UMass trustees lock in flat tuition for in-state students

  • University of Massachusetts Amherst campus GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

State House News Service
Published: 4/14/2021 7:49:35 PM

Tuition will remain at its current levels for in-state students at the University of Massachusetts next year, while UMass Medical School students and out-of-state students at UMass Amherst will face a 1.5 percent increase.

UMass trustees set the tuition levels for the 2021-2022 academic year during a Wednesday meeting, also agreeing to freeze tuition for out-of-state students at the Boston, Dartmouth and Lowell campuses.

For in-state undergraduates, tuition will range from $13,833 in Dartmouth to $15,791 at the flagship Amherst campus, according to figures provided by the system. UMass Amherst undergraduates from outside of Massachusetts are on track to pay $36,316, or $537 more than this year. For out-of-state graduate students at UMass Amherst, tuition will rise by $496, to $33,536.

This marks the UMass system’s second straight annual tuition freeze for Massachusetts students.

“Our goal is to ease the financial burden of our students and families, many of whom have suffered from job losses, business closures and other impacts of the COVID-19 crisis,” UMass President Marty Meehan said.

Trustee Stephen Karam, who chairs the board’s Administration and Finance Committee, said trustees usually set tuition levels at a June or July meeting.

“By doing it now, our campuses will be able to provide more certainty to our students about the cost of attending one of our campuses and hopefully give them a more competitive edge in recruiting and retaining our students,” he said.

Student trustee Timothy Scalona, a master’s of public policy student at UMass Amherst, cast the lone “no” vote. He said he understood that the university faces financial challenges arising from the COVID-19 crisis but said raising out-of-state tuition at the Amherst campus while the pandemic continues and UMass receives federal aid money was “not something that I feel like I can vote for, as a student representative.”

“While I get that the position that the university is in is constrained by the state’s failure to fund education effectively, in my opinion, I cannot support this as student representative, specifically … with regards to the tuition increase on out-of-state students at UMass Amherst,” he said.

Scalona said he hoped the board will “actively” lobby for public higher education funding “so this issue doesn’t come up in the future,” including by supporting a bill that aims to steer more state dollars into public higher education and impose a five-year tuition freeze (S 824, H 1325), and another (H 1339, S 829) that would declare it “the policy of the commonwealth to guarantee free public higher education as a right for all residents.”

Summertime tuition votes, coming after the House and Senate have each passed their version of the next year’s budget, typically allow UMass officials to get a sense of how much state funding they’re on track to receive, clearing up one wild card in the university system’s revenue picture.

House Democrats rolled out a $47.6 billion spending plan Wednesday that would fund UMass at $571 million, up about $10 million from this year’s budget and from the level Gov. Charlie Baker recommended for fiscal 2022.

Meehan said a tuition freeze next year means the school will forego more than $14 million in revenue it might have otherwise collected. He said UMass had saved $27 million through a shared services initiative involving a unified procurement team.

Meehan also offered what he said was a “word of caution” around rising costs incurred by the university, voicing a need to “be vigilant in terms of making sure the quality of education at UMass continues to go up.”

“It’s great to not increase tuition, but when costs go up every year — and they have the past two years — we have to make cuts, and some of the cuts might mean not filling the faculty positions,” he said. “Some of the cuts may affect us in other areas.”

Karam and trustees Michael O’Brian, Imari Paris Jeffries and Julie Ramos Gagliardi abstained from the tuition vote, saying they have children attending UMass.

Officials said the net price of a UMass education, or the price minus financial aid, “remains consistent with other New England public land-grant universities and 31 percent below peer private institutions.” At $352 million this fiscal year, institutionally funded financial aid at UMass is at a record high, accounts for 40 percent of the total aid UMass students receive, and has increased by 49 percent since fiscal 2015.

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