After freezing student fees for two consecutive years, the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees voted Wednesday to raise the cost of attendance by up to 5 percent for in-state undergraduates, saying the action was unavoidable without an increase in state funding.
“We are always mindful of the impact that raising fees will have on our students and their families,” Victor Woolridge, chairman of the board, said in a statement. “We approach such decisions with the utmost caution and reluctance.”
If the full 5 percent increase is implemented, students would pay a mandatory curriculum fee increase ranging from $552 to $580 for the next academic year, depending on the campus they attend.
Woolridge said the approved increase is a ceiling. He hopes the actual hike could still be reduced, if state funding allows.
A committee of trustees had recommended the increase last week. The full board voted 14-4 in support of the hike Wednesday. State Education Secretary James Peyser was among the four members who opposed the fee hike. The Baker administration also called on UMass to avoid hefty increases, saying agencies across state government are tightening their belts.
“Despite the significant deficit we inherited, we prioritized the UMass system with a sizable budget increase, so today I voted against raising student fees because I believe the University needs to do more to find cost reductions and savings,” Peyser said in a statement.
UMass requested $578 million in state funding, the amount university leaders said was necessary to subsidize 50 percent of total costs, with students and their families paying the other half.
But with the state facing a projected $1.8 billion shortfall in next fiscal year, the university is likely to receive a good deal less. The House budget now authorizes $519 million, while the Senate budget provides $537 million. This year, UMass received $511 million.
“The decision to increase fees is not taken lightly and is never our first option,” UMass President Robert L. Caret said in the statement. “Our first choice is the one that we made over the past two years when we froze student charges.”Aneri Pattani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @apattani95.