Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

PHENOM members rally in opposition of tuition increases

The Board of Trustees unanimously approved the 2.5 percent increase for in-state and a three percent increase for out-of-state tuition.
Kalina Kornacki
PHENOM held a protest in opposition of the hike in tuition, dining, and housing fees in front of the Whitmore Administrative Building on 04/10/2024. The sign reads: FREE COLLEGE NOW! PHENOM

Students at the University of Massachusetts and members of the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts (PHENOM) rallied in front of the Whitmore Administrative Building on Wednesday, April 10 in opposition of the planned increases in tuition, housing and dining costs for the upcoming 2024-2025 academic year.

The UMass Board of Trustees Committee on Administration and Finance voted unanimously on April 3 to increase tuition for in-state undergraduates by 2.5 percent for the 2024-2025 academic year to $17,006, adding $415 to the bill of a student at the flagship Amherst campus, and slightly less at the Boston, Dartmouth and Lowell campuses.

According to PHENOM’s press release, this is an expected 2.5 percent increase for in-state tuition, three percent increase for out-of-state tuition, four percent increase for housing and five percent increase for dining. There will also be a 2.5 percent increase of the health fee. These increases total over $1,000 for in-state students and $2,000 for out-of-state students.

PHENOM was founded in 2007 and is based in Worcester, Massachusetts as “a grassroots coalition of students, faculty, staff, alumni, business leaders, families, and community members who fight for high-quality, debt-free public colleges and universities in Massachusetts”.

At 9:30 a.m., students gathered outside of Whitmore where PHENOM members explained how the Board of Trustees were in a meeting, proposing increases in tuition, dining and other fees.

Ella Prabhakar, a junior civil engineering student who is a senator for SGA secretary of the board and UMass chapter lead for PHENOM, says that the protest was meant to get people to understand the issue, even if the protest was not advertised very well.

“[Students] didn’t have a lot of time to prepare and [this issue] is something [the Board of Trustees] is trying to slide under the table,” Prabhakar said.

Harvey Dolan, a political science and economics double major and president of the Young Democratic Socialists of America, said this protest was a way for students and protesters to try and “combat the historical precedent of divestment from public education.”

“Fundamentally, that makes public college very inaccessible for anyone who wants to go, [which] disproportionately hurts people from low-income backgrounds,” Dolan added.

At 10 a.m., the Board of Trustees began their meeting on Zoom and protesters entered Whitmore and attended the meeting on Zoom. Junior linguistics and Spanish student Kairo Serna and physics doctoral student Mark Murdy logged onto the Zoom and pushed for the board to listen to the student’s disappointments.

Serna, a student at UMass who serves on the governing body of the Massachusetts Democratic Party and the Massachusetts Commission for LGBTQ Youth, commented on the housing crisis and the negative impacts of the University’s partnership with private company Greystar.

“UMass has the potential as a public university to be a beacon of accessibility,” Serna said. “Economic inequality means racial inequality; and as tuition prices climb, communities of color are hit the hardest despite UMass’s claims that we strive for diversity and equity.”

Murdy focused on graduate students and their experiences. In his testimony, Murday stated, “As the backbone of a university, graduate workers must dedicate their full attention to education and research. However, that attention is becoming precariously limited by our dire financial straits … you cannot forfeit investment in your teachers without forfeiting your investment in your students.”

While Serna was in attendance for the Zoom, they were unable to participate in the rest of the protest as they were working. Prabhakar said how this was normal for protests and was especially important for the Board of Trustees to witness.

“[Students] have classes and work,” Prabhakar said. “We are trying to get an education and afford that education. It can be really hard to even try and fight for your own rights and access when you’re in that type of situation.”

After each speech, the Board of Trustees continued with their meeting. Prabhakar and other PHENOM members stood outside Whitmore, speaking to a larger crowd of students about the push for “high-cost, high-aid” education, which cannot be a justification as to whether the trustees can raise costs for students.

“The reality is that when you raise tuition, you are raising the access barrier for everyone across the board, and the proportion of student aid [the University] is giving is remaining the same,” Prabhakar explained.

John Hoey, a spokesman for the UMass president’s office, said that tuition cannot be discussed without also talking about financial aid. Tuitions are voted on by the board before the addition of financial aid.

Hoey stated that efforts have been made to increase the amount of financial aid given to students. Over the last few years, the UMass system has consolidated services between each campus, saving about $120 million dollars. These savings went directly into financial aid for students.

Furthermore, President Marty Meehan has also pushed for an increase in the Pell Grant for undergraduate students, which unlike a loan, does not have to be repaid, except under certain circumstances. Passed by voters in 2022, the Fair Share Amendment has provided students with over $32 million in additional aid.

While the cost of running a nationally-ranked University may increase, Hoey said that the ultimate goal of the Board of Trustees is “to keep any tuition increase below inflation, as affordability is top priority.”

Kalina Kornacki can be reached at [email protected].

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Massachusetts Daily Collegian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *