UMass tuition to increase for fall

AMHERST — Tuition for in-state students to attend the University of Massachusetts Amherst, as well as the other three undergraduate campuses in the system, will go up by 2 ½ percent for the 2018-2019 academic year.

Meeting in Worcester Friday, the UMass Board of Trustees approved the adjustment, the fourth consecutive yearly increase, but one that is below the rate of inflation for in-state students. In-state undergraduate students throughout the system will see an average increase of $351.

At UMass Amherst, in-state undergraduate students will pay $15,406 in tuition, an increase of $376, while out-of state students will pay $34,089, an increase of $993, or 3 percent.

The tuition increase comes along with a 3 percent, or $368, rise in the price of room and board at UMass Amherst, from $12,258 to $12,626. Undergraduates in Amherst are also seeing a $100 increase, from $381 to $481, in mandatory fees, which is being used to support a renovation of the Student Union building.

UMass Board of Trustees Chairman Rob Manning said in a statement that the board takes tuition increases seriously because of the impact they have on students and their families.

“This is a moderate increase that will ensure UMass continues to deliver a world-class education at an affordable cost,” Manning said, adding that the board applauds President Martin Meehan and the leaders at each campus for building budgets that promote the university’s mission of access and affordability.

The 2 ½ percent adjustment is below the 3.1 percent increase that was average for the 2018-19 academic year at public research universities in New England, according to information provided by UMass.

UMass tuition has increased an average of 2.8 percent annually since the 2015-16 academic year.

Zac Bears, executive director of the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts, said the increase reflects that the state Legislature is not providing enough funding for public higher education, and hasn’t produced a plan to forgive or cancel student debt held by state residents.

“While 2 ½ percent is better than previous increases, we cannot afford to be increasing tuition and fees,” Bears said. “This increase puts a college education out of reach of thousands more students and families and adds even more debt onto the already massive debt burden forced upon Massachusetts students and families.”

Bears said with the Fair Share Amendment ruled ineligible for the ballot this fall, which would have raised $2 billion annually for education and transportation, the Legislature needs to find a new avenue to support higher education.

“Our view is that legislators need to step up to find revenue using the principles of the Fair Share Amendment,” Bears said.

Previously, Meehan discussed college affordability during his annual State of the University address in March.

“This increase allows us to preserve the quality of our academic and research enterprises while minimizing the financial impact on students and their families, which is our top priority,” Meehan said on Friday.

The university’s fiscal year 2019 operating budget is projected to be $3.4 billion, up $102 million, or 3.1 percent, over the current year. Direct contributions to financial aid will rise by more than $20 million, a 5 ½ percent increase from the current year year. UMass continues to meet nearly 90 percent of all demonstrated need for in-state undergraduate students.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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