan.”

The 50-50 Plan refers to UMass President Robert Caret’s plan to achieve funding parity between the state and UMass students and their families.

With the 50-50 plan fulfilled, Connolly says UMass has bigger plans for the future.

“Obviously for the short term we want to maintain that balance. But, it would be incredible to go beyond that,” he said. “Once upon a time, many years ago, the state covered almost everything, upwards of 80 percent. In the past few years, things had gotten out of whack, but we’re back on track. We of course are far ways away from that sort of funding, but we are headed in the right direction.”

According to Connolly, the response to the University seeking increased funding was overwhelmingly positive across the board.

“There’s an understanding that an individual student benefits from a UMass education, but it’s not just them; the individual benefits, and the community they live and work in benefits, and communities across the state benefit. So if there’s equal sharing of benefit, then there should be equal sharing of the cost.”

Connolly added, “We didn’t get many people disagreeing with us wherever we went, whether it was to one of our campuses or to the governor’s office. People got our logic and sentiment. This is a public university and the state has a responsibility to share some of the financial burden.”

Megan Kingston, who graduated last spring, was the student trustee for the Amherst campus when the board approved the freeze. She explained, “The tuition and fee freeze is paramount to students and their families in creating greater access to education and lessening the burden of already high student debt.”

Kingston added, “I think the freeze really demonstrates the University’s strong commitment to keeping education affordable.”

Current students expressed similar sentiments.

Miranda Gonzalez, a senior psychology major, said, “I think it is something that UMass students would all agree they’re happy about because everything is getting more expensive these days and a break from a tuition raise would help with other costs, but they also understand that rises in tuition benefit students by improving campus and academics.”

Ian Crittenden, a freshman studying economics, said, “With the skyrocketing costs of colleges and universities, it is a relief to know that Massachusetts is making a reactionary effort to solve the financial challenge of actually going to school.”

Marie MacCune can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MarieMacCune.