UMass student trustees press for major boost in state funding

Student representatives of the state’s public universities urged Beacon Hill lawmakers today to approve a major increase in funding for their schools.

The elected student trustees from the University of Massachusetts system universities called on the Senate to approve a $478 million funding proposal from Governor Deval Patrick.

The House has agreed with Governor Deval Patrick’s proposal, which would boost spending by $39 million from the previous year. UMass has said the university system could freeze tuition and fees in the coming academic year if it received that amount.

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But last week, Senate leaders proposed increasing higher education funding to only $455 million. Senate debate on the plan is to begin Wednesday.

In February, UMass President Robert L. Caret voiced his support for Patrick’s funding proposal, saying Patrick’s proposal would generate enough funds to cover 50 percent of the five universities’ academic costs for the 2013-2014 year.

In recent years, state funding for the UMass system has slipped to roughly 43 percent of the full cost needed to run the institutions, university officials have said, resulting in “costs that students and their families must now bear. This is a direction that we must immediately seek to change,” the trustees said.

“Affordability and student debt are serious concerns for working- and middle-class families across the Commonwealth,” read the statement, signed by Jennifer Healy at UMass Amherst, Alexis Marvel at UMass Boston, Joshua Encarnacion at UMass Dartmouth, Phillip J. Geoffroy at UMass Lowell, and Brian Quattrochi, UMass Worcester.

“A tuition and fee freeze would represent real progress and send a national message of support for public universities, a skilled future workforce, and a strong economy,” the trustees said.