fb-pixel

Tuition rises at UMass campuses

Cost will rise an average of 5.8 percent across the university’s campuses

The University of Massachusetts system educates about 74,000 undergraduate and graduate students, and costs can vary.
The University of Massachusetts system educates about 74,000 undergraduate and graduate students, and costs can vary. Nancy Palmieri

WORCESTER — Faced with rising expenses and nearly flat state aid, University of Massachusetts trustees voted Thursday to raise next year’s tuition an average of 5.8 percent.

It is the third time in six years the system has raised prices. The increase will affect all campuses except the medical school and boost the average cost for in-state undergraduate students to $13,862 a year.

For student trustee Malinda Reed, a rising junior at UMass Lowell, the tuition increase is personal.

Before the 11 to 2 vote, Reed made an emotional appeal to board members, asking them to consider the impact of higher tuition, saying it “will make it very hard for families to afford these opportunities.”

Advertisement



As she spoke, Reed teared up and her voice shook. She comes from a single-parent home, she said, and many of her friends are already struggling to pay tuition.

“I wanted to remind the trustees about the human impact,” Reed said in an interview after the meeting. “Behind the numbers and the statistics, there are real people affected.”

Reed and Secretary of Education James Peyser voted against the increase.

At the meeting, Peyser told trustees the university had come a long way in addressing budget shortfalls -- but, he said, not quite far enough.

“UMass and other public higher education institutions should do more to find savings and avoid passing on sizeable tuition and fee increases to students,” Peyser said in a statement.

The system educates about 74,000 undergraduate and graduate students, and costs among the five campuses vary.

At Amherst, the system’s flagship and most expensive campus, in-state tuition will be $14,590. The cheapest tuition will be Dartmouth’s $12,783.

In early June, trustees decided to delay a vote on raising tuition and fees, in hopes of securing more money from the Legislature.

But after lawmakers approved a budget that increased state funding for the university by just 1 percent, the university said its hand had been forced.

Advertisement



At the board meeting, UMass president Martin T. Meehan said when state support wanes, students wind up shouldering more of the burden.

“The cost of a UMass education hasn’t changed,” Meehan said. “What’s shifted is who pays for it.”

Meehan said financial aid will help blunt some of the impact of the tuition increase — a sign, he said, that the system remains committed to its low-income students.

Ideally, the burden wouldn’t fall on families, Meehan said.

“I wish we could be like California and have the state do it all,” he said. “I wish the Commonwealth would invest in us like Connecticut invests in UConn.”

Facing the costs of new union contracts, debt service, and employee benefits, the UMass system is looking to address an $85 million shortfall, officials have said. The universitywide tuition hike will cover about one-fourth of the deficit. Cuts will be imposed to cover the remainder.

Finger-pointing and passing blame onto the state won’t get the university anywhere, said board of trustees chairman Victor Woolridge.

“Blaming and complaining simply won’t solve the problems,” he said.

UMass isn’t the only public system in the state boosting prices. Tuition at the state’s nine other universities is rising by as much as 7.8 percent, according to preliminary figures.

In an interview after the meeting, Meehan said the UMass administration will do everything it can to prevent further increases. Meehan said he would like tuition to increase only at the rate of inflation.

Advertisement



“We have to continue to work and fight as hard as we can to get money from the state,” he said.


Reis Thebault can be reached at reis.thebault@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @reisthebault