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UMass panel backs freeze on tuition, fees

The University of Massachusetts board of trustees moved a step closer Wednesday toward freezing tuition and fees for students for a second year in a row.

The board’s finance committee voted unanimously to hold the line on costs.

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On June 18, the full board is scheduled to meet at the UMass Dartmouth campus to take up the matter, according to a statement from the university.

The freeze is contingent on the Legislature maintaining its funding level for the university system.

“At a time when there is a national focus on controlling cost and curbing debt, the University of Massachusetts and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are doing something about it,” UMass president Robert L. Caret said in the statement.

The cost of a UMass education varies from campus to campus.

Under the proposed freeze, tuition and fees for in-state undergraduate students at UMass Amherst, the most expensive undergraduate campus, would remain at $13,258, not including room and board.

This freeze is part of a plan Caret implemented in July 2011.

At that time, he struck a deal with the Legislature: If the school were given a $100 million increase in state funding over the next two years, UMass would freeze its tuition and mandatory fees during that period.

The first installment of the payment was received in 2013-2014. The vote Wednesday was made with the expectation that the second part of the payment would be issued this year.

At the meeting Wednesday, committee members gave Caret the authority to raise mandatory fees for in-state undergraduates by 3.5 percent if the state budget took an unexpected plunge.

That decision will affect the 2014-2015 academic year, according to the statement.

The funding will be finalized with the passage of the Senate and House budgets this summer, said a spokesman for House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo.

“The impact that UMass has on Massachusetts is profound,” DeLeo said in a statement Wednesday.

“We are incredibly fortunate to have an institution that does so much to better the lives of students, improve our economy, and enrich the cultural fabric of our state. Because of this, I felt that it was incumbent upon the House to ensure the affordability of UMass.”

Jacqueline Tempera can be reached at jacqueline.tempera@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @jacktemp.
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