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UMass President Marty Meehan delivers 2019 State of the University address

Plans for ‘UMass Online’ announced

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UMass President Marty Meehan delivers 2019 State of the University address

(Collegian File Photo)

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(Collegian File Photo)

(Collegian File Photo)

By Michael Connors, Assistant News Editor

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In his third annual “State of the University” address, President of the University of Massachusetts system Marty Meehan focused on his plans to increase college affordability while also strategizing about how to address future demographic changes in the state.

Before taking the podium in Boston on Monday evening, Meehan was introduced by Chairman of the UMass Board of Trustees Robert Manning, who prefaced the president’s speech by stating that UMass was doing “great” compared to other institutions in the United States.

Manning remarked that this success was coming on the heels of great uncertainty in higher education, citing the University of Massachusetts’ acquisition of Mount Ida College as a key example.

“You don’t have to look too far, close to our hearts, to see what happened to an institution like Mount Ida. UMass stepped in and saved that institution,” Manning said.

“In the process, we picked up a key strategic asset for the University,” he added, noting that UMass is looking to make more acquisitions due to consolidation in the future. “People need to understand that that value that we created accrues to the citizens of the Commonwealth. They own the University; they’re the shareholders of it.”

Meehan began his speech by referencing the Saxon Report, a document published in March 1989 that outlined steps to eventually turn the UMass system into a high-ranking research university focused on creating positive economic impact in the state.

“We have indeed become the world-class university the commission envisioned. By every measure from student impact to third party validations [and] student demand — we have reached the upper echelon of public universities in the United States, and indeed, across the globe,” Meehan said.

Meehan pointed to high graduation rates, a high retention rate of UMass graduates living in the state and more than $6 billion of annual economic impact from all five system schools combined as indicators that the University has become top-tier.

“Through the talent we develop, the research we conduct and the service we perform, we have become a key thread in the social, cultural and economic fabric that makes Massachusetts the greatest state in the nation,” Meehan said.

In contrast to these accomplishments, Meehan explained that cost inflation and commitment to meeting financial needs of students are still challenges that UMass currently faces. Citing a recent report by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Meehan said that state funding for higher education had decreased by 12.5 percent when adjusted for inflation.

Meehan was optimistic that future work with the state legislature on funding could alleviate some financial stress for students.

“I will continue to advocate for any reasonable measure seeking to preserve the promise of an affordable higher education and remove the albatross of debt for our students,” Meehan said, stating his support for the Cherish Act which would freeze tuition and fees for five years and increase the funding of public universities back to per-student fiscal year 2001 levels, adjusted for inflation.

The most impending issue, Meehan explained, is a shifting demographic landscape in the state. A lack of births during the Great Recession of 2007–9 would mean that schools in Massachusetts will see a dramatic decrease in enrollment starting in 2026, he said.

The recent instances of struggling universities in the state are only symptoms of greater troubles ahead, Meehan said. He added that even though UMass is “in a better position than most” regarding this issue, it should not be ignored.

“The effect on the Commonwealth will be acute. Our economy will suffer,” Meehan said.

In preparation for these changes, Meehan said that greater fiscal oversight, improved transparency measures and strategic investments have already been implemented. But more advancements must be taken to make public education in the state more accessible, he conceded.

Meehan unveiled a plan for “UMass Online,” an online college that he said would enhance economic mobility in minority groups and provide employers with educated workers. Around one million Massachusetts adults have some college credit but no degree, he said.

“A concerted and highly-targeted effort to make a UMass education available to these student learners, adult learners, is the answer to a number of issues,” Meehan said.

This rapid response to workforce demand will put the state ahead when demographic changes start to set in, Meehan explained.

“The time for us to act is now. It’s predicted that over the next several years, four to five national players with strong regional footholds will be established. And we intend to be one of them,” he said.

Meehan ended his speech by quoting the Saxon Report from almost 30 years ago, which said at the time, “resolute action now can give the University the opportunity to reach its full potential.”

“We must take bold and decisive steps to ensure that we continue to fulfill our critical mission of access, opportunity and excellence, and to remain the world-class research university that the Saxon commission envisioned,” Meehan concluded.

Michael Connors can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @mikepconnors.

4 Comments

4 Responses to “UMass President Marty Meehan delivers 2019 State of the University address”

  1. amy on March 5th, 2019 10:50 am

    “Mount Ida. UMass stepped in and saved that institution” Really? Because I think the way the Mount Ida students describe is that they had little prior warning and that umass implemented a hostile take over and this is why there is a class action lawsuit against umass. Emphasis on class action, its not one discontent student or faculty, its a large part of the study body suing umass.

    ““We have indeed become the world-class university the commission envisioned.” Zoomass is ranked 70. That means its a little above average. There are over 10 colleges in Massachusetts alone that are higher ranking and not to mention our public neighbor to the south Uconn.

    ““I will continue to advocate for any reasonable measure seeking to preserve the promise of an affordable higher education and remove the albatross of debt for our students,” ”

    Umass has one of the most expensive tuition and fees for any public college in the country and trustees continue to increase not lower this.

    “Through the talent we develop, the research we conduct and the service we perform, we have become a key thread in the social, cultural and economic fabric that makes Massachusetts the greatest state in the nation,”

    Massachusetts is one of the only states that people move out of, its a consistent net population loser. Great states people want to live in not move out of….
    Umass is not a ‘key thread’ in Massachusetts, maybe Harvard as an University is or the Kennedy or the massachusetts people. Not a party school that people go to because they couldn’t get into or afford one of the many better colleges in Massachusetts.

    Overall the ‘state of the university’ was largely a delusional speech and bit of a bizarre one that wants to think of umass in some lofty terms. Most colleges don’t give ‘state of college’ speeches as if they are on the same level of a nation; it’s just weird and unwarranted.

    If umass wants to be great it should cast aside it’s delusional thinking, and lower its tuition rates and provide better services to students. You know things like fixing elevators that are broken, not allowing rampant racism, smaller class sizes, cheaper meal plans, better transportation(which has been cut), etc.

  2. Adam on March 6th, 2019 9:11 am

    @ the commenter above:

    Apparently it would’ve been better if Mount Ida HADN’T been acquired by UMass (Amherst), and rather simply ran out of money and suddenly closed their doors, offering their students no alternative. Students complaining about the acquisition fail to see that Mount Ida was the institution in the wrong, hiding their financial problems from students for far too long.

    “ZooMass”, as you so crassly call it, is in fact ranked 70 out of all universities in the US. It’s 26th (if not higher) for public universities, and rising fast. Northeastern is ranked around 50 last time I checked and nowadays Northeastern is considered quite prestigious. The fact that your argument resorts to using a nickname for the school from the 70s shows how entirely backwards your argument is; you obviously haven’t set foot on the campus in years. UConn is ranked lower than us for a lot of hot majors like computer science and engineering as well. Comparing UMass with Harvard, MIT and the other excellent PRIVATE institutions in MA is simply unfair.

    Tuition and fees are high, but definitely not THE highest anymore, which they were at one point. They are working on it, and the fact remains that for MA residents there is still great value in a UMass education.

    With your next point you really expose your bias as Massachusetts is simply not “one of the only states with net population loss”. In fact, California actually has by far the most net population loss; Massachusetts is somewhere in the middle of the 50 states.

    UMass is called a key thread in MA because graduates tend to stay in MA, contrary to Harvard and MIT

    As a student I would rather have the speech than not have the speech

    I’ve literally never seen a broken elevator during my time here and everything gets fixed super promptly, not to mention the meal plans are incredible value compared to other public universities and class sizes are literally the same as any other public flagship university

  3. amy on March 7th, 2019 12:00 pm

    Adam seems all upset lol. You go on defending zoomass after it’s infamous Blarney Blowout that attracts people from out of state with 100+ huge parties.

    The students of Mount Ida never asked to be acquired and there was never a vote on it, it was hostile. Umass has no respect for the rights of others. Its an arrogant latitude to act like they didn’t know better, if it was a matter of hurt feelings there wouldn’t be a class action lawsuit now. And that’s a dumb movie by umass and for its students, because now we have to pay for that cost of that lawsuit and if they win potentially millions of dollars.

    There was newspaper article on the broken elevators . And also there was protests over dining meal costs and cutbacks. . Maintenance at this school is a dump. It is one of the trashiest and ugliest campuses or collections I’ve buildings I’ve ever seen. They have absolutely no sense of aesthetics or quality at this college. Look at the new isenberg building, they spend millions and the metal is rusty lol. They are too lazy or stupid to finish the building and add either stainless steel or chrome.

    Umass is not key, I am sure all the other state colleges contribute more than umass or community colleges even. I am sure the largest corporation in mass contributes far more than umass. And the Massachusetts people are far important than some state college that spends 40 million dollars on paying interest on its debt alone. You could argue that’s poor accountability, umass takes the taxpayer’s money and then uses it pay for debt because cannot responsibly take on debt.

    70 is okay, but the perception that umass has of itself far surpasses the reality. You even deny the truth by ignoring things that were reported in this very newspaper. The same thing with this selective rating, oh we are ’26’, That ranking is always promoted. It’s 70 compared to every college and 70 is slightly better than average. It’s also not rising fast, its gone a few points up the last 5 years or so and in some years in some rankings it gone down Uconn is higher it’s 63 but some majors are ranked lower, I am sure some are ranked higher too….

    I have nothing against umass, like many people I go here, to party, I am going to get a decent paying salary 50k or so when I graduate and umass is really easy, the professors are easy. .

    But it’s not prestigious or great, it’s okay. And for the school to pretend to be something it’s not really actually just hurts it’s image

  4. amy on March 7th, 2019 12:02 pm

    attitude* move*

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