Governor Deval Patrick kicked off a weeklong round of appearances at state college campuses Tuesday by announcing hundreds of millions in funding for higher education building projects.
The money, drawn from a four-year-old $2.2 billion bond initiative, includes $607 million for the University of Massachusetts system and $20.7 million for Roxbury Community College. Patrick visited UMass Boston and RCC on Tuesday.
“Providing access to quality, affordable higher education is about giving all of our students the opportunity to succeed,” Patrick said in a statement. “Education is Massachusetts’ calling card around the world and central to our competitiveness in the global economy.”
The governor’s choice of RCC — where state and federal regulators are investigating a panoply of management issues — as the starting place for his series of appearances was intentional, said Secretary of Education Paul Reville.
“Obviously, given the current events at Roxbury, this is a show of continuing confidence that this administration has in that campus and its ability to map out a positive future,” he said. “I think the governor particularly wanted to underline the fact that we were making that investment.”
Linda Turner, interim president of RCC, said in a statement that the funding was “a much-needed investment which will help our students to achieve academic success and to remain competitive as they prepare for a variety of careers in a changing workforce environment.”
The college’s $20.7 million award is the same sum it previously publicized as part of a plan to build a life sciences center. However, only $470,000 of it is being used for a feasibility study supporting that project. The bulk of the funding will go toward renovations of existing classroom spaces and other upgrades for two RCC buildings dedicated to academics and media arts, Reville said.
Science and technology proposals have nonetheless been a major priority for both the administration and the state’s public colleges during discussions of what to fund.
For instance, a large chunk of the UMass money — $85 million — will support a new physical sciences building at the system’s flagship campus in Amherst.
Meanwhile, the Lowell campus will get support for a $35 million building belonging to its Manning School of Business, and UMass Boston will receive funding toward a $100 million classroom building needed to help it keep pace with increasing enrollment.
The president of UMass, Robert Caret, said the funds would ultimately help the system keep prices low for students, since “every time we save on our piece of the capital budget, it means slightly lower tuition and fees.”
Caret added that the money gave him new hope that his long-cherished “50-50” proposal — in which the state would fund half of UMass’ activities — might yet win the political support it needs.
Funding from the bond initiative will continue to be distributed in the future. The bill has a 10-year life span.
Patrick is expected to make two more announcements Wednesday, at Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner and MassBay Community College in Framingham. Further funds for the remainder of the state’s colleges and all other capital projects will be parcelled out by Oct. 9.
Other state officials are also starting a full-court press this week to promote public higher education.
Caret launched a four-day statewide bus tour Monday to mark the system’s 150th anniversary. And the Department of Higher Education’s “Go Public” campaign — intended to appeal to potential in-state applicants while encouraging them to bone up on math and science during high school — begins Wednesday.
Mary Carmichael can be reached at email@example.com.