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BOSTON — UMass President Robert Caret commended the state House and Senate for approving a major funding increase for the UMass system, funding sufficient for a second consecutive tuition and mandatory-fee freeze for in-state undergraduate students.
“UMass is poised at the brink of a new era as a result of what would be an extraordinary, two-year, $100 million state investment in its future and in the futures of the tens of thousands of students who bring their aspirations and abilities to our campuses every year,” Caret said. “We are honored by this expression of support from the Legislature, particularly because the members of the House and Senate, given how in tune they are with their constituents, take this step because they recognize the vital role that UMass plays in every corner of the Commonwealth.”
Henry Thomas III, chairman of the UMass board of trustees, called the Legislature’s action “historic,” adding: “over the past two years, the University of Massachusetts has received one of the largest increases of any public university in the nation, and this provides opportunity for our students and a strong foundation for our Commonwealth’s future. In addition to thanking the Legislature and its leaders, I want to commend President Caret for his leadership and vision and note the key role the chancellors play in making this process work. We are here in part because we have demonstrated the significant steps the university has taken in the areas of efficiency, transparency, and accountability — and these steps have been championed by our leadership team at the system and campus levels.” He added, “this historic moment would not be occurring without the support of our governor, as Gov. Patrick has been our university’s staunch ally throughout his tenure in office, vividly understanding education’s transformative power.”
The fiscal year 2015 state budget approved by the House and Senate funds UMass at $519 million — a $40 million increase over FY 2014 and enough for the second tuition-and-fee freeze as envisioned under Caret’s 50-50 proposal. The state budget approved by the Legislature now goes to Patrick, who has 10 days to review it. Because the $40 million appropriation increase the university received in FY 2014 carried with it an additional $10 million in state fringe-benefit funding, UMass actually saw a $50 million hike in state funding during the year — a pattern that would be repeated in FY 2015 if funding for UMass remains at $519 million.
Advanced by Caret after he assumed the UMass presidency in July 2011, the 50-50 plan called for a two-year, $100 million increase in state funding for UMass, with the goals of strengthening the university overall and equalizing the amount of money students and the state provided for educational programs. UMass said it would freeze tuition and mandatory fees in each of the years it received full funding of the 50-50 program. UMass received the first year of 50-50 funding during 2013-14 and froze tuition and fees for in-state undergraduate students. Student charges vary from campus to campus, but under the rates recently approved by the UMass board of trustees, tuition and mandatory fees for in-state undergraduate students at UMass Amherst in 2014-15 will remain at $13,258. The cost of attending the university’s flagship campus with room and board factored in would be $24,215.
“College affordability is an issue that is on people’s minds in every corner of the Commonwealth,” Caret said. “Students and parents want to be sure that there is going to be an affordable, high-quality educational opportunity available for the young man or young woman who has worked hard and has achieved at the K through 12 level. And that is what is so important about the action the House and Senate has taken. The Legislature is saying that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the University of Massachusetts stand ready to be your partners in achievement. That is a critical message, and one that is being heard across the state.”