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    UMass delays vote on tuition, fee increase

    UMass trustees said they wanted to wait to see how much money the state appropriates before making any decisions on raising tuition and fees.
    Nancy Palmieri for the Boston Globe/File
    UMass trustees said they wanted to wait to see how much money the state appropriates before making any decisions on raising tuition and fees.

    University of Massachusetts trustees on Wednesday delayed a vote on expected increases to tuition and fees until July, citing a desire to see how much money the state appropriates before making any decisions.

    Outside the downtown meeting of the board’s finance committee, about 30 UMass students, faculty, and staff protested the rising costs of attendance and other moves they say harm the university system’s mission.

    “Everything they’re doing is at odds with what they say they want,” said John Hess, a senior lecturer who has taught at UMass Boston for 28 years.

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    Hess, who is also the vice president of the Faculty Staff Union, cited the news of possible cuts to adjunct faculty at UMass Boston, along with higher tuition and fees.

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    “We’re worried about the educational quality,” he said.

    At the committee meeting, UMass president Martin T. Meehan said that the delay in action was in the students’ best interest — if the state’s appropriation is higher, tuition and fees won’t increase as much.

    But in the end, the price of attendance will increase, said Robert Connolly, UMass spokesman. “We’re not trying to create an illusion that there won’t be an increase,” he said.

    At UMass Amherst, full-time, undergraduate in-state students paid about $14,200 in tuition and fees for the 2015-16 academic year, according to the university website. At UMass Boston, Massachusetts students paid about $13,000.

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    UMass administrators expect the state’s budget to be finalized in the coming weeks. After that, a special Board of Trustees meeting will be called to vote on the price hikes.

    “We’re going to advocate for a higher level of funding from the state,” Connolly said of the delay. “We think this strengthens our position.”

    For officials, the logic was simple, he said: “Why act before you have to?”

    In May, the Massachusetts Senate unveiled its version of the budget, which included a 1.5 percent increase in funding for the UMass system, slightly higher than the recommendations of 1 percent from the House and governor. The three budget proposals — recommending appropriations between $500 million and $520 million — will provide a modest increase in appropriation to the university system, especially compared to increases in recent years.

    The protesters outside the meeting and the administrators inside agreed on at least one matter: The state was not spending nearly enough money on UMass.

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    “Fundamentally, the bigger problem is that there is not enough funding from the state,” said Anneta Argyres, director of the Labor Extension Program at UMass Boston. “We think first that the Legislature should fully fund public education in Massachusetts.”

    Trustee David Fubini said the five-college system and the board should be looking for ways to do more with less, rather than thinking about cuts. He suggested looking to other university systems, in California, New Jersey, and Texas, that have faced declining state support.

    Hess, of UMass Boston, said that at the end of the day, he wants to see administrators act in students’ best interest.

    “Graduates from UMass stay here,” he said. “We’re the people who will drive Boston’s future.”

    Reis Thebault can be reached at reis.thebault@globe.com.